Our brains may not want to admit it, but the Bulls have had a solid offseason thus far.
A draft night with Coby White and Daniel Gafford was followed up with the free agent signings of veteran, versatile talents like Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky (among other moves), and they’re not done yet! Yes, light is finally visible in this dark Chicago tunnel of a rebuild, and executive vice president John Paxson discussed all of it and more on ESPN 1000 earlier today.
You can catch his full interview with David Kaplan and Jordan Cornette right here, but I grabbed the highlights, alongside some thoughts of my own, below. Enjoy.
Free Agency & Regret
- Almost right away Paxson found himself talking about how the Bulls free agent signings mimicked exactly what they wanted to do this offseason. And, honestly, I can’t deny it. The team has stuck to their guns this offseason, after claiming veteran depth and versatility as a priority. Young checks off the veteran box, while Satoransky’s multi-positional game expands the team’s options on the court. I’m never quick to give the Bulls props, but I do give credit where credit is due – and, for once, the front office actually did fill two important needs.
- To contrast the more methodical approach of this offseason, Kaplan and Cornette made sure to ask about the team’s approach to the big-name players this previous offseason, as well. And by the sound of it, Paxson and the Bulls weren’t hitting that market hard. He does seem to dodge the question a bit, but he reiterated the point that the team’s acquisition of Otto Porter was a solid representation of where the Bulls are currently at in terms of grabbing high-profile talent.
- With that being the case, he made a statement that I found to be rather reassuring: “We took it upon ourselves to look at things a little bit differently,” Paxson said. “We took a couple stabs in the last couple years at free agency, short term type things, what we really did this year, when we made the trade for Otto at the trade deadline, that really set things in motion for us.”
- This part of the interview engendered a semi-feeling of regret in Paxson’s voice. And if we’re stuck with this front office for the long haul, it’s somewhat nice to see a level of recognition here for making the wrong moves in the past. The team now seems focused on setting themselves up for a big move down the road, and that’s something about which you certainly have to think a couple years in advance.
The Future & Player Development
- Paxson pointed out the leagues’ new fascination with players coupling up, and the Bulls would apparently like to be “that kind of team” for big-time free agents down the road (duh). However, to get there, Chicago needs to prove they can play better basketball. AH. Finally. Some realization.
- You can almost see the clouds parting: “We’re positioning ourselves to be a much more competitive, more balanced group,” Paxson said. “The reality is, and I always come back to this, the reality is we need Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter, Wendell Carter, guys that are here, we need them to be better players. That as much as anything is going to determine how good of a basketball team we are moving forward.”
- Specifically, later on, Paxson brought up Markkanen and LaVine again, commenting on how they’ll need to be better this upcoming season. When thinking top-of-the-line talent, those are the two players who carry All-Star potential on this roster right now. He also didn’t shy away from saying that the Bulls would certainly have to keep an “open mind” about targeting star players if they become available via trade.
- As for how all this development will occur, you have to look at head coach Jim Boylen and his revamped coaching staff. Paxson had high-praise for the work this group has already been doing with the team, but made sure to bring up that Boylen now has a much deeper and versatile roster than the previous season, and it’s up to him to figure out the best way to line these players up on the court (*bites nails until they come off*).
- When Kaplan asked if this was the best coaching/management situation the team has been in throughout his time with the front office, Paxson gave a pretty confident, “yes.” He claimed that with Boylen’s open-minded attitude, it allows for a good relationship not only among the front office but with the players as well. Indeed, Paxson said that having Boylen around allows for the team to make good decisions. Surprisingly, since Boylen has been a head coach, the team actually has made some pretty solid decisions, so that may not be all hot air.
- Anyway, Paxson can talk about the improvements off the court all he wants, but eventually, we’ll have to see if all this positivity translates into better basketball.
- Plenty of competition sounds like it will be had now during summer workouts, with the starting point guard position having to play itself out. The signing of Satoransky made many believe he would be the starting point guard come game one of the regular season, but Paxson didn’t rule out White. He provided Wendell Carter Jr., as an example, stating that heading into last season, there was no expectation for Carter Jr., to be the starter, but he went into camp and took it. Basically, Paxson just made sure to say: “Guys have to come in and earn it”
- The pieces are sitting there with some intriguing upside, but whether that means the Bulls can take full advantage of it is certainly up for debate. The past few years haven’t been easy on the eyes, and, fortunately, Paxson has been realistic about how the fanbase currently views this team.
- “We’re trying to do this piece-by-piece, do it wisely, and I’m most concerned with us putting a competitive basketball team out there on the floor, where once again our fanbase is just looking at our group saying “this is the type of team I want to root for.”