Members of the WCC staff given their take to several questions regarding the Chicago Bulls and the Eastern Conference.
Q: Despite popular belief, do you think Jabari Parker will fit and be effective for the Bulls?
Thomas Gibbons: Yes. A lot of fans and writers are questioning the move because Parker is slated to play small forward, but he fits better as a stretch four type. Yet you cannot deny the Bulls going after talent. Even after recovering from two ACL tears, Parker is still 23 years old. He fits the timeline of the rebuild and will be a boost to the Bulls lineup. He’s a natural scorer who can attack the basket and create his own shot. The defensive end is a concern, that is pretty obvious, but the offensive potential is what drew the Bulls to the former Simeon star. Overall, this was a good move by the Bulls because they are not tied to Parker long term, year two of the contract is a team option, and if he takes off this season, the Bulls can lock him up and add another piece to the young core in their quest for contention.
Johnny Hatelak : Is this a trick question? My goodness yes! I get the concern on the defensive end playing the three but it’s a league that doesn’t really matchup position for position anymore. It’s about switches. On the offensive end, this is a much needed player. Bulls were one of the worst teams at offensive efficiency. It’s an offensive driven league. They have the money to spend and it’s a low risk deal with only the first season guaranteed. I think the Bulls were too good to be at the top of the lottery this season anyway, so this route I feel is a better choice to accelerate the rebuild. Winning attracts veteran free agents.
Alex Patt: I know it seems somewhat odd to add a player of his position to a team that has Markkanen, Carter, Dunn and LaVine. There will be some shifting done, but that is okay because I think it can work out. The biggest concern with him is the ACL injuries he has had, and the fact that he is not going to be a great defender, but the offensive talent is there. If he is healthy and plays to his potential, that can only mean he makes the team better and/or gives him trade value if they feel is necessary. This move really was not a high-risk move, and it can have an extremely high reward.
Phil Duh: If you look on paper with how the roster is constructed, adding Jabari Parker is a good fit but will he be effective in the offense? That question will be answered so enough, but I am optimistic things will work offensively.
Jovanny Santiago: Yes. He’s going to help this team score a lot of points. Hoiberg should enjoy having him at SF this season.
Robert Weihofen: On the surface, I love this signing. He can make an impact with the rest of the young core. I understand the red flags with the ACL injury and the investment of $20 Million a year, but the second year is a team option. It’s a great deal for the team, and should fit nicely into the starting lineup.
Q: Are the Bulls a playoff team?
TG: Considering how weak the East is expected to be, the Bulls should be in the mix to make the playoffs. How can you not put them in the race? If Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Makkanen become the “Big 3” we think they can become, the rebuild will be in a great spot. I do not see another 27 win season. The Bulls should be in the mix and could even be better than the 8th or 7th seed if this team really takes off.
JH: I believe so. Of course it all depends on Parker and Zach Lavine staying healthy. I think the Bulls figure to score a lot more points and more efficiently than last season. I think in the East you have five guaranteed post season teams and the last three are up for grabs.
AP: Maybe. There is still a lot of growth to be done with this team, but there are several factors. First of all, the East is terrible. No doubt that LeBron leaving Cleveland made it even weaker. That being said, the health and development of some key players will be a major factor. Playoffs are possible, but I would not put all my chips on it yet.
PD: If you look how the Eastern Conferences shape out to be right now you got Celtics, 76ers, Raptors, Pacers, Bucks, & Wizards will probably return to the post-season of course if teams can remain healthy which you can say the same about any teams. You got the last two spots which in my opinion is up for grabs, and I see three teams fighting for those last two spots for the playoffs in the Eastern Conferences. You got the Detroit Pistons with Blake Griffin for the whole season, the Miami Heat most likely return with majority of their squad from last season who by the way were in the last post-season, and then you got the young Bulls. Only thing that may hold the Bulls back beside injuries is lack of experience.
JS: Yes. I see the Bulls as a 6th or 7th team in the East right now. The conference is weak, but in a year or two, the Bulls should be ready to go toe-to-toe with the Celtics and the 76ers.
RW: I think they are a low seeded playoff team. They are still very young and have a lot of growing pains along with a lack of experience. Due to the “weak” East, I think the Bulls will find the 7th or 8th seed and use it as a stepping stone for the future.
Q: Kawhi Leonard has been traded to the Raptors for Demar Dezron and others. Are the Raptors now the second best team in the East behind the Celtics?
TG: The Celtics, Raptors, and the 76ers will definitely be the top three teams in the East. I’d say the Celtics will be the best of them, but the 76ers will be pushing to be the second best in the conference. But adding Leonard, one of the best players in the NBA, definitely puts you in the conversation as one of the best teams in the conference.
JH: I think it’s Philadelphia. Loved their draft and I wouldn’t be surprised if they even overtook the Celtics for the one seed.
AP: They’ll be battling Philly and the Celtics, but I see them as top-three for sure. Now if they stop losing in the playoffs…
PD: Before the trade, I had the 76ers slated to be the second best team in the East. If Kawhi Leonard stays healthy and plays at an MVP level, he will make the Raptors one of the best teams in the league, not just the Eastern Conference.
JS: I think they’re 3rd or 4th in the East. Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington will be better.
RW: I would have to say no. I truly believe the East will be run by the Celtics and 76ers for the next few seasons.
Q: If the Bulls miss the playoffs, should they move on from Fred Hoiberg?
TG: No. I think Fred Hoiberg has made strides during his time in Chicago. His offense came to life last season because he finally had the right roster. Is missing the playoffs really going to count against him? The Bulls are still in the rebuild state and missing the playoffs should not count against Hoiberg if the players, staff, and especially the front office has rallied around him.
JH: I’d say no. Thought he had a pretty solid second season, his philosophies fit the trends of the league. Especially offensively. I Think the question about how he would command a professional locker room have been answered. I feel this year is yet another proving one for him. He has more talent. Let’s see how he handles the rotations, minutes distributions, substitutions, and the X’s and O’s. However, even bigger than that is his leadership and how he balances winning with development. That will all determine his retention or his ousting as the Bulls Head Coach.
AP: I am not sure if missing the playoffs should be a measure for Hoiberg this year since they are still rebuilding. Though I do feel like the Bulls should consider options for the future and if they find something they like, take it (kind of like the Cubs and Joe Maddon). I think that Hoiberg is a great coach for a rebuild with young kids, but when it comes to when they plan to contend, they need a veteran coach who has been there.
PD; I’m not a huge fan, nor still not a believer of Fred Hoiberg as a head coach in the pros. I don’t see him being fired if the Bulls miss the playoffs unless the front office including Jerry Resindorf expectation is for the team to make the playoffs. I could see Hoiberg being let go after his contract expires. We will see how it plays out.
JS: No, i think he should work out of his contract. The Bulls are still trying to find the right roster and they are still in rebuild mode. I think this may be the biggest year for Hoiberg because of the talent on the roster and expectation from the fan base. But I truly believe the Bulls will be in the East Finals in the few years, without or without Hoiberg.
RW: I think Hoiberg has to be given one more year, even if the Bulls miss the playoffs. The first season plus he never got players to fit his system, and then when he finally did ,it started a total rebuild for the team. He wasn’t handed a silver platter so it is hard to give up on him after year one year of a rebuild.