It’s time for the Bulls to start rethinking their roster construction
Once the business of basketball resumes, the Bulls have to think seriously about trading Lauri Markkanen or Zach LaVine and find an athletic, talented wing to build around. Chasing a title with backcourt players is a losing philosophy.
Whether it’s in 30 days or in three months, the Bulls will have to resume the business of basketball after coronavirus concerns abate.
And while this front office has shown it hasn’t understood how to build a championship roster, the fan base is hoping an expected new-look front office will.
That’s why the Bulls must get serious about looking to trade big man Lauri Markkanen or guard Zach LaVine this offseason if it means getting an athletic, talented wing player in return.
The missteps by general manager Gar Forman and, in some ways, by vice president of basketball operations John Paxson have been many. But the one philosophy that has hurt them most has been continuing to think the best way to build a title contender is with an elite backcourt.
Just look at the championship teams in the post-Michael Jordan era. Chauncey Billups (2004 Pistons) and Tony Parker (2007 Spurs) have been the only point guards during that time to be named MVP of the NBA Finals, and Dwyane Wade (2006 Heat) and Kobe Bryant (2009 and 2010 Lakers) have been the only shooting guards to be so honored.
Fast-forward to the last decade — arguably a time frame that represents the biggest change the game has made from a philosophical standpoint. The last eight Finals MVPs have been Kawhi Leonard (2014 Spurs, 2019 Raptors), Kevin Durant (2017 and 2018 Warriors), LeBron James (2012 and 2013 Heat, 2016 Cavaliers) and Andre Iguodala (2015 Warriors).
Iguodala is the one who really tells the story of what the Bulls have been missing. As great as guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have been, let’s not forget the history.
The Warriors won the title in 2015 because Iguodala, an elite wing defender, was able to slow down James and put up some sneaky offensive numbers. The next season, however, James led the Cavaliers to their first title — and changed the NBA landscape that offseason — by denying the Warriors a repeat despite a 73-victory regular season.
Knowing they needed the second-baddest wing player on the planet to combat James, the Warriors then signed Durant to team with Curry and Thompson. After the Warriors won two more titles with the trio — each against James and the Cavaliers — what ended their run? Injuries and Leonard, who made every big play the Raptors needed throughout their improbable title run last season.
Meanwhile, through too many of those championship runs by James, Forman and Paxson were stuck on the idea that point guard Derrick Rose could be their answer. Because of Rose’s injury history, however, the Bulls had only one real shot at it — in the 2010-11 season — and we know how that ended.
In the fourth quarter of games against the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, the 6-3 Rose was shut down by the 6-9 James. The Heat won the series 4-1.
As much as the Bulls thought injuries prevented them from winning a title, they were never going to get past James and the Heat. As great as Rose was, he was a point guard, not ‘‘The King.’’
That brings us to now, with the Bulls stuck in quicksand in terms of how to fix their rebuild.
Markkanen is unhappy about how he has been used and with the structure of the organization, and LaVine is a talented scorer who seemingly has reached his ceiling. They have shown no signs of being able to coexist successfully, let alone thrive.
Free agents aren’t exactly lining up to play for the Bulls, so they must think about trading one of them.
There has to be a new way of thinking at the Advocate Center. The old way wasn’t necessarily broken, it just never was going to work.