Despite their willingness to again become title contenders, the Chicago Bulls have seen their place in the postseason be in serious jeopardy, due to their poor performances since the beginning of the season.
Derrick Rose’s departure in the summer was the beginning of Chicago’s rebuilding process, as the current New York Knicks’ player was the team’s leader in the past eight years.
The acquisition of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo raised the expectations, as the aforementioned players were expected to make the squad’s back-court line extremely powerful.
In addition, Taj Gibson’s and Robin Lopez’s presence inside the paint as well as Nikola Mirotic’s all-around playing style were also crucial for coach Fred Hoiberg’s effort to create a competitive team, which would be able to play at very high standards throughout the season.
However, things have been completely different so far, as the Bulls now are in the middle of another disappointing season. With a 21-22 record, Chicago currently is eighth in the Eastern Conference, still having many problems that need to be solved, though.
First of all, their offensive productivity certainly is lower than expected, considering the players’ talent, since they score just 101.4 points per game (23rd place in total), while they also fail to dish out many assists as well (22nd in the assists category).
The reason for the latter is the team’s lack of chemistry. The arrival of Wade and Rondo made the situation more complicated, concerning the squad’s tactics, as all three of the aforementioned players cannot be so effective when they don’t have the ball on their hands.
More specifically, Jimmy Butler, the Bulls’ leader, seems to play better when Wade and Rondo don’t play alongside him (24.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists per game), as it’s clear he still struggles to co-operate with the other two guards.
For his part, Wade can’t be as impressive as he was during his 13-year presence in Miami, however he keeps on proving he can be considered one of Chicago’s reference points, thanks to his versatile skills (18.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists), even though this is not enough for the squad in order to return to the top.
On the other hand, I think Rondo is the club’s biggest problem right now. Apart from his mediocre performances on the floor (31.1% from beyond the arc, 6.9 points per game), the 30-year-old guard is not on the same page with his coach, both on and off the court.
A couple of weeks ago, Rondo was out of the rotation for five straight games, with no member of the club offering a proper explanation about this incident, a situation that led to a series of rumours about his future in Chicago.
Although he grabs six rebounds and dishes out 6.9 assists per game, Rondo has failed to act as the leader so far (just like he did in Boston), due to Wade’s and Butler’s presence, while he can’t fix the squad’s problems, especially offensively, with spacing being one of the issues Chicago needs to solve as soon as possible.
Although the talented point-guard has enhanced his performance since his return to action, Chicago hasn’t impressively improved, despite Doug McDermott’s explosion in the last few games.
More specifically, the 25-year-old forward was tremendous in Chicago’s victory against the Memphis Grizzlies (104-108), scoring a career-high 31 points (20 of them in the second quarter), with Butler as the supporting cast (16 points, eight rebounds, six assists).
However, the club saw its two-game winning streak come to an end, due to their loss to the Dallas Mavericks at home (98-99), as this was another step-back for the Bulls, who are fighting tooth and nail to retain the eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
That said, the Bulls and their coach need not only to drastically enhance their performance and play better and tougher on both ends of the floor, but also change their attitude and bring back the winning mentality.
Because, in the end, only if Chicago turns things upside down, they will be able to make it to the playoffs and avoid another disappointing and disastrous season, which (without a doubt) will have severe consequences for everybody in the organisation.
For now, the situation looks very difficult and complicated, so we have to see how things will turn out, as the team is heading to Atlanta to face the Hawks on Friday night.