BG – I was ecstatic when D Rose and the bench mob got to the Eastern Conference Finals and held out hope after the disappointing finishes to that season and next. Most held out hope that Rose could get back to his old self and pair with Jimmy Butler to make another run at the star studded Miami Heat, but it didn’t happen. Most fans realized this team wasn’t competing for championships anymore. All except two people…John Paxson and Gar Formann.
     GarPax were behind releasing Tom Thibodeau and having Fred Hoiberg take this team in to worse levels. They were behind the Doug McDermott trade and thus sending him to Oklahoma City before they even had to make decisions on his rookie contract. And these two leaders were the ones that decided upon the foolish signing of Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade. Two aging vets who need the ball, along with Jimmy Butler, that don’t fit the free flowing offense the coach they hand picked wants. Paxson and Formann haven’t gotten the memo that this Bulls team is nowhere near close to championship contention.
     Of course their jobs aren’t in jeopardy, though that would be the most beneficial change for Windy City basketball, but they now face an off season where they can either muck around in non-contention in the East or make an effort to actually build a team. They apparently flirted with the idea of moving Jimmy Butler around the trade deadline, but the time has come. I love Jimmy Buckets but Chicago is only going to get better by sinking down and getting game changing young talent.
     The first decision that management can make is moving on from Rajon Rondo. The second year of his deal is guaranteed for only three million before June 30th. Move on from him and save the ten plus million. Dwayne Wade had a solid season and, with a player option, would seem likely to deny it and try and get another big contract. Reports have come out both ways on whether or not he is going to opt back in. Cross your fingers that he turns it down to get back in to the pool. That would free 34 million from Chicago’s payroll and stop the delusions of trying to ‘retool’ and fail to make any noise in the playoffs.
     The big decision that will show management is serious about trying to rebuild this team will be moving on from Butler. Reports are Danny Ainge balked at the deals with Chicago when it came to the Nets’ pick this year which of course became number one overall. That paid off for the Celtics, but I’d imagine the destruction at the hands of the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals may change his mind.
     Danny Ainge gave a bloated contract to Al Horford and only has one more super cheap year of Isaiah Thomas, which will be an interesting choice next summer. Do you pay Thomas max money? The Celtics have a young coach, a lot of young pieces, but no superstar. They need someone that can get buckets and make it so that it’s not just on Thomas to create everything. Even at his age LeBron is still dominating and seemingly not relinquishing the East any time soon. Boston needs to push the issue.
     Gordon Hayward is supposed to opt out of his contract and early reports have Boston and Miami as his likely landing spots. Paul George’s time with the Pacers seems to be coming to an end and Indiana could look to move on so not to lose him for nothing. The Clippers also could have a star jettisoned with reports that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul possibly looking for fresh starts. Griffin has been a name rumored to be a Celtic target. Boston needs to add star power to their team if they seriously want to compete and these three players will be ones to watch. Even if Danny Ainge signs one he could still look to make a move to add Jimmy Butler.
     The NBA is just over a week a way from the draft. Markelle Fultz seems to be the consensus number one pick, but reports have come out that Boston and Philadelphia could be looking to swap picks. Early reports are a swap of the number one for number three and another first round pick. There are reports that Ainge is just looking to stockpile more picks but also reports that he could be looking to gather more picks to put together trade packages. Boston has their and the Nets’ first rounders next year and in 2019 they have their picks and options on Memphis and Clippers’ picks with protections. The Grizzle pick is top 8 protected in 2019, top 6 protected in 2020 and unprotected in 2021. LA’s pick is lottery protected in 2019 and 2020 but becomes a 2nd in 2022 if Boston doesn’t receive it.
     If Danny Ainge swaps with Philadelphia for an extra 1st round pick that would give him up to five first round picks in this draft and next. That is plenty of ammo to make a play for Jimmy Buckets. They also have the plethora of young talent like Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jae Crowder to put together a package of young players that can help the Bulls actually rebuild. Ainge could go another way but Butler would give them a great two way player that is 27 with two more years guarenteed under 20 million and a player option for a third year. Ainge could also pull off the shrewd move of moving on from Isaiah Thomas to avoid paying him the max money, ball dominate point guards don’t generally lead to championships, to gather more assets.
     Boston seems extremely unlikely to make a move before or during the draft and to wait and see what they can do in free agency. However, now would seem like the season to strike to unseat the perenial Easter Conference champion Cavaliers. The Bulls need to stop fooling themselves and fans and start to rebuild by using Boston to really gather young players and assets and try and build a winner.