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The New Look Chicago Bulls
- Updated: February 27, 2017
With the trade deadline now behind us, the Chicago Bulls find themselves on a four-game winning streak. Despite the negative vibes that have transpired so far between the front office decision making, team chemistry issues, and coaching mishaps, the Bulls find themselves tied with Indiana with control over the 6th spot in the east.
At the trade deadline, the league saw Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott get traded to the Thunder, in exchange for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Anthony Morrow. A lot of people didn’t understand the move made by Chicago, as most felt the Bulls didn’t get enough in return and that this was a move that signified a lost season. Well, after looking at the current situation of the team and their current position in the Eastern Conference, I think the moves made at the deadline will a do a lot more good than initially thought.
After looking at their last two games against the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers, there seems to be a different feel within the current roster and how it might be constructed going forward. The Bulls have been dead last in the three-point categories all season, but these last two games indicated nothing of the sort. The Bulls made 12 threes against the Suns and 15 threes against the Cavaliers. This is one of the best signs for a team that has been struggling all year with shooting, and I attribute this potential change in style following the trade.
In trading away Taj Gibson, you add Bobby Portis to the starting lineup and add a different dynamic to how you start games. Portis has been one of the best three-point shooters all year for the team, but he has also lacked the playing time needed to make a difference up until this point. So by replacing Taj with Portis, you add another floor spacer and three-point threat to work with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade. Taj’s departure has also given new life to Nikola Mirotic, as he is now looked upon to perform more consistently and play an overall better game of basketball, and in these last two games, he is off to a good start. Having proper spacing on the floor has been a problem for the Bulls all year, but by trading Taj, they forced themselves to play someone younger that could shoot and potentially start a trend in how the roster would be constructed.
Taj’s departure has also given new life to Nikola Mirotic, as he is now looked upon to perform more consistently and play an overall better game of basketball, and in these last two games, he is off to a good start. Having proper spacing on the floor has been a problem for the Bulls all year, but by trading Taj, they forced themselves to play someone younger that could shoot and potentially start a trend in how the roster would be constructed.
This method or strategy of forcing themselves to play younger, more capable players that fit Fred Hoiberg’s system was again in play when they traded away Doug McDermott. Now when you first look at it, you notice that they traded away their best and most consistent shooter, and for a team that is dead last in the majority of team three-point statistics, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. If you look deeper into what the move actually did, however, you will find that it could potentially have a good pay off.
When you look at what the Bulls got back in return with Payne, Lauvergne, and Morrow, you have three players that are capable or potentially capable shooters from three. Payne is still a very young player trying to find his way in the league, but part of the reason he was coveted in the 2015 draft was because of his shooting ability. Anthony Morrow has been known as a very good shooter throughout his tenure as an NBA player, and though he is struggling this year with his shot, he has a chance to be that sniper once again for a Bulls team that desperately need it. Last we have Joffrey Lauvergne. A pretty athletic big man that has the ability to shoot threes as well. He was a rookie when he played against the Bulls last year as a Denver Nugget, and he was shooting threes effectively and punishing the Bulls’ big men in the paint with his size and athleticism. If he can bring that type of skill and toughness to the team, that will again be a big help to a team that needs it.
If you want to look at another way trading away McDermott was a possible plus, I’ll point out how it has now provided more opportunity for Denzel Valentine and even Jerian Grant. With Doug now gone, in order to replace the shooting that was lost, Denzel Valentine now has a chance to show why he was drafted. He came into the league known for his deadly jump shot, and he has been putting it on full display when he has been on the court. During this current winning streak, Valentine is shooting 63% from three, and he is showing that he is much more capable on defense than Doug ever was for Chicago. That’s not saying that Denzel is an elite defender, but I will credit his ability to move his body and his activity as a team defender. Combine his shooting ability with his capable defensive awareness, he is an upgrade over McDermott and he pretty much cancels out the shooting lost with Doug as well.
I wanted to bring up Jerian Grant as he too benefited from this trade. Even though Grant has had the starting job multiple times and has been getting playing time throughout the season, I feel like he is about to hit his stride and show just how useful his skills can be. For the month of February, he is shooting 47% from three, and with McDermott gone, the team is going to lean on his ability to knock down threes more, and this could lead to him finding his role after a season filled with inconsistency and uncertainty.
The Bulls are starting to finally figure out their style of play and the players needed to make the style effective. This is still a work in progress, but if the last two games were any indication, the Bulls are looking to finally shoot the three more often with players that can actually knock the shot down. The recent trade the team made created more opportunities for younger and newer players to succeed as they still try to make their playoff push. After waiting all season for the Bulls to get with the times and play with more pace and floor-spacing, they now find themselves coming off two of the best shooting games of the year, and this could likely be the start of Chicago playing the type of basketball Fred Hoiberg wants his team to play.