The Chicago Bulls have a cemented the direction they want to head in.
But it’s better than no direction at all for a team all of a year ago that seemed ready to rebuild, then reversed course and hit win-now mode via free agency, only to sputter into the playoffs and almost take down a (in name only) No. 1 seed.
Now the Bulls are about the future, meaning Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn.
Rondo might be the more interesting of the two. He went through the motions last year while dealing with odd rotational usage that only saw him take the floor for an average of 26.7 minutes per night, which kept him at humble averages of 7.8 points, 6.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game.
But with Dunn on the roster and Jerian Grant still around, the Bulls have at least considered ways to make Rondo’s cap hit cheaper, according to the Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson:
“According to sources, one option being considered is waiving Rondo and trying to re-sign him at a lower salary. However, Rondo restored his standing around the league with his professionalism and playoff performance under trying circumstances last season and is expected to draw interest from at least the Pelicans and Pacers in free agency. So that move would be a risk.”
Whether Rondo changed the minds of an entire league over two games in the playoffs might be worth a debate. But there’s no denying the fact he dropped 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a Game 1 win and another 11, nine and 14 in a Game 2 win.
Fans know the rest of the story—the Bulls tanked out of the series once he went down with a thumb injury.
The Bulls don’t seem to mind the idea of keeping a veteran like Rondo around to help along the young core, though the same money-minded stance applies to Wade.
Wade didn’t hesitate to pick up his player option, per CSN Chicago’s Vincent Goodwill. As would about anyone on the planet who is 35 years old and offered an option in the neighborhood of $24 million.
But buyout talk has predictably started. According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Cleveland Cavaliers have an eye on Wade—alongside Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks—as affordable buyout options they’d like to pursue.
Perhaps even more interesting is the idea Wade might consider a return to the Miami Heat, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald: “What’s more, Wade has never bashed the Heat publicly and is open to considering a return at some point in his career, according to an associate.”
The Bulls themselves have been rather mum on the issue of buying out Wade, with executive John Paxson recently being vague while suggesting anything on the matter needs to be “advantageous” to the team, per Johnson.
Even if Wade sticks around and acts as a mentor for the young guys while inhaling a gigantic salary, the focus of next season doesn’t change.
For instance, the Bulls just extended an offer to Joffrey Lauvergne, according to TNT’s David Aldridge. One of the pieces in the trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder back near the start of the year, Lauvergne is all of 25 years old and offers upside depth next to rookie Lauri Markkanen.
Elsewhere, Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald noted the status of Dunn, Markkanen and others ahead of the summer:
Not mentioned there is LaVine, but if somebody on the roster doesn’t necessarily need summer developmental time, it’s the 22-year-old guard who dropped 18.9 points on 45.9 percent shooting a year ago who is still recovering from a knee injury.
“I feel like with my ability I’m always able to come back early, but I really haven’t set a timetable for that. I’m really confident that I’m going to come back better than I have, and this will give me time to work on my mental game, my strength, just learn the game of basketball more. I have no fear at all coming back from this,” LaVine said, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
While LaVine works hard on his recovery so he can get back and act as the centerpiece of the rebuild, the Bulls will clearly weigh financial options surrounding veteran leaders and place an emphasis on the young guys like Dunn.
“We’ve set a direction,” Paxson said after the Butler trade, per Johnson.
This much is clear, especially with it looking like the Bulls have the surprises out of the way before July.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.
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