After losing 6 of their last 7 games (along with two nasty blowout losses to the overloaded Nets and worst team in the league Orlando Magic), the problems with the Chicago Bulls have become evident. Injuries were expected, as many Bulls fans have become accustomed to any time they have a good team, but with six very important players out for an extended period of time, we now know what the issue is: toughness and veterans.
Artūras Karnišovas and Marc Eversley have already done better jobs in one year than Gar Forman and John Paxson did in over a decade for the front office of the Bulls. They have gotten legitimate star talent and have drafted very well to be considered among the elite in the Eastern Conference once again. To get over that hump however, to move past the label of playoff team to championship contender, you need to solidify this team with a veteran presence and tough-minded players that will do the dirty work so the stars can focus on scoring and whatever else.
As good as Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White have been, they have never seen the animal that is playoff basketball. Opposing teams’ veteran players always find the younger guys that are shaken up by the atmosphere and expose them. It’s a tale as old as time. The game slows down. Each possession matters and half-court basketball becomes more important than ever.
If the Bulls’ bench is relying this hard on first- and second-year players, they’re going to lose games that they never expected to lose. Let’s also consider the rest of team and their experience. DeMar DeRozan has had the label of “choker” for most of his career, Nikola Vučević has never made it past the first round, and Zach LaVine has never made the playoffs at all.
They have talent, but they need that little bit of extra to take them over the top and to calm them down in high pressure situations. They also need guys that are ready to brawl at all times. The fact that no one tried to approach Grayson Allen after Allen’s hard foul on Alex Caruso, fracturing his wrist no less, is a tell-tale sign that these Bulls just aren’t ready for war.
Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer are rolling around in their graves right now…and they’re still alive!
It’s not that we want to see a fight, it’s just that toughness is an important part of the game. The last message you want to send around the league is that you’re open to being pushed around and not doing anything about it. That’s the last thing you want your opponents to know. That’s not a championship mentality.
Right now, this team has more talent on it than the Bulls have had in twenty or so years, but no one is afraid of this team like they were with the considerably less-talented, but extremely tough-minded, Derrick Rose-led teams of the early 2010s. This is where the issue lies. The Bulls have had huge statement games to prove to the NBA that they deserved the top spot in the East, and they lost every single one of them.
Something needs to change sooner rather than later and signing veterans as they wait for their key guys to come back is what AK needs to look into to recharge the very desperate Bulls. They should definitely keep an eye on if the Nuggets decide to keep DeMarcus Cousins, or if the Pacers decide to keep Lance Stephenson. If they aren’t signed for the rest of the year, they need to be signed to 10-Day contracts at the minimum.
After that, I’m scouring the free agent market. Michael Beasley, Kenneth Faried, Dion Waiters, Jahlil Okafor, and Kris Dunn need to all be looked at as possible options. The Bulls have room to improve, despite having the talent to win a title. Toughness, and putting fear into your opponents, go a long way into helping a team make their mark on the league and signing a crop of veterans ready to fight for your franchise will do just that.
Featured Image Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports. Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
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