As the NBA playoffs rage on from coast to coast, one team looks on, wondering where exactly things went wrong and where to go from here. That team would be the Chicago Bulls. With a .500 record, the Bulls were the definition of average, despite having two superstars in Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Furthermore, they possessed an excellent guard in Rajon Rondo, whose hand injury during their series against the top-seeded Boston Celtics seemingly doomed the Bulls. During the final game of their season, conveniently at home at the United Center, chants of “Fire Hoiberg,” referring to the head coach, Fred Hoiberg, rang out, to go alongside fans’ longtime sentiment that the team’s management, John Paxson and Gar Forman (referred to as GarPax), should be removed as well. It looks to be a long summer for Chicago, and it starts in free agency.
The biggest concern for Chicago is deciding whether they want to rebuild or retool. In rebuilding, they would let some older players go and have to contend for the lottery’s top spot by being the worst team in the league. In order to do so, Butler and Wade would likely have to leave the team, through trades and free agency, respectively. However, history has shown that the Bulls have been fairly resistant to rebuilding in the last decade or so, thus making a retool more likely given the team’s leadership. This would mostly likely have to happen via free agency, as making the playoffs secured them a mediocre 16th place in the NBA draft although the pool of college athletes is certainly strong this year.
With Wade having a player option of $23.8 million, it is his choice whether to return to the team, or to potentially move and try to be signed to a team with a higher chance of winning the championship next year. With three rings, Wade said “I don’t need to ‘ringchase,’ but I can.” Furthermore, role players like Nikola Mirotic, Anthony Morrow, and Michael Carter-Williams are also free agents, complicating the equation anymore. As Mirotic is a restricted free agent, meaning that the Bulls can match any offer he gets from a different team, Chicago may have to overpay to keep the big man with the sweet stroke.
Lastly, Chicago will have to seriously consider shaking up the front office if it wants to keep its fans and players happy. Hoiberg has only been coaching in the NBA for two years and was ranked the worst coach in the league this season by ESPN. Various assistant coaches throughout the league would certainly love the opportunity to head up this Bulls team, plus others still looking for a job, like Kevin McHale, who would appreciate a shot being back on the bench after being fired in late 2015. Also, although it seems unlikely, there is a chance Forman or Paxson will step down from their positions as G.M. and V.P. of Basketball Operations, respectively. It would make most of the fan base happy although GarPax seem to enjoy their job security more than their supporters would like.
As the NBA playoffs continue and the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to look like locks for the NBA finals every year, a central question surrounds Chicago this offseason and for years to come: do they want to merely compete with their roster and front office as constructed, or do they want to raze everything and try to create a diamond from the rough? Only time will tell.