Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls need to figure some things out. Sure, Butler may have just been named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. The Bulls had some impressive wins over heavyweights Cleveland and Toronto. His 52-point performance versus the Charlotte Hornets was a joy to watch as well.
But the Bulls are still sitting on a 19-18 record – 7th in the East, jockeying for position with the Bucks and Wizards. Jimmy Butler and the Bulls may be good, but is it good enough to compete now? Where do they go from here?
When it became clear that Bulls had something special in Butler toward the end of last season, they could have gone into full “rebuild mode” around him. Such a process could take just three years, maybe four, with proper moves and a little luck. But the intention to rebuild has to be there.
Instead, they signed Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, two guards who could have been more impactful five years ago. By choosing to stay in “kind of competitive mode”, the Bulls found themselves in an identity crisis. They’re neither among the East’s elite (see Toronto, Boston), nor are they looking like a young team destined for future success (Philadelphia, once Simmons gets on board).
What’s Needed to Compete
Alas, the Bulls have no other way to go than to shoot beyond mediocrity. Their victories this week prove that they’re capable of winning big games… when Jimmy Butler plays big. As a potential ‘Top 10 players’, they really shouldn’t let him go. In the offseason, they came this close to trading him to Boston for Jae Crowder and the right to draft Kris Dunn, and well… Dunn isn’t exactly flying in Minnesota right now.
According to Jake Weiner of SB Nation’s Blog A Bull, Taj Gibson ought to be unloaded for younger players and assets. The veteran could be traded to, say, Toronto, for picks in a supposedly strong draft year. Rajon Rondo, who hasn’t played much of the last few wins, still has strong trade value. Those moves have clear benefits: cut the immediate gains for benefits down the road. However, Chicago is not making it out of the Playoff’s second round, not right now.
As for the younger guns, like Bobby Portis and Michael Carter-Williams, well – the Bulls need to expose them to more minutes and develop them. Hope for one last huge year from an aging Dwyane Wade. Putting it all together, you have a formula that matches that of the 2014 Spurs and 2015 Warriors.
Once LeBron drops from his peak and the East’s top 4 or so spots become ripe for the taking again, the Bulls may be in prime position. But how much further they go after that will also depend on how phenomenal Jimmy Butler can be.