It’s another edition of everybody’s favorite post: John Paxson speaks!
We have been hearing plenty from Paxson recently on all of the team’s new additions; however, his recent appearance on 670 The Score’s Mully and Haugh sang a bit of a different tune. You can listen to the whole interview here.
Let’s talk about some of the key takeaways from his interview:
The 2021 Plan & No Russell Westbrook
Yesterday, I wrote about why working toward 2021 free agency would be, arguably, the most plausible path for the Bulls to follow. And then, we wake up this morning to John Paxson outlining what feels like a very similar game plan.
“You want the superstars, you want to do what the Lakers and Clippers are doing but we realize right now that we’re not in that position,” Paxson said. “We hope in a couple years with the development of these young guys, players around the league view us as a destination where they can win at the highest level, which I believe will be there if our young guys perform the way we think they will.”
Whether you believe the Bulls can actually sell top free agents on Chicago is completely up to you. Clearly, the sample size for the Bulls “nailing” free agency is small to nonexistent, but the way the league currently operates does work in their favor. Poor front office management or not, players want to buddy-up nowadays and find out where the money and assets are. The Bulls will be able to offer plenty of opportunity down the road with the appropriate development of its young core. All the front office would have to do is schedule the meeting and write the check.
With Paxson clutching onto the young players, the fan’s fight for Russell Westbrook is probably over. Mully and Haugh asked the executive vice president about the possibility of keeping a guy like him on the radar:
“I think every team is at a different stage of development and evolution,” Paxson said. “There are teams that are going to take a real shot at something like that. You have to factor in everything. When you look to financial aspects of a player that’s 30 going out for four-years and the amount of money that’s going to made, those things can tie your hands up and kind of put your organization in a tough position.”
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a guy who is dying to make a trade. Also, specifically, the “tie your hands up” comment also helps push the idea of this 2021 plan forward. The organization is on a path to have an enormous sum of cap space in two years, signing Westbrook would eliminate practically all the flexibility this team has.
For those on the trade-for-Russell bandwagon… it may be time to get off.
The team has transformed into a modern, versatile group but still sits without even a single star. Hence, why 2021 is so important.
“And I’m very realistic and we all know this, you need stars in this league to win at the highest level and right now we are trying to develop some young players,” Paxson said.
He seems to be banking on one of the current roster member reaching the next level, something a lot of people have discussed as a must for guys like Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. Throughout Paxson’s recent interviews (this one included), he has called these two out specifically by name when discussing players the organization is expecting to take the next step.
Without a big trade target or free agency grab, the fate of the franchise is in the hands of the young core. And Paxson believes a season of competitive basketball is right around the corner if the team can come together and stay healthy. Regardless, a playoff push doesn’t appear to be on the executive’s mind. Instead, he wants the team to be focused on being a hard-playing squad that fans can get behind (something he admits Chicago has lacked significantly over the past two years).
“I want our group to be competitive. I want our fan base to look out at our team and say ‘okay, these guys are playing hard, they’re showing us that they care and that there’s a real as their young guys develop that this is going to be a really good basketball team.'”
If you ask me, I think the players are capable of that. However, at the same time, I think you accomplish this by winning games, above all else, so with that being the case, a playoff push should certainly be on Paxson’s mind.
Gafford and White
Doesn’t that sound like a Buddy-cop show? I would totally watch. Coby catches bullets with his hair while Daniel just dunks on crooks. Let’s set that up.
Anyway, Paxson spoke about both the players and emphasized that each have a long way to go. For Gafford, specifically, Paxson was encouraged by the fact that the team was able to grab him in the second round and sign him for an extended period, giving the franchise time to really allow for him to develop.
When discussing his skill set, he mentioned that two kinds of centers currently exist in the NBA: (1) the scoring type and (2) the run the floor, rim-protecting type.
Gafford certainly falls under option two, and Paxson brought up Clint Capela as a comparison for what Gafford could become in this league (Gafford has gotten that comparison quite a lot). I think Gafford’s explosiveness is definitely more exciting than Capela’s but for the grand scheme of things, it’s a fair comp.
As for White, Paxson said he needs to work on his decision making. He brought up Coby’s score-first mentality and mentioned that the leagues’ length and pace will take some getting use to on White’s part. Fortunately, with the signing of Satoransky, Paxson says White is free to learn at his own pace, but the long term picture is definitely centered on him.
“When we look at things long term we think Coby obviously has a very bright future, and you got to have guys that put the ball in the basket and this kind has the mindset that he’s going to do that,” Paxson said.
Carter Jr. Update
Paxson confirmed that Wendell Carter Jr. will return by training camp after his core muscle surgery.
Apparently, the injury was something that Carter Jr. has been struggling with since high school but has continued to play through. While Paxson mentioned it isn’t anything severe, the injury would just cause him some general soreness after games. We were already told the rehabilitation process will take around 6-8 weeks, but according to Paxson, Carter Jr. has already started and was doing exercises yesterday. In general, he said the surgery will now free him up and eliminate discomfort.