While the Chicago Bulls still have 10 games left, it looks quite difficult for them to make the playoffs the way they’re playing right now, injuries and form. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler will continue to be the focal point of this team next season, but around them (and they themselves) a lot of things have to change.
The Bulls lost 111-89 to the Orlando Magic, a team with a head coach who was once fired by the Bulls (Scott Skiles) but with nothing to play for. And yet the Bulls didn’t just lose. They folded right from the start. Yes, they keep on playing with an injured group of players that includes Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler, each carrying his own set of problems. But the basketball has been bad a lot of the time this year, and there’s a whole set of blaming to go around, from the front office who badly constructed this team and to Fred Hoiberg, who has disappointed in his ability to influence pro players during his first year out of Iowa State.
While not part of the injury carrying players (as far as we know), Nikola Mirotic was the worst of the bunch in the loss. After a huge game in the home loss to the New York Knicks, he’s failed to follow that up with anything noteworthy. He hit just 1-for-7 from the outside in Orlando, while the Bulls shot 25% from three and 40.9% from the field. Derrick Rose, who has been playing rather well since the All-Star break, shot just 4-for-14 from the field. He scored just nine points. Jimmy Butler wasn’t bad on this occasion, but the team struggled to get to the line or the paint, and the Bulls aren’t going to win games by being a jump shooting team for 48 minutes.
They are two games behind both the Detroit Piston (39-35) and the Indiana Pacers (38-34), standing above them at 7th and 8th in the East. The Washington Wizards are a game behind the Bulls and also in the picture. With three consecutive losses, something that’s happened way too much to Chicago this season, a campaign filled with optimistic streaks and frustrating ones, it’s just hard to see pick itself up and go on a 7-3 or 8-2 run they need in the finale and make the playoffs.
That’s not necessarily the end of the world, although making the playoffs was an objective. The Bulls have been stuttering for a long time, but tanking has never been part of the new plan. Pau Gasol is probably leaving at the end of this season and it should be a good thing. Joakim Noah might be gone too. Taj Gibson? The Heart of this team, but it is worth considering moving him too, although Chicago do need to keep someone big, and maybe it’s finally time to make him THE center or big man on this team, without anyone taking up space or shots from him.
Butler is the future of this team, while Rose hits his final year on the current deal. Healthy enough, he could make the most of a contract year, but we’ll be hearing a lot with rumors flying from everywhere during the summer. The Bulls need a better supporting cast in order to fit Hoiberg’s ideas and in general, and for the first time in quite some time, they’re going to have the cap space to make at least some changes through free agency.