Bulls fans in Chicago are not happy, and it appears they’ve found a target for their frustrations: General Manager Gar Forman and Vice President of Basketball of Operations John Paxson (collectively known as “GarPax”).
There’s been growing tension between fans and the front office for quite some time now (see “GarPax are team cancers”, 2015), but it’s picked up a lot of steam in the past few months. Part of the frustration comes from managements inability to maintain relationship or develop any semblance of consistency.
Before being traded on Wednesday, Taj Gibson was the only remaining player from the Bulls squad who appeared in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals
. And, as of now, the only players left over from last year’s Bulls are: Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, Cristiano Felicio and Bobby Portis remain. Of those four, Mirotic is despised by many Bulls fans and Felicio’s contract expires this summer.
At the moment, it appears that there is no plan. This past off-season, Gar Forman told reporters they planned “to get younger and more athletic”; then he turned around and signed Rajon Rondo (31) and Dwyane Wade (35). While Wade has arguably found some success in Chicago, the experiment has not proved as fruitful at fans might have hoped.
After a highly publicized meltdown, Jimmy Butler made it very clear that he wants to “win now. Not later
“. At that point, tt became clear that the team would need to either put better players around Butler, or trade him away and begin a full rebuild. So, with the deadline quickly approaching on Wednesday, fan eagerly anticipated a trade. Unfortunately, when the dust had settled, the only deal GarPax managed to come up with was Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson and an unprotected 2018 second-round pick
to OKC for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow.
As critics quickly pointed out, it was a great trade – but only if you’re the GM of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Not only did the Bulls management fail to put better players around Jimmy, they also failed to begin the rebuilding process and gave up future assets in the process.
Taj was a fan-favorite in the city, but the writing was on the wall, and it appeared his tenure might be coming to an end after this season. Still, even as a rental, most fans thought he would net at least a rotational player or late first-round pick.
McDermott, on the other hand, has been a complicated story from the beginning. In 2014, GarPax traded two first round draft picks (Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris) to Denver for the rights to Doug McDermott. In the following seasons, McDermott never reached his full potential, while Nurkic and Harris both become solid role-players in the league.
Slightly more than two seasons later, GarPax has managed to turn all of these assets, plus a future pick, into three underperforming players, two of whom are about to become free agents (Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow).
- Of 282 hardcore Bulls fans polled on RealGM, 32% gave the trade an F rating, while an additional 24% said they would either become a fan of a different team or “stay away till (sic) a change in management occurs”.
The big question now is whether the team will attempt to rebuild completely by trading Jimmy Butler in the off-season, or look to build around him through free agency. If Butler is traded, Dwyane Wade will almost surely opt out of his contract and head to another team.
Of course, even if GarPax does acquire draft picks and attempt to rebuild through the draft, critics have little faith that they won’t squander the opportunity. Keep in mind, it was Paxson who, in 2007, traded first round pick LaMarcus Aldridge to the Portland Trail Blazers for Tyrus Thomas. And it was GarPax who drafted Marquis Teague in 2012, ahead of Draymond Green, Jae Crowder, Kyle O’Quinn, Quincy Acy, Festus Ezeli and Will Barton (to name just a few). It seems like, no matter what they do, the Bulls path forward from here will be a rocky one.
Here’s what the fans are saying on Social Media:
And, my favorite, as one critic said on RealGM: “Joffrey Lauvergne may not be very athletic, but he makes up for it by having very short arms“.
[Main photo via Sun-Times Media]