Unfortunate Timing

In my real life job, I’ve logged more than a decade as a minor member of the media. However inconsequential and behind the scenes my position is, I’ve learned a few lessons over that decade +. I’ve learned that availability and flexibility are essential to maintaining and growing a career. That consistently saying “yes” to opportunities creates more opportunities, and foremost among the lessons I’ve learned: timing is everything. I’ve learned to recognize good timing from bad. Whether it’s pacing a traffic report, reading an ad with controlled enthusiasm, or cutting fluff from a news item, broadcasting is all about timing. After all my experience in broadcasting, it’s painfully obvious to me that the Chicago Bulls have a severe case of unfortunate timing.

I’m talking about the ascendancy of Zach LaVine to stardom, and the rest of the Bull’s young core lagging in their development. Right now the Bulls roster is split between two separate timelines. One group, the veterans and Zach, are ready to compete for a playoff berth. The second group, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr, Patrick Williams, and Lauri Markkanen, are still learning to be professionals. This is the source of the Bulls mediocrity, this is why the future of the franchise is so murky.

If we focus on the veterans, on LaVine, Thaddeus Young, Garrett Temple, Tomas Satoransky, and Otto Porter Jr, they are talented enough for a playoff run. But in order to ensure they make it, the Round Table will have to trade a couple of the younger players (or future draft picks) for other playoff ready veterans.

If we turn our attention to the young core, they need more time to mature as NBA players before they can even think about competing in the playoffs. They don’t have the skills or discipline for that level of competition. They still have several years of “seasoning” (to borrow a term from Jim Boylen) before they become serious competitors. For the Round Table, looking at this young core whose development has been stymied by injuries and poor coaching, it would be incredibly tempting to hit the “reset” button on this rebuild. That could mean trading vets (and LaVine) for picks, or just staying the course and allowing the season to play out however it plays out. What these two options mean for Zach LaVine culminates to nothing more than a wasted season (unless he gets traded to a competitive team).

The next step in the development of the Bulls best player is a trip to the playoffs. LaVine needs a sense of what that competition is like. He needs to experience playoff pace, desperation, and just how important every possession is. LaVine must be refined in the crucible of the NBA playoffs, because he is on the cusp of greatness. Zach is doing things this season for the Bulls that have only ever been done by Michael Jordan. His scoring efficiency is nearly on par with the likes of Larry Bird, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry. The playoff crucible, that next step for LaVine’s development, is within reach if the Round Table makes a move or two, filling in some of the gaps in skill currently missing from the roster. The Bulls need a player or two that can provide more defense, playmaking, and consistent scoring (and probably a few more things) if they want to make the playoffs.

While it’s obvious that a playoff run would be great for LaVine, the Bulls are not good enough to get there this season without reshaping the roster. Which begs the question, are we truly ready to move on from Markkanen, Carter, White, and/or Williams?

The answer to that will depend on the fan you ask.

I believe each of these guys still has the potential to be an impact player in the NBA. I believe each can, and will, grow into dependable veterans capable of helping NBA teams win games and possibly championships. They just aren’t ready to do that now.

And that’s the problem. That’s the unfortunate timing the Bulls are saddled with.

You can see the disparity between the two groups every time the Bulls play. It’s evident in the stat sheet, the lack of consistent production from the young core. It’s evident in the eye test, seeing Coby White miss opportunities to pass the ball to his cutting teammates, passes Sato and Thadd make effortlessly. The struggle Carter and Markkanen go through every time they face an average big. The turnovers Williams commits when he tries to dribble in a crowd. It’s obvious that the Bulls are on two separate trajectories, and it’s pulling the franchise in two different directions.

From day one, Billy Donovan has preached that everyone in the Bulls boat needs to be rowing in the same direction. Right now that is not the case. Donovan, Arturas Karnisovas, and Marc Eversley better pick a direction, and get the team to row in it, or else this franchise is going to spin itself in a never ending circle of frustration.

Until they get things straightened out, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!

One thought on “Unfortunate Timing

  1. Your best post! Hands down.

    The best comparison is to Scottie and Horace as young players – as opposed to Jordan. It took tons to get them up to speed.

    The swerve in the Bulls timeline is because Zach is the one that became the centerpiece. I believe that Pax thought it would be Lauri, with Zach as a complementary scorer. Zach has truly ascended to the elite level and left all the other young Bulls in his dust.

    Sent from my iPhone


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