Bulls’ Management Not to Blame for All of Team’s Faults
When the Chicago Bulls traded All Star Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the overall #7 pick in the 2017 draft, Windy City faithful decided they’d had enough of the executive team of Gar Forman and John Paxson. Some went so far as raising money for #FireGarPax billboards.
Chitown sports fans, in all fairness though, tend to be a cruel bunch. They’ve known many years of plenty – especially when it comes to the city’s beloved Bulls. The Jordan years saw the team win six titles in the roaring 90’s – but there has also been much heartache for the city’s sports franchises starting with the Cubs and ending with Da Bears.
But what Chi faithful seem to forget are the successful trades/draft picks the Garth/Paxson tandem have made over the years. And yes, they’ve had their fair share of “mishaps” like the time they swapped future All-Star Lamarcus Aldridge for a guy who’s no longer in the league, acquiring an aging Dwyane Wade and perennial locker room destroyer Rajon Rondo, or sending offensive stud Taj Gibson along with the team’s top 3-point threat Doug McDermott to OKC for some salary cap space. (Taj was going to be a free agent this year and his asking price was going to be top-heavy, hence the unfortunate turn of events).
But GarPax (sounds like some kind of scary, two-headed monster, no?!) were also the ones responsible for stealing (yes, that’s the definition of highway robbery) Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez, both of whom have seen a rise in production since their Knickerbocker days, for former superstar Derrick Rose. Not only were they able to unload Rose’s massive contract and make room for signing actual stars, they also got an up-and-coming guard who’s been averaging almost 2 points more than he did in his time with NY in Grant. Lopez has also been a welcome addition. This year, his 12.3 point average is the highest of his career.
Dumping Joakim Noah and his $72 million 4-year salary might have been the wisest move GarPax have made in their perhaps-not-so-illustrious reign. After Noah spent much of 2017 coming off the bench and the latter part of the season suspended for failing a drug test, him and the Knicks have agreed on an indefinite leave of absence following a falling out with coach Jeff Hornacek. The former two-time All Star and Defensive Player of the Year has been a shell of his former self averaging a measly 1.7 points and 2 rebounds a game.
For a fair perspective on the merits of GarPax, you might want to take a look at the 76ers rebuilding process. It’s been what – 6-7 years now, they’ve been the perennial bottom-feeders as far back as some Generation Z’ers can remember, and yet, their management has arguably done everything in its power to rebuild for the long haul. Because when your owner isn’t a Russian bazzilionaire, you’re not part of a hot-weather destination named Orlando, LA, Houston, or a few chosen others, the free agents don’t come calling and the stadium proceeds don’t do the trick, there’s only so many cats you can pull out of your hat to make the fans happy.
And as far as that Butler trade, you never know how things are going to play out in the NBA. Yes, you have to have a sound approach to free agent signing and drafting based on previous experience, advanced stats, and thorough scouting, but when it’s all said and done, and the dust has settled on another NBA season, top executives are all too often left scratching their heads.
Butler, for all his talents on both ends of the floor, has sustained what could end up being a season-ending injury, while the players the Bulls got in return, mainly LaVine and #7 overall draft pick Lauri Markkanen who’s averaging just under 15 pts/game and whom some are picking for Rookie of the Year honors, have provided a glimmer of hope in what many expected to be another wasted campaign. The Bulls are actually sitting at 12th in the East and 22nd overall, and while this doesn’t bode well for their chances of snagging a top draft pick, the Bulls are leading (!!) the league in attendance for home games. Not bad for a managerial team some fans would like to see tarred and feathered out of town.
All told, the two-headed GarPax is more of a unicorn than a fire-breathing man-eater. They haven’t been especially great, but they’ve made do with what they’ve been given. There’s no known remedy to Chicago sports fans expecting a championship every few years, (you can blame someone known as “His Greatness” for that) but please, folks, give GarPax a break. You might still witness a banner hoisted to the rafters of the United Center with these two at the helm…