LAS VEGAS — Lauri Markkanen. Denzel Valentine. Kris Dunn. Paul Zipster.
That core of the roster the Chicago Bulls have brought to Las Vegas for Summer League is one GM Gar Forman hopes will be at the core of a team playing and winning in the United Center in a few years. The Bulls finally stopped years of half-measures and went all in — they traded Jimmy Butler and set out to rebuild with Forman is at the helm. Even if the fans in Chicago don’t trust him and John Paxson in that role.
“We needed to take a step back in order to start this rebuild, and the key now will be player development,” Forman said Monday after the Bulls Summer League loss. “This group continuing to develop, continuing to work hard, and the fans seeing progress with this group over the next year or two.”
One guy not part of that future: Dwyane Wade. Forman said there have been no buyout talks with Wade or his agent. So far.
The 35-year-old former All-Star is owed $23.8 million this season, and that’s a lot for the Bulls to eat. Coach Fred Hoiberg said recently he expects Wade to start the season with the Bulls, but nobody around the league expects him to finish it there. The only question on the buyout is when and for how much.
Forman wanted to focus on the future, the rebuilding process going forward. He said that Zach LaVine, the athletic wing coming off an ACL injury who was traded to Chicago as part of the Butler deal, is working hard, but the team isn’t going to rush him back — he kept using the word cautious over and over.
“We see this as a big window move, as far as bringing in Zach at 22 years old,” Forman said. “He’s been fantastic, he’s been in our gym working out with our athletic performance staff, he came out here (to Las Vegas) to spend some times with our young kids, and work with our staff.”
There are a lot of teams in the East going into a rebuilding space right now, making it that much harder to get the high draft picks and pull off the moves needed to successfully rebuild. Fans and some media members love to suggest rebuilds, and it looks great when you get the No. 1 picks the Timberwolves did, or can develop players like the Warriors, but there are a lot of Orlando or Sacramento “rebuilds” out there as cautionary tales.
Can Forman and the Bulls pull this off? We all know the answer you get if you ask most Bulls fans.
It’s going to take time. LaVine relied on his athleticism and is coming off an injury that may rob him of a little of that. Markkanen has shown in Vegas that he may have the pieces in his game, but it’s going to take some time to see if he can pull it together. Is Valentine ready for the larger role coming his way? There are a lot of questions.
“I think we’ve got great, great things, and we have very passionate fans, that’s one of the plusses of being in Chicago, is that they’re very passionate about the Bulls,” Forman said. “We understand it’s always hard when you’ve had a level of success and you’ve got to take a step back and go into a new direction, as far as a rebuild is concerned. We know that it’s going to be a process, we know that there are going to be ups and downs in that process, but we think the trade gave us a step in the right direction as far as heading that way.
“We got three young players that we really like, and we continue to be a team with flexibility. The big thing for us now is to integrate these young guys in, to continue to develop the young guys that we have from the previous year, continue to keep our flexibility where we can add assets.”
That all sounds good. But does Gar/Pax have the eye for talent, and do the Bulls have the player development chops, to pull it off?