If you’re a Chicago Bulls fan and over the age of 30, then it’s long past the point of being fed up with the organization and state of the team right now.
If you don’t feel that way, then you’re just delusional.
The Bulls have been stuck in proverbial “NBA hell” for what seems like an eternity … not bad enough to be getting top-5 picks in the draft every year, but not good enough to challenge for a title.
Heck, I’ll go as far as saying they haven’t been in the latter category since a certain No. 23 left almost 20 years ago, even when Derrick Rose was in his pre-injury prime.
It’s painful at times to watch these Bulls. The novelty of seeing Dwyane Wade in that red and black uniform has worn off. So has his excitement of playing for his hometown team, it seems. Jimmy Butler is really good — probably a No. 2 star on a title contender (i.e. Scottie Pippen to Michael Jordan or Kyrie Irving to LeBron James) — but just because he was an All-Star Game starter doesn’t mean Bulls’ executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman can build around him to put together a legitimate title-contending squad.
The All-Star break ends Friday. The trade deadline is Thursday afternoon. It’s time for Paxson and Forman — two executives who would have been fired long ago at any other NBA franchise if they produced such a prolonged lackluster track record — to tear it all down and start over.
You may prefer to call it the “Chicago Cubs plan” since they ended a 108-year World Series drought by having smart executives (namely, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer) completely blow up the roster around six years ago, build with draft picks and savvy trades for talented prospects, and fill in gaps with some free agents.
But that plan doesn’t always work in every sport. The White Sox look like they’re going that route in baseball, and it might be their best course of action after eight years of futility.
But it’s not as easy in the NBA. First, there are only two rounds in the NBA Draft, and the second round is mostly for show with very few viable starters coming after the first round (Golden State’s Draymond Green is a well-known exception).
The Philadelphia 76ers have tried it in recent years, drafting in three of the four seasons since their last playoff appearance in 2012. It’s starting to look a little promising for Philly with 21 wins so far after just 10 last season and 18 the year before. But it’s been slow and painful.
Even if the near future looks like it could be as ugly as the 76ers, it’s worth a try because what Forman and Paxson (not-so-affectionately referred to as “Gar-Pax” by diehard Chicago sports fans who’s disdain for the Bulls’ front office is growing) are doing now has no chance of working … ever.
Big name free agents haven’t been coming to Chicago. And no, Wade doesn’t count at the age of 35 with the knees of your average 46-year-old sportswriter. And the formula for winning in the NBA is to acquire two or three top flight stars and fill in the roster around them.
That’s been the NBA blueprint for almost 40 years, back to when the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Magic Johnson in 1979, the same year the Boston Celtics picked Larry Bird. The Lakers and Celtics dominated the 1980s, each with their own “big three” stars. The Lakers has Magic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, while the Celtics had Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish (or Dennis Johnson, depending on what year and who played better).
The 76ers snuck in there with a title in 1983, and they did it with that formula, adding Moses Malone to “Dr. J” Julius Erving, Andrew Toney and Maurice Cheeks. The 90s had the Bulls winning six titles after they acquired Scottie Pippen on draft day and drafted Horace Grant for the first three-peat. In the second set of three titles they replaced Grant with Dennis Rodman.
The Lakers were great with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant (two stars was enough with their stature), the Spurs had some combination of Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for their five titles, and the Celtics won in 2008 with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen being added to Paul Pierce.
And all NBA fans know about recent years with LeBron James going to the Miami Heat and what the Warriors have done.
So for the Bulls to come close to pulling off something like that, they need to trade Butler now. The rumors are that Chicago and Boston have been trying to work something out. Supposedly, the Bulls really want Jae Crowder, a forward averaging almost 14 points and five rebounds per game, in addition to a couple draft picks — one of which would be the Brooklyn Nets pick this year which is owned by Boston — and possibly rookie forward Jaylen Brown. The Nets have the worst record in the NBA and would likely be picking in the top three in a draft deep with primo talent this season.
The Celtics are rumored to be hesitant to include Crowder because they think he would be a big part of any NBA Finals run with the addition of Butler.
Sure, Crowder sounds like a nice young piece for the Bulls, who would likely fall out of playoff contention after trading Butler and could have four lottery picks (top 14 in the draft) the next two years. But the picks are most important. First-round picks the next two years from Boston, Brown and maybe a couple more lesser players (the always overrated Tyler Zeller among them) would be fine if the Bulls decide to tear it all down.
It’s the best way they can possibly get multiple superstars on the roster and challenge for a title someday instead of being stuck in NBA hell.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.