The Chicago Bulls have had many problems in this very confusing 2016-17 season. But perhaps the most obvious is the starting point guard position. That starting guard spot next to Dwyane Wade and All-Star Jimmy Butler has been a revolving door that has featured 29 starts for disgruntled veteran Rajon Rondo, 15 starts for Jerian Grant, and 13 starts for Michael Carter-Williams.
I have been trying to nail down what is best for the Bulls for the rest of this season and for future seasons in regards to the point guard spot, and I had to keep basketball's four factors in mind. The "Four Factors" break down what it takes to win basketball games: Shooting, Turnovers, Rebounding, Free Throws.
Now before I talk about the three main players in this in-season competition, I want to address that I will not be talking about point guards from the uber-loaded 2017 draft class. ESPN's Chad Ford has five PGs in his Top 15 prospects, and I don't see the Bulls landing one of those guys unless they make a bold trade (which they won't). Soooo, that leaves the Chicago faithful stuck with this puzzling triumvirate of guards. As Jack Bauer said over 100 times in the hit TV-series "24", DAMN IT!
But never fear, if you look at the 2016-17 Bulls offensive and defensive ratings you will see that Chicago is still playing hard on the defensive end, currently 10th in the league with a rating of 107.5 (points given up per 100 possessions), but their offensive rating of 107.4 places them 18th in the league. Getting that closer to the league average would make the Bulls a much more effective squad.
Tell Rajon Rondo to (Re-structure) or Leave:
Rondo's tenure with the Chicago Bulls has stared out almost exactly how you would expect it to given his history.
Clash with the coaching staff? Check.
Making confusing/inappropriate/hypocritical public statements? Check.
Still manage to be the clear-cut, best playmaker on a middling team? Super check.
Say what you want about Rajon Rondo, but he is still a gifted passer who knows how to direct an offense like it's his day jo.....well you get the point. He will always be a supreme playmaker, but his ghastly shooting has reverted back to "Gengar"-levels of horror. His career high-36.5% from the three-point line last year feels like a decade ago, and honestly him shooting 31% from deep as of today makes me feel comfortable because it makes more sense than anything going on with this franchise right now.
He can be effective on defense when he is locked-in and motivated (not very often), and he is 3rd on the Bulls in steals per game. His annoying habit of reaching for the ball from behind his assignment is annoying forsure, but also one of the easier ways for Chicago to generate fast break points (Chicago is 10th in the league in fast break points per game.
His rebounding numbers are great from the guard spot yet again. In fact, Rondo is actually averaging a triple-double per 100 possessions (12.4 points per game/10 rebounds per game/12.6 assists per game). His versatility and well-documented chemistry with the second unit makes him a useful player despite all the criticism directed his way.
Chicago is 22nd in the league with 32.1 bench points per game. But if you look at these past 3 Jimmy Butler-less games, the Bulls have moved there bench production up to 34.3 ppg. Butler's absence is part of the story, but Rondo has actually been bringing great energy every night off the bench, and that should be the bigger story.
But with Jerian Grant and Michael Carter-Williams on much more team-friendly contracts, I don't see Rondo coming back unless no other team shows interested in him. In that scenario he comes back to Chicago willing to play on a deal that helps the team add power free-agents.....OK, I'll stop.
See What the Market Value is (If there is any) for MCW:
Michael Carter-Williams has potential, that much is certain. However, I have no clue what that potential means for his role in the NBA. Carter-Williams was the Rookie of the Year for the 2013-14 season; this is a fact that many basketball fans either forget or don't care about (or both).
During that magical rookie year MCW put up a very well-rounded stat line. He averaged 16.7 ppg/6.2rpg/6.3apg and showed how his length can be extremely useful on defense and in the post (see '15 Eastern Conference First Round).
This kid just can not shoot the ball. He is a career 41% shooter, and he as of now he is shooting a career-low 39.3%. His points per 100 possessions has never cracked 100 (translation: that's very bad and not good).
He is not getting to the free throw line this year, with a career-low 2.1 attempts per game. And so pretty much the only offensive value he provides over the long-term is stockpiling assists while controlling the offense. Except he is averaging a career-low in assists as well.
A lot of this has to do with Hoiberg not playing him a lot, but when you look at his per 36 minute stats you come to the same conclusion: this has been a terrible year for MCW. His only value to the Bulls seems to be defense and rebounding, which some teams need from the guard spot. The Bulls need an efficient scorer at the point guard spot.
MCW scored 20+ points on over 60% shooting in two straight games before a 1-for-9 bricklaying exhibition at Oracle Arena brought everyone back to reality. If no one is interested in him at the trade deadline, then I don't see too much of a risk in re-signing him in the off-season if he is willing to take a reasonable qualifying offer.
Seriously Fred, Just Stick With Grant.....
I have talked about this specific point too much already, but I want to bring it up one last time (I swear).
Jerian Grant is 24 years old. This is his second year in the league. In this sophomore season he has increased his 3-point percentage by 12.6%, and it is now up to a respectable 34.6% (4th on the Bulls).
He is the son of Harvey, brother of Jerami, and nephew of Horace.
His free throw attempt rate is 4th on the Bulls behind Butler, Cristiano Felicio, and Wade.
He is under contract through the 2018-19 season.