The Bulls are getting healthier. Changes are coming to the front office. Who says covering a losing basketball team is boring? Your turn for questions.
Is Sam Presti a target to run basketball operations and, if not, why not? — Don S.
As previously reported, Bulls president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf is doing due diligence on multiple candidates and multiple options. He’s seeking feedback from a wide variety of sources on a wide variety of candidates. Surely, the Bulls are performing due diligence on big names like Presti and Raptors president Masai Ujiri. Talk around the league is that the Raptors wouldn’t let Ujiri go but that Presti is so close with Thunder owner Clay Bennett that Bennett would let his friend pursue other opportunities if Presti wanted.
What’s unknown is whether Presti would want to leave the Thunder, particularly after setting the franchise up for the future with multiple first-round picks from the Paul George and Russell Westbrook trades. And it also should be noted that the Bulls historically have not operated as a big-spending franchise when it comes to management. It would take upwards of $9 to $10 million to even get Presti to the negotiating table. The sniffing around I’ve done on this story leads me to believe that that’s not a route the Bulls plan to take. Things can change, and this process is a fluid one. But my educated guess is the Bulls will hire multiple people for a restructured front office and spend their money that way.
If John Paxson is still involved with the franchise, how are the Bulls going to hire, as you’ve reported, “an empowered presence” in the front office? — Brent M.
As I’ve also written, Paxson will take whatever role ownership asks him to take. He’s committed to doing what’s best for a franchise and city to which he feels a great allegiance. In fact, given that it’s been reported ad nauseam how much ownership values Paxson, it’s obvious that he’s the one driving the need for this front office overhaul. That’s not to say Paxson is performing the due diligence on candidates, because it’s my understanding that Michael Reinsdorf is doing that solo for now. But given ownership’s trust in Paxson, it would be easy for him to stay in his current role and keep things status quo.
Instead, the Bulls are preparing to not only make front office hires but overhaul the scouting department and try to get up to speed with today’s modern NBA. Addressing that need was initially driven by Paxson. In whatever structure the new front office takes, the biggest hire the Bulls make will have autonomy. Paxson is willing to take as much or as a little of a backseat as needed. Whether or not this hire’s autonomy will allow him to unilaterally make the decision on Jim Boylen’s future is unknown for now. I’d expect Michael Reinsdorf to ask potential hires to keep an open mind on retaining Boylen. But it’s common sense that any new hire or hires almost certainly would want to have his or her preferred coach in place, whether that’s Boylen or somebody else. The Bulls have to know that placing the contingent of having to keep Boylen would affect their pool of candidates.
The only person I still have respect for in the Bulls organization is Doug Collins. I believe he should be used to find a new general manager and get a real NBA coach. Do you think there is any hope of this happening? — Tom H.
According to multiple sources, Collins and Boylen had a falling out. Boylen, the sources said, no longer wanted Collins sitting in on coaches’ meetings. Collins is in the background for now.
I'm a lifelong Chicago fan but have lived in Boston for years. I've watched all of Brad Stevens' career as well as the year-and-a-half of Jim Boylen. With Boylen, I often walk away thinking, ‘Man, there's something off with this guy.’ I've never thought that with Stevens. Even when he had a roster full of bad players, you could tell he was a good coach and things made sense. Can you please point to positive things about Boylen that would lead us fans to think, ‘Actually, he's really not that bad.’ Please? — Alejandro Y.
Fans can think whatever they want of Boylen. And he has certainly created a large chorus of critics who question everything from his systems to his rotations to his timeout usage. Luckily for Boylen, those critics aren’t his bosses. They believe his teaching in practice, ability to hold players accountable and commitment to a style of play — with a focus at the defensive end — is needed for a young, developing team. Boylen liked to point out how the Bulls had a top-10 defense before widespread injuries hit.
That said, I think your question is a valid one given that players have subtly questioned the systems and their roles at times. If you’re looking for a common ground answer, let’s go with care factor. Even the most skeptical Boylen follower can’t deny the man cares deeply about his job and his players. He’s an emotional guy who wears his heart and his passion on his sleeve — or perhaps in his Bulls across his chest. He has told many people that he views one of his responsibilities is doing everything he can to help maximize players’ careers so that they can provide for their families.
What is your assessment of Coby White this season? I’m of the opinion the team has not exactly put him in the best position/role/circumstance to succeed and be the best version of himself. How do you feel he has done this year? Having watched him up close, what do you see as his strengths and what does he really need to work on to take the next step? — Tom S
I’ve defended Boylen’s use of White. Before his breakout February, he was extremely feast or famine. Boylen closed some games when he had it going offensively and used him in more limited fashion when he didn’t. Boylen has taken heat for not starting White, particularly with the widespread injuries. I probably would’ve started him over Ryan Arcidiacono or Shaq Harrison in this recent, injury-plagued stretch. But Boylen began increasing White’s minutes to near starters’ minutes and closed games with him. And Boylen’s reasoning for keeping him in the second unit — he had more opportunity and a stronger voice with reserves — was logical even if you didn’t agree with it.
Where I do think the Bulls have hurt White a bit is their de-emphasis of the midrange game. That’s a strength of his. As for what he needs to work on, that’s obvious: Defense and decision-making. He’s not a point guard yet.
This may be a little early. But assuming the Bulls are back in the lottery this summer, who do you think the team will be, or should be, targeting in the draft? A point guard? A wing? If the team somehow gets some lottery luck, I think LaMelo Ball's distributing ability and size could help a lot. I know some people would be averse to picking another point guard. But seeing as Coby is more of a scorer, it'd be nice to have someone to help get other players open looks. Other guards with good facilitating skills such as Tyrese Haliburton and Killian Hayes may be available if the Bulls end up picking with lucky No. 7, again. — Taylor S.
All together now: Best. Player. Available. That’s how the Bulls almost always have drafted. Now, by that point, a new head of basketball operations likely will be in place. And while all Bulls’ major decisions have been collaborative ones in the past, it’s unknown how the new hire or hires may impact the draft process. That said, I agree with you that you can’t let White’s presence prevent you from taking Ball if he’s the highest-slotted player on the board with the Bulls’ draft position arrives. The Bulls still need a pass-first, break-the-defense-down point guard. Tomas Satoransky is a very nice player, but he’s not that. White can grow into being more of a scoring point guard, as is the trend in today’s NBA. But he’s more shoot-first for now.
Writing from France: Why are the Bulls still under construction since 2015 and the departure of Tom Thibodeau? It's been five seasons now and the Bulls still haven't progressed. How do you explain that? — Ioris Q.
“Still under construction” doesn’t have as nice of a ring to it as “Run With Us,” the official motto of the rebuild. But, yeah, this is a rebuild. Management committed to it after thinking it handed Fred Hoiberg a championship-ready roster and then trying the Dwyane Wade-Rajon Rondo experiment for one season. Rebuilds are almost always painful and produce multiple lottery appearances. As bad as the first two seasons were, they were understood more because they were part of the plan to get high lottery picks. This season is the one that makes you go, ‘Uh oh.’ Paxson’s publicly stated goal was to become relevant again and competitive nightly. Instead, the Bulls started slowly and legitimate questions about Markkanen’s ceiling and the core’s chemistry developed. Then, widespread injuries hit. The offseason changes mostly will be in the front office, not on the court. If Otto Porter Jr. opts in as expected, the Bulls’ won’t be in position to make any moves unless they decide to trade Zach LaVine. There’s been no talk of that. So the construction project will continue.
Thanks for all your questions. Talk to you soon.