Anyone can have a blog about an NBA team, but some set themselves apart from the rest with the dedication and valuable insight they bring to their craft. We’ll be sharing some knowledge from these dialed-in writers on Hoops Rumors in a new feature called Top Bloggers. As with The Beat, our ongoing series of interviews with NBA beat writers, it’s part of an effort to bring Hoops Rumors readers ever closer to the pulse of the teams they follow. Last time, we spoke with Ian Levy of Fansided’s Hardwood Paroxysm. Click here to see the entire Top Bloggers series.
Next up is Jason Patt, who is the Managing Editor of TodaysFastbreak.com and a contributor at SBNation’s Blog a Bull. You can follow Jason on Twitter at @Bulls_Jay and click here to check out his stories.
Hoops Rumors: The franchise is apparently banking on the coaching change from Tom Thibodeau to Fred Hoiberg making a big impact in the standings since the team’s roster is essentially intact from a season ago. Do you think the Bulls’ main impediment was Thibs’ system, or are there deeper personnel issues that the team should have addressed over the summer?
Jason Patt: While I anticipate “Hoiball” being a breath of fresh air for this group, it’s not totally fair to pin all of their problems on Thibs’ system. Thibs clearly had his flaws as a coach. He was stubborn. He had some maniacal tendencies with minutes/injuries. The offense too often got stagnant, especially during last year’s playoffs. It was clearly time to move on given those issues and the problems with management.
But the roster had/has its own problems as well. Joakim Noah was a shell of himself last season and has to show he can bounce back. Taj Gibson was playing hurt and is coming off surgery. Derrick Rose remains a question mark. The backup point-guard play was atrocious in the playoffs, and that’s an area that could be a problem this season. Instead of looking to upgrade the position, the Bulls opted to just roll with Aaron Brooks, Kirk Hinrich and E’Twaun Moore to fill that spot. Using Jimmy Butler as more of a point guard could be a solution to this, but it’s something to monitor.
Hoops Rumors: Even though Derrick Rose‘s latest injury was a fluke and can’t be blamed on the player, his durability will always be a concern for all involved with the franchise. With him not helping his cause among the team’s fan base when he said that he was looking forward to free agency in 2017, is it time for the Bulls to consider parting ways with the point guard? If so, what kind of market do you see for Rose’s services given his cap figure and injury concerns?
Jason Patt: I don’t think the Bulls will actively look to trade Derrick Rose, as there’s still some hope he can be a really good player moving forward. He may not be MVP Rose ever again, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he reaches All-Star level.
Hoops Rumors: The Bulls have a glut of power forwards on the roster, including 2015 first-rounder Bobby Portis. How do you see the team’s rotation at the four shaking out this season? Should the team consider dealing one of its power forwards, and if so, who should Chicago look to swap? Why take Portis when the team had other needs, like a backup point guard for instance?
Jason Patt: The Bobby Portis pick was an interesting one given the crowded frontcourt rotation, but I still liked it considering he was the consensus best player available there. He was viewed as a possible lottery pick who fell to 22, so it’s hard to pass that up. Plus, several guys in the frontcourt rotation (Jo/Taj/Pau) are injury prone and getting up there in age, so even though Portis is buried on the depth chart right now, I expect he’ll play at some point due to injuries.
As for how the rotation at the 4 shakes out, I’d love to see Nikola Mirotic start. It makes all the sense in the world considering Hoiberg’s system and the style of play they’ll be utilizing, but I’m not sure if Hoiberg is going to come in and send one of Gasol or Noah to the bench. There’s already been talk about using the Gasol/Noah duo again, so it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s how it starts. Then obviously both Niko and Gibson will get minutes as well, and we may unfortunately see Mirotic at the 3 just to get him on the court.
A way to alleviate some of this logjam would be to make a deal. Gibson’s name has come up in trade rumors, and while I’m a big fan of Taj, it’d behoove the Bulls to explore the market in order to add a wing. Mirotic is the 4 of the future anyway, and now with Portis on board, he could slide into Gibson’s spot in the rotation. While that’s a downgrade, the potential upgrade at the wing/backcourt could make up for it. There’s always the danger of trading Taj and then the other bigs getting hurt, but that’s a risk they may have to take. I don’t think anything will happen now, but depending on how things play out, look for something at the deadline.
Hoops Rumors: 2014 first-rounder Doug McDermott‘s rookie season was unspectacular, to put it nicely. Will he ever justify his status as a lottery pick as well as what the Bulls gave up to acquire his draft rights? How much will the arrival of Fred Hoiberg help/hurt McDermott’s development?
Jason Patt: Doug McDermott’s rookie season was an utter disaster. He was bad, then hurt and then benched. I thought Thibs could’ve given him more of a chance on the wing later in the year, especially with Hinrich offering nothing, but it’s not like Doug showed much in his limited minutes to earn that time.
Hoops Rumors: Jimmy Butler essentially parlayed one stellar season into a five-year, nearly maximum-salary contract that he inked this offseason. Will Butler live up to such a lofty deal, as well as all the expectations that come with the extra zeros on his paycheck? What do you see his stat line being this season under Hoiberg?
Jason Patt: There’s every reason to believe that Butler’s breakout campaign wasn’t a fluke. He’s one of the hardest workers in the league, and he spent all offseason refining his game and looking to improve. He’s trying to take on more of a leadership role this season, and as mentioned, look for him to take on more ball-handling responsibilities. We’ve already seen his improved playmaking in the preseason.
Hoops Rumors: There was quite a bit of talk two seasons ago, prior to Carmelo Anthony re-signing with the Knicks, that had Chicago as one of Melo’s preferred destinations. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, would the Bulls have been better off today if they had acquired Anthony? Keep in mind that the team would likely have had to part ways with a number of valuable assets to facilitate a sign-and-trade with the Knicks, of course.
Jason Patt: The Melo question is an interesting one, especially in light of his own knee problems and some questions about his star status. Some of it depends on what the Bulls actually would’ve had to give up. Losing Butler and Mirotic in a trade wouldn’t have seemed like a huge deal at the time, but knowing what we do now about everything, that would’ve been a terrible deal for the Bulls. And even if you get Melo without giving up Butler, Jimmy probably doesn’t break out like he does, and/or you have a weird dynamic with Rose/Butler/Melo. In the end, I think it’s OK the Bulls didn’t end up with Melo, although it certainly would be interesting to see how that would’ve turned out because he’s still one of the best scorers in the league.
Hoops Rumors: Finally, it’s crystal ball time. What is your best (educated) guess on how the Bulls will fare in 2015/16?
Jason Patt: Even with all their problems, the Bulls still won 50 games last year, and that same team is back with a refreshing new philosophy. I anticipate them being around that win total again and challenging for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Ultimately, I think they’ll again fall short in the postseason, likely to the Cleveland Cavaliers, although if things break right, the talent is there for a run to the NBA Finals.