The big news of the week, the Bulls signed Noah Vonleh and Zach Norvell Jr to what are believed to be non-guaranteed contracts, and the pre-season schedule was announced…
When I first saw the news that the Bulls had re-signed Noah Vonleh, I thought that the Round Table had a deal in place to trade Thaddeus Young. Those hopes were quickly dashed by reports that it was a non-guaranteed training camp deal, meaning he can be cut before the season starts without any major salary cap repercussions happening. You might remember Vonleh from his late season run with the 2017-18 Bulls. If you don’t remember it there’s a reason why, while a competent power forward on an awful, tanking Bulls team, Vonleh was hardly a stand out player. An interesting tidbit about Vonleh though, last season he had one of the most efficient seasons of his career playing as a small ball center. His Offensive Rating per 100 possessions was the best of his career, and so was the difference between his offensive and defensive ratings. I’m not saying the Bulls are going to keep Vonleh, I just think it’s interesting that after kicking around the NBA for 6 seasons, maybe he has finally found the position he needs to play in order to be successful, the small ball center.
Quickly, Zach Norvell is a combo guard that had a cup of coffee with both the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors last season. He is also on a non-guaranteed deal for training camp.
A Difference of Opininion:
For a brief, blissful moment this year, all of Bulls Nation was united in feelings of joy, hope, and optimism. I am referring of course to the front office change that has fundamentally reshaped not just the rebuild, but the franchise itself. Alas, that moment of unity, as delightful as it was, is over. Between contrary opinions on Patrick Williams as the 4th overall pick, the Round Table not landing a big name free agent, and a lack of a trade based roster shake up, the fandom has once again split into different factions. I suppose that was bound to happen, part of the fun of being a sports fan is putting on the “Arm Chair GM” hat and telling the best minds in basketball why they’re wrong. One of the reasons I blog is because I want to tell the best minds in basketball where they messed up, as if it’s not painfully obvious every time the team loses.
One of the big reasons the fan base has split, is over the apparent lack of activity on the part of the Round Table. There are a lot of fans that are sick of watching losing Bulls basketball and want the instant gratification that only a big splash in free agency or the trade market can provide. But I don’t believe that’s why Karnisovas and Marc Eversley were hired.
As much as the front office has changed, and it’s a big change, the owners of the Chicago Bulls have stayed the same. It’s important to remember, Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf are not interested in building a winning basketball team. They are interested in making money. They are willing to put up with spending millions of dollars on restructuring the organization. New trainers, player development coaches, a more robust scouting department, are all acceptable costs if it means they don’t have to pay a big name free agent an exorbitant amount of money to play basketball. You see, the reason why Arturas Karnisovas was hired as the new Vice President of Basketball Operations, wasn’t to make the Bulls a winning basketball team, but it was to keep roster costs low and tease the fan base into thinking Chicago could climb to the top of the mountain again.
The idea of a player development focused franchise is incredibly attractive to any ownership group. The constant flow of young talent turn-styling through the system keeps fans interested in bad basketball. That same young talent might even compete at a high level, turning into a plucky young team that can challenge a championship caliber team on any given night. Examples of this type of team are littered throughout the NBA, the most recent being the Miami Heat. The Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, and non-Kawhi Leonard Toronto Raptors are perfect examples of teams that rely on young talent and sound coaching to compete but never really challenge for a championship. This is the kind of team that the Reinsdorf Family hopes Karnisovas can build, a team that competes just enough to keep us fans hungry for more.
I believe the Round Table are trying to build a winner. I believe they believe it can be done through simply developing young talent. I believe that as long as player development is the focus, and not championships, you will never see the Bulls make a giant free agent signing, and you will never see a block buster trade that brings a superstar to Chicago. And I believe the Reinsdorf Family is perfectly happy with all of that.
Until the Bulls prove me wrong, and win a championship, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!