The homecoming tour continues in the NBA, and now it’s Dwyane Wade’s turn. But this homecoming has a different feel than the others.
Dwyane Wade Returns Home to Chicago
When returning to Cleveland, LeBron James was essentially able to dictate the remaining Cavaliers’ moves and quickly built a team that could more or less fit around him. Kudos to GM David Griffin for quickly realizing that Dion Waiters was a horrid fit and getting some floor spacing in return.
But Wade comes to the Chicago Bulls with far less control—and steps into a situation that seems like a horrible fit.
Bulls' Backcourt Spacing Issues
The trio of Wade, Rajon Rondo, and Jimmy Butler just seems awkward. Where is the spacing? More questions arise regarding Coach Fred Hoiberg’s style of play and if he can make it work with this bunch.
The real problem is that NBA society forces us to believe all three of these perimeter slashing-oriented talents need to start and play exclusively together. That really doesn’t need to be the case.
Bulls' Rotation Minutes
All three could still get starter’s minutes, and Hoiberg can scatter the rotation to ensure proper spacing. For example, starting Wade alongside say Doug McDermott, with Nikola Mirotic at the 4, could mean nice spacing for that unit. Meanwhile, Butler becomes a superb 6th man who still plays more than 30 minutes per game and plays more with Jerian Grant.
Too bad for NBA society. That would never happen, because all three—Wade, Rondo, Butler—would see not starting as an insult. With all three then entrenched in the first unit, you now make Mirotic extremely important at the 4, but you still need more spacing pretty much everywhere.
The Bulls could also explore minor deals to improve spacing. Dealing Robin Lopez and a future 2nd-round pick to Charlotte for Spencer Hawes and Jeremy Lamb could work. The move would give you Hawes, an underrated talented high-post passer and shooter, as your 5. Meanwhile, Lamb provides good spacing to replace Mike Dunleavy Jr., who Chicago just traded to Cleveland to clear cap space for Wade. In Lopez, Charlotte would add a better interior defensive presence and replace some of what they lost in post play through Al Jefferson’s departure in free agency.
The "Big Three" Trade Value
The bigger question is, do you eventually move anyone from your awkward new “big three?” Rondo just signed and can’t be dealt until mid-December. His market value has already diminished, and after the Bulls would essentially show their hand, there’s no way he gets mediocre value in the trade market.
Moving Butler for more spacing is possible—maybe deal him to Boston in exchange for Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder or Avery Bradley, and a future Brooklyn Nets first-round pick. Still, wasn’t the whole point here to pair Wade and Butler? Also, sorry to break it to Dwayne, but there should be no question who’s team this is.
Yes, the Bulls need to at least keep Butler and Wade together, if for no other reason than to be bigger free agency players next offseason. At the same time, they’d like to ensure that they get to at least the second round of the playoffs this season. In the end, the best way to do so is by combining the first two ideas—making a minor move using Lopez and possibly Jerian Grant to get more spacing at the 5, AND convincing one of the “big three” to be a super 6th man.
Trade Rondo Already?
In the end, that candidate kind of needs to be Rondo. Let’s face it—Wade, your new hometown hero, won’t be willing to come off the bench. You could start Grant at point guard or try to acquire a spacing 1, and if somehow supplemented with a spacing 5, that suddenly becomes a sensible first unit. Meanwhile, Rondo could dominate the second unit, which could also include McDermott and Bobby Portis. The Bulls could maybe add old friend Marcus Thornton and roll with a nice second unit that could help them get a top 4 seed in the East. Of course, in the end, it comes back to getting a spacing 5—and the market is kind of bare. Besides Hawes, what other spacing 5 would even theoretically be available? Meyers Leonard? Enes Kanter? Not even.
The Milwaukee Bucks recently learned the lesson of not having enough spacing, and they added some much-needed help with stretch 4 Mirza Teletovic. Chicago must adjust fast—or else they quickly become the basket case story of this NBA season.
Edited by Jacob Kamaras