Bulls' team owner: "Obviously, we're a mediocre team"
Longtime Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf labeled his team "mediocre" following a loss to the Timberwolves Monday night. The absence of Derrick Rose and now Luol Deng resulted in a 22-22 record as we turn into the second half of the NBA season.
A .500 record with so much promise at the start of the campaign? Yeah, mediocre fits.
"Obviously, we're a mediocre team this year, a middle-of-the-pack team," Reinsdorf said via the Chicago Tribune. "Looks like we probably will make the playoffs but we don't know for sure. But we're not that bad."
The Bulls aren't that bad… in the Eastern Conference.
Coach Tom Thibodeau's passion for the game and the unsung heroics of veterans like Joakim Noah and unlikely producers like D.J. Augustin have salvaged the season from being at the cellar of the weak conference to now posting the fifth-best record.
The Bulls appear to have the tools to win a playoff series in the East like last year. The team is second in points allowed per game (92.9) and eighth in rebounds per game (45.1). However, lack of offensive production has been an issue. Chicago ranks 29th in points scored per game (92.8).
Obviously, a championship is out of reach with this current squad. But what about the future?
"We have the rights to [Nikola] Mirotic, who's probably the best player in Europe," Reinsdorf said. "He's going to come either this year or the following year at the latest."
Mirotic being the "best player in Europe" may be an accurate label. The Real Madrid forward is averaging 13.8 points per game, shooting 56.5 percent on the floor and 55.8 percent from behind the arc through 14 contests.
However, the Bulls currently don't have the cap space to pay the buyout fee to bring Mirotic to the United States and sign him. The next option would be to make room for the prospect. The easiest way would be to waive Carlos Boozer this summer using the amnesty provision which would save $15.3 million.
Waiving Boozer doesn't seem like an option, though. Reinsdorf appeared to have included the forward as the "base" of the team.
"We're not starting from scratch," Reinsdorf said. "We still have Noah and Derrick and [Mike] Dunleavy and Taj Gibson and Boozer. We've got a pretty good base."
Perhaps the Bulls could build around the draft, but the team's current picks aren't in a great position to grab an obvious pro-ready player. The Bulls will likely have two middle-of-the-pack selections, their own pick and one from the Bobcats. The Bulls could receive a pick from the Kings in the future, but Sacramento's pick is top-12 protected this year and top-10 protected in 2015 and 2016.
However, the Bulls may not be done selling. Dunleavy and, when he is healthy again, Kirk Hinrich, could land more picks, but they'll likely be more late first-round selections.
One thing could not be more uncertain: the future. Reinsdorf would disagree.
"The future looks good," he said, "and you have to be proud of the way they've played this year.”
This Bulls team is similar to last year's squad: they never give up. I don't see that ever changing with our current coach.