Bulls make smart choice with key players

By Khobi Price

The Chicago Bulls front office made a smart decision Monday by shutting down guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine for the remainder of the 2017-18 season.

Dunn sprained his big toe on his right foot in the Bulls’ March 15 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. LaVine has been sidelined with tendonitis in his left knee for three weeks and tore his ACL in his left knee during his Feb. 3, 2017, contest against the Detroit Pistons.

The guard duo has not appeared in the Bulls’ last 10 games. Dunn and LaVine will be benched because neither made enough improvements in their conditioning to play in the Bulls’ final five games of the season, according to a Monday Bleacher Report.

It was a good idea to shut Dunn and LaVine down because there wasn’t a lot for the team or the players to gain if the duo was inserted into the lineup. The decision will also allow the Bulls to focus on the long-term interest of the franchise by being as bad as possible in the short term.

The Bulls need to position themselves for better odds for a higher pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. John Paxson, Bulls Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, said he knew acquiring touted prospects in the draft was one of the best ways to accelerate the Bulls’ direction when they started the rebuild.

“We’ve decided to make the change and rebuild this roster,” Paxson said, according to a June 23 Bleacher Report. “We’re going to do it with young players we believe can play a system [Bulls Head Coach] Fred [Hoiberg] is comfortable with.”

Playing Dunn and LaVine wouldn’t help the Bulls achieve their goal of gaining a higher draft pick.

Instead, the guard tandem would give the Bulls a better chance to win games.

Playing Dunn and LaVine this late in the season would have been a high risk, low reward proposition. If they played well and helped the Bulls win games then it would have worsened the Bulls’ lottery odds and leverage in contract negotiations with LaVine over the summer.

LaVine will become a restricted free agent on July 1, according to ESPN.

There’s a lack of clarity regarding the contract he will command during the offseason because of his knee injury and the uncertainty about how good of a player he’ll be.

“The agency and front office, they’re both trying to get the better of each [other],” LaVine said, according to a March 29 Bleacher Report. “I think this situation is a little bit different because there’s mutual respect on both sides and understanding. There’s no bad blood between us, so I think everything will go smoothly.”

If Dunn and LaVine played poorly or further aggravated their injuries, then they would’ve wasted time they could’ve spent focusing on getting their bodies healthy.

The announcement their seasons are over allows Dunn, LaVine and the Bulls to turn to their full attention toward the future.

“I’m excited about next year with those two guys for the fact that when we were playing our best stretch of basketball this season, Zach had come back,” Hoiberg said, according to an Monday Bleacher Report. “He was playing about 20 minutes when he first got back. We won those first two games where we had him playing some of our best basketball.”

The 2018 offseason could be a significant time period for the Bulls. The Bulls, Dunn and LaVine can set themselves up for momentous long term success if everything goes according to plan.

“Me and Kris talk all the time, this is going to be a big summer,” LaVine said, according to an Monday NBC Sports Chicago article. “We’re going to make a big jump, there’s not going to be any messin’ around. We’re going to go to work.”