The NBA landscape continues its trend of dramatic shifts, and today, the Bulls were right in the center of it.
After agreeing to terms on a two-year, $28 million deal with free agent point guard Rajon Rondo, the Bulls have done the unthinkable. Somehow, general manager Gar Forman concocted a sales pitch that convinced Dwyane Wade, a 12-time All-Star and a sure-fire Hall of Famer, to leave the Miami Heat and join the Bulls on a two-year, $47.5 million deal, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.
Signing Wade and adding him on the perimeter with Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo will ensure the Bulls will be one of most intriguing team's in the NBA next season. There's potential for this ride to be a lot fun, but serious issues linger which threaten to derail the circus and hype surrounding this game-changing move.
Here's three serious concerns I have about the arrival of Dwyane Wade.
1. Three-Point Shooting Will Be Non-Existent
It's easy to assume a collective of All-Star caliber perimeter players, no matter their age, background or playing style, can make it work on pedigree and talent alone. It's a nice thought, but hardly true. It takes far more than that to build a successful team, as the Bulls will soon find out.
As the rest of the league pushes the boundaries of spread pick-and-roll and three-point shooting, the Bulls will be bringing back the classics, opting to field a rotation that will be heavily limited on outside shooting. Times are changing. As Stephen Curry smashes previous three-point records -- connecting on 402 three's last season -- the Bulls' newest addition, Dwyane Wade, has never relied on the outside shot, only hitting 386 three-pointers over his entire 13-year career.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest shooting guards to ever play the game, Wade has all but forgotten about the outside shot, only hitting seven three-pointers last season on 15.6 percent shooting. Though damning, on isolation it means little without considering the context of the players surrounding Wade. Unfortunately for the Bulls, they've hardly built a roster capable of supporting Wade's lack of shooting.
Like Wade, Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler have rarely threatened a defense from deep. Together, the Bulls' new 'Big 3' combined for 133 made three-pointers last season. In a league where 30 individual players matched or bettered that mark, Chicago's inability to shoot will will invite opposing defenders to sag off all three, which will force difficult midrange jumpers and increased attention on dribble penetration and attacking plays at the rim.
Manufacturing efficient looks from three will be difficult and will only be possible from one or two positions in most rotations, mainly from role players. Nikola Mirotic will need to play heavy minutes in the starting unit if there's to be any chance of fearing a Bulls player from the three-point line.
The shooting of McDermott and Valentine will also be critical, but it's difficult to see how they'll get enough minutes to generate enough efficient offense from the three-point line. There is only 96 minutes available at shooting guard and small forward. You can bank on Wade and Butler combining for a minimum of 70 minutes a game -- if healthy. Unless Hoiberg mixes up the rotation by playing smaller units that pushes players down a position, this only leaves 26 minutes for McDermott and Valentine to play their natural positions. That won't be enough minutes to develop their game whilst offering enough balance to the offense so there's very little chance the Bulls will scare any team with outside shot making.
Prepare yourself for lot's barrelling into the paint seeking out free throws.
2. What Does This Mean For Hoiberg And His Style Of Play?
So much needs to change for the Bulls if the addition of Wade is to be a success. Players will need to sacrifice shots, touches and ego, but no one will be giving up more than coach Fred Hoiberg, who must defer his ideals in favor of finding a solution that best fits his new perimeter trio.
Speaking at his introductory press conference and preaching modern offensive philosophies, it's hard to imagine Hoiberg's principles gaining traction with his new roster.
"I’ve always run an NBA-type system,” Hoiberg said. “We had the second-fastest pace of play in all of college basketball last year. We like to get out and play with pace and spacing. I think we ran more pick-and-roll than anybody in college basketball. We really like to flow into an offense as opposed to coming down and getting set on every possession. It’s something that has always been my philosophy."
Any thoughts of building an offense that was predicated on flow, speed and transition can quickly be parked. It won't be happening so long as Wade, Rondo and Butler are playing significant minutes.
Wade's Heat were consistently one of the slowest team's in the league, ranking 25th in pace last season and 29th the year before. Nursing Wade's aging body was a priority if they were to have any playoff success and, if the Bulls hope to have Wade available for a long playoff run, they too will need to manage his workload throughout an 82-game season by ensuring games are played at a crawling pace.
There will be also be minimal ball movement. Rondo is renowned for being a ball-dominant point guard who endeavors to control the entire offense. As Butler's star has risen through the league, so too has the amount of isolation possessions he consumes. Wade, too, one of the greatest scoring wings ever, has traditionally operated in pick-and-roll and isolation. It must be said that Wade was brilliant off-ball when Lebron James joined the Heat in 2011, but it took time for that chemistry to develop. It was also only two dominant wings players navigating through their partnership and figuring out how it would work. For the Bulls, three perimeter players, all of whom will want their fair share of touches, will need to find a way of sharing the ball.
Who Fred Hoiberg was sold to be no longer matters. How he transforms into something he's currently not will be far more important if he's to have a successful coaching career with the Bulls. Should Hoiberg fail to evolve and the Bulls struggle to surpass a .500 record, thus jeopardizing the appeal of the team to future free agents, like his previous basketball philosophies, Hoiberg's exit will come quicker than expected.
3. Have The Bulls Picked The Right Lane?
Prior to the 2016 NBA Draft, it was unclear what the Bulls had planned for the franchise moving forward. The trading of Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks signaled a re-tooling around Jimmy Butler. However, the team would field calls from the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves on draft day for the two-time All-Star, fueling speculation of a complete rebuild.
Butler would remain on the team and now the Bulls' plan is evident for all to see: build a respectable playoff team that -- with the help of master recruiter Dwyane Wade -- will attract the free agents of 2017 to Chicago, all whilst banking playoff revenue and merchandise sales. Though the addition of Wade may have immediate benefits to the on-court production, his signing is as much about wooing the next big free agent as it is winning games.
Sounds great, but there's a potential problem looming: will Dwyane Wade, a soon-to-be 35-year-old who's career is clearly on the decline, along with Jimmy Butler, be enough to attract the biggest names in free agency?
The arrival of Wade and his large contract ensures the Bulls will fall short of offering two maximum contract in 2017. They'll still should find themselves armed with over $50 million in cap space to entice at least one more star, but dreams of multiple All-Star caliber plays on max contracts must be tempered.
The pursuit of free agents in 2017 is a grand idea, but it is still heavily dependent on Wade, Butler and Rondo establishing a rhythm that leads to 45 or more wins and a strong playoff showing in 2016. What if that fails? The fit is questionable and health will certainly be a concern. Both have the potential of derailing any grand plans the Bulls may have of establishing a powerhouse roster in 2017. Are Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul really going to leave their current team's if the Bulls fail to be contender? What's the backup solution?
Rejecting the "younger and more athletic" plan and opting to bring in a 30-year-old point guard and a 34-year-old shooting guard will have delayed the development of the Bulls' younger players. It would have also required Butler to reduce his output as the primary ball-handler and playmaker on the perimeter, which isn't ideal for a player operating in their prime years. It's easy to gamble on one of Butler's prime years now, but his own decline from stardom will be here before we know it, therefore it's critical that the Bulls waste no time in building a quality team around him.
The signing of Wade may seem like an achievement now, but it has the potential to delay the development of Chicago's youth whilst limiting the ability of building capable roster around Butler through the life of his current contract. Perhaps the signing of Wade leads to future free agents seriously considering the Bulls, but it's far more likely that the combination of Wade and Butler will lead to mediocre basketball, failed attempts at luring other stars and the wasting of Butler's prime years.