Bulls

Dwyane Wade's candor not negative; it's realism and it's necessary

Dwyane Wade's candor not negative; it's realism and it's necessary

The larger value of Dwyane Wade was on full display in the most unexpected way after a random training camp practice, but its dividends should pay off for the next several months.

Wade’s greatest value won’t be his on-court savvy, locker room leadership or even his clutch shot-making that’s sure to save a few games this season for a team that will likely find itself being among a few teams scrambling for a postseason berth.

Wade’s value showed itself again after practice Tuesday, in the same manner it was initially displayed on his introductory press conference, when he made his return more about pumping up Jimmy Butler’s status on the team and his love for his hometown Chicago.

It came in the form of straight-faced realism.

When asked what the expectations should be for the coming season, Wade could’ve given a nice, cuddly quote about how the Bulls are a championship organization and how that’s always the goal for every team—something sterile and not necessarily untrue.

But what he dished out was sweeter than his preseason pocket passes that harken back to his point guard days.

“When you’re coming off a season where as an organization you don’t make the playoffs, your goal can’t be winning a championship,” he said. “It would be unrealistic to say, ‘Oh we want to win a championship.’ Of course we do. But it’s so many steps before you get to that.”

And with that, the adult in the room has spoken and changed the narrative on the eye-rolling or starry-eyed looks that have taken place from the media and fan base who’ve consumed the Chicago Bulls’ product.

For the last few seasons, or at least in the time this scribe has been around to witness the day-to-day operations of this franchise, this type of honesty has been missing by the framers—which in turn brings about a certain backlash when said expectations aren’t met.

Think how different last year would’ve gone from a reaction standpoint if Fred Hoiberg weren’t presented and packaged like a championship head coach taking over a championship roster.

The criticism wouldn’t have been so strong, because the public would’ve been rightly warned about what they were going to see.

“I think we gotta be level to this. I understand it’s every team’s goal to win a championship, every player’s goal,” Wade said. “But to get there, especially when you don’t have a team coming off a championship — Cleveland and Golden State coming from the Finals can say their goal is to win a championship — everyone else has to have levels to their goals.”

[RELATED: Monitoring Dwyane Wade a matter of feel as opposed to model]

Wade isn’t a novice coach finding his way or stumbling over his words or sentiment.

Wade isn’t a determined coach staying up night after night devising gameplans to stop the monster in the closet, LeBron James, and lathering up the fan base by gearing them up for the ultimate challenge and by proxy, the ultimate heartbreak.

Nor is Wade a former MVP chasing the shadow of a ghost he can never catch—his own.

Wade didn’t script the scene, he didn’t prepare for the question as if it were media day when such notions are presented. He answered honestly, didn’t run away from the query and for one of the first times, someone tagged with the responsibility of being a spokesman for the Chicago Bulls looked comfortable in his own skin, comfortable in the reality of the day and not stuck in a personal fantasy.

“Your goal has to be day-to-day making steps to improve yourself so you can get to a point where you’re a playoff team. And then you go from there,” Wade said. “Our goal is to get better. I’m not going to put a ceiling on our goal. We’re not thinking longterm right now.”

It hasn’t been long, but Wade sees a coach who’s still learning, a leader in Jimmy Butler who’s still learning how to be the leader of a franchise, and Wade parrots the “10 players with three years or less experience” line as much as anybody—and it’s not a narrative he’s trying to sell.

[SHOP: Buy a Dwyane Wade jersey]

He sees the uncertainty of the roster and likely, wants to alleviate the pressure on some of his teammates who have trouble performing when the spotlight is at its brightest.

Wade isn’t lowering his expectations for night-in, night-out and he won’t go into games not expecting to win; He just won’t allow his teammates to crumble under weight they have no business lifting.

It’s not a dose of negativity; compared to the outsized and unrealistic expectations of seasons’ past it could be interpreted as such but Wade has gone through the gamut in his career, and knows what he speaks.

This is a man who sacrificed two of the best individual seasons of his career (2008-2010), two of the best all-around campaigns from a shooting guard not named Michael Jordan with the unrealistic but attainable goal of acquiring LeBron James in free agency.

He played with players whose jerseys should’ve read “Expiring Contract” on the back as the Miami Heat took a step back after winning a title in 2006, tore it all down and went all-in on the fantasy of creating a superteam.

And in the last two years he’s played with a team that should’ve been named Romper Room, having to nurture and be patient with talented but mercurial players the Heat wanted to build up in the event to show itself as a free-agent destination again.

He’s not stuck in the mind of a 24-year old dynamo who can create holy hell for 48 minutes on both ends of the floor. Heck, he even said, “I am turning 35 this year. Some days I feel great. Some days I feel 34.”

Who knows how good or not this Bulls team can be, and perhaps they win 46 games or so and make a run to the second round of the playoffs. But Wade isn’t hitting you with gas so come April the torches will come out from a misled fan base.

That cold water from Wade may not feel good, but just like the old ‘tussin that didn’t go down so smoothly, it’s just what everybody needed to hear.

Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago

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USA TODAY

Jabari Parker and Tyler Ulis shine at open run in Chicago

Jabari Parker is looking forward to what will surely be an intriguing season for he and the Chicago Bulls.


Parker signed a two-year, $40 million contract, that essentially acts as a tryout for the Bulls. The second year of the contract is a team option, meaning should things not go well, the organization can cut ties with him. But after 183 career games with the Bucks over four seasons, it was clear that Parker was in need of a fresh start. In Chicago, he will slide in as the day one starting small forward, and is already paid like a player who is definitely appreciated by his organization.


But with all of the off the court stuff taken care of for now, Parker's main focus is getting in to the best shape of his life, as he prepares for a full season as a wing player. 


Part of Parker's preparation was a great pickup game in downtown Chicago organized by the Chicago Basketball Club.

 

For Bulls fans itching to get a look at Parker on the court, the video shows off some flashy passing ability, impressive handles and a flurry of pull-up jumpers from the 23-year old forward. He also finishes well in transition in the video, though that is to be taken with a grain of salt as Parker was easily the biggest player on the court. 


Other players in the pickup game included former Simeon teammate of Parker's, Kendrick Nunn; and NBA free agent and former Marion Catholic star Tyler Ulis (a possible Bulls target?). If Parker looks as dynamic against NBA competition as he did in the pickup game below, the Bulls are going to have one of the more valuable contracts in the league in 2020, and would be likely to lock up Parker to a long-term deal. 

Bulls need to develop a secondary playmaker

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USA TODAY

Bulls need to develop a secondary playmaker

These are the career points per 36 minutes numbers for the three players who figure to get majority of the field goal attempts on the 2018-19 Bulls:

Zach LaVine: 17.6 
Lauri Markkanen: 18.4 
Jabari Parker: 17.9

There is no debating that this current Bulls roster has multiple players who can flat-out put the ball in the basket. The the biggest questions come into play when you try to imagine how these players will keep each other involved, assuming they take the lion's share of the field goal attempts.

Kris Dunn finished just outside the top 10 in the league in assist percentage (33.3 percent), a higer mark than Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry or Stephen Curry. And though he is a talented passer, what this figure really shows is that the Bulls severely lack a secondary playmaker to take pressure off of Dunn to create shots for others.

Per Ben Falk's site Cleaning The Glass, Markkanen was not able to create for others with his offense, but shockingly, Parker and LaVine did an OK job in the play-making department, considering their reputation as shoot-first players.

Assist rate is a great way to see how much a player is distributing when they are on the floor. And usage rate is perhaps the best way to get an idea of how many possessions a player uses on offense. So naturally, assist to usage ratio is one of the best tools to use to assess a player's ability and willingness to create opportunities for others on offense. What the statistic boils down to is: how often did a player get an assist given how much they had the ball. 

Parker finished last season in the 67th percentile in assist to usage ratio, and LaVine finished in the 58th percentile. These numbers show that both players are capable passers and clearly have the potential to be great setup men.

This is crucial because Markkanen’s development will heavily depend on if he can expand his scoring repertoire, something that looks increasingly difficult with Parker and LaVine, who have averaged a combined 29.5 field goal attempts per 36 minutes for their careers. 

Many times throughout the offseason you likely heard about how the Bulls have many mouths to feed in the locker room. But this doesn’t pertain to just shots, ball-control will be a major concern as well. With incumbent point guard Kris Dunn still a relatively weak floor-spacer (32 percent from 3-point range last season), Fred Hoiberg will need to get creative with his rotations to keep the offense running efficiently. Backup point guard Cam Payne shot 38 percent from the 3-point line last season, and when inserting him into the game for Dunn, Parker would flourish as a point-forward (possibly) surrounded by four competent shooters. Parker could derail the Bulls offense because he is not an elite 3-point shooter, but that issue is mitigated when you put the ball in his hands to let him create.


Parker was fourth in the pecking order in Milwaukee last season, and so it comes as no surprise that his free throw attempts, points and field goal percentage dropped from his 2017 numbers. If you look at the 2017 season (Parker’s breakout season) you see that Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo pretty much split the No. 1 options duties on offense. They each took about 16 shots apiece and combined for 8.2 assists per game. This is a best case scenario for the Parker-LaVine wing duo. 


LaVine has the benefit of coming into the league as a point guard, and he has still retained the ability to make the right pass when it presents itself. And last season, he had an impressive turnover percentage that was just below 10 percent. However, the reason for this was that he averaged 4.34 seconds per touch, a very long time in an NBA possession, usually looking to score and nothing else. It’s easy to avoid turnovers when you aren’t looking to pass.


LaVine usually makes the obvious play if it is one pass away, but he does not move the ball around to prevent the offense from becoming stagnant.


Both LaVine and Parker will have their struggles on defense (understatement of the year), but much more important to their development is understanding that if you give the ball up on offense, it will find its way back to you. This is perhaps the only way a Bulls team that ranked 28th last season in offensive rating, can make a big enough leap in scoring efficiency to make their way back to the postseason.