By: Thomas Gibbons
The Chicago Bulls have won seven straight games. No, you did not read that wrong neither did I have a typo.
Just a few weeks ago, the Bulls found themselves with three wins, good for last in the NBA. Despite that putrid record, Fred Hoiberg’s team was competing and played teams close. From a fans perspective, this was just what they wanted.
Fast forward to now, the Bulls still own the forth worst record in the Association but only six games out of the 8th seed in the East. With Zach LaVine’s return just days away, you could be looking at a playoff team that way things are going. And that is not what fans or the front office had in mind.
This hot streak spells a disaster for the front office. How will Gar Forman and John Paxson justify trading away assets if the team keeps winning?
Nikola Mirotic has been a totally different player this season. What did that punch from Bobby Portis really do to him? Over his past five games, Mirotic has scored 22 or more points and is shooting 48% from three since his return on December 12th.
The Bulls and Mirotic could not agree to a long-term deal over the summer leading to a two-year, $27 million deal with the second year being a team option. This year gives Niko a chance to prove himself and that all his work in the offseason paid off. And so far, he has been a major improvement to the Bulls lineup and as he likes to say, undefeated since his return.
Mirotic cannot be traded until January 18th. There will definitely be teams that are interested in the fourth year player. As long as he keeps up his production, teams will be interested in his outside shooting abilities. Another reasons teams will be talking with the Bulls is that his contract holds a 2018-19 club option. But there is always a catch. Mirotic does have the power to deny a trade.
Outside of his veto power, how will Forman and Paxson tell the world why they traded Mirotic? Even with a good return, how do you tell the fans that you traded one of your better players for a draft pick. You cannot come out and say we want to lose for a lottery pick. It’s a tough spot to be in.
The same goes with Robin Lopez. The veteran big man has been a leader in the locker room and one of the Bulls most consistent players since joining the team last season. If the Bulls are still enjoying their winning ways in February before the deadline, how do you tell the fan base and the media that Lopez was shipped out of town, especially if the Bulls are in the playoff hunt. Trading away some of your best players is not a good look.
The Bulls traded away Butler to kick-start a rebuild. Rebuilding franchises do not make the playoffs in year one. The goal is to collect draft picks at the deadline and have the most ping pong balls in June. Right now, the Bulls cannot say they have that locked in.
The front office built a roster that was going to lose a lot of games. This is a very young team with no big names or playmakers outside of LaVine. Their depth is subpar and no one expected them to pull off a seven game win streak, let along stringing three wins in a row. They have caught teams such as the Celtics and Magic who were missing some players but outside of that, the Bulls gutted out some wins and are proving people wrong.
The season is still very young. Also, their schedule does get very tough to close out 2017 with visits to Cleveland, Boston, Milwaukee, and Washington then home games vs. New York and Indiana. The Bulls could find themselves back to their losing ways, or they will keep the surprises coming.