The Chicago Bulls need Sam Hinkie
January 29, a Sunday night, the Chicago Bulls defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 121-108, marking their second victory over the Sixers this season. Although Chicago has won those two games by a combined 29 points, it’s awfully clear which franchise is on a far better trajectory. It isn’t the Bulls.
Philly’s current roster, a product mostly of former-General Manager Sam Hinkie and The Process, is stacked with young and promising players who project to be productive for years to come. Rookie Joel Embiid is the first to come to mind, with a vibrant personality and the game to back it up. Embiid nearly made the Eastern Conference All-Star team and is averaging numbers that are simply bonkers. 2016 No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons hasn’t played a game in the NBA as of yet, but his playmaking and passing ability at the college level was impressive. Nerlens Noel, drafted in 2013, has become an elite rim protector in his few seasons in the league.
Hinkie’s drafting record wasn’t by any means perfect, but to be fair, there isn’t a simple algorithm to which successful picks can be made year after year. Even the trades he made weren’t perfect. However, Hinkie had a plan.
Hinkie resigned in April of last year, with much talk of Sixers higher-ups pushing him out the door. Since then, Philly landed the No. 1 pick in the draft, added Simmons to their roster and Embiid became the result of everything that the disgraced GM had worked towards.
In Chicago, Gar Forman and John Paxson are, and have been, without a plan for years now, and it’s shown over the last several seasons.
During the 2014-2015 season, the Bulls were considered contenders by many. Joakim Noah was coming off his best season yet, they signed Pau Gasol and Jimmy Butler took a huge leap, winning Most Improved Player. They won 50 games and lost to the Cavs in six games. There were rumors of tensions in the locker room, particularly between Butler and Derrick Rose.
Things infamously fell apart the following year, as Chicago missed the playoffs completely. Jimmy Butler was still a bonafide All-Star, but Rose, Gasol and Noah, the core, were all aging and seemingly past their prime. Surprisingly enough, the front office brought back none of the three.
Rose was traded to the Knicks with Justin Holiday and a 2nd-round pick for Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant and Jose Calderon. Both Pau and Jo left for San Antonio and New York in free agency, respectively. And for a while, it seemed progress was being made. Forman and Paxson made fools of us.
Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade were both signed in July, leaving many puzzled. And therein lies the problem.
Both Wade, age 34, and Rondo, age 31, are playing poorly for several seasons, on the downswings of their career, clearly. Even at their current talent level, the roster was clearly not going to contend, and it’ll only get worse next year. Which begs the question, why?
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To be honest, I’m unbeknownst to the answer. I couldn’t tell you. If the Bulls do make the playoffs this year, they’ll likely face Cleveland, Boston or Toronto, all clearly better teams.
It seems GarPax’s vision for this franchise is reconfigured year-to-year, never looking into the future and seeing where this team will be in three, four, five seasons. While there are talented young players (shoutout to Cristiano Felicio), with the current view of the front office, they’ll either be stuck on 40-win Bulls teams or leave in free agency.
At this point, a rebuild would be nice. The team is past whatever glory it had achieved during the Thibs, Rose and Noah era. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s over, and it’s time to make changes. And those changes start at the top with ownership and management.
Sam Hinkie had flaws, but so do Gar Forman and John Paxson. Flawed with ideas is better than flawed without. It’s not as obvious as it seems.