Welcome back friends to the third annual installment of my NBA League Pass Rankings. For those new to the process, forget power rankings. Forget Vegas Over-Unders and salary cap gymnastics. Here at Knicks at Night we dive into the teams one by one to answer one simple question. If you’re shelling out the money for a League Pass subscription, which of these teams are worth that top 5 night-in, night-out slot and which of these guys are absolute, unwatchable garbage people?
This might be the toughest team to figure out in the NBA.
Gone are Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the youngest MVP in league history and the team’s locker-room emotional leader. These two were largely responsible for pulling the Bulls out of a prolonged period of mediocrity under Scott Skiles; when they exploded for 62 wins in 2011, it looked like the beginning of an awesome year after year rivalry with the hated Hollywood Lebron in Miami.
You know the rest of the story. Rose’s knee exploded in the first round of the playoffs, the team developed into a grind it out defense under Tom Thibodeau, and Jimmy Butler worked his ass off to eventually become the best player on the team and franchise cornerstone.
Then the Chicago front office had one of the most perplexing offseasons I could have imagined, basically acknowledging that Butler was their go-to guy by trading Rose and then totally shooting that idea in the foot by signing two big-name, ball dominant over the hill guards.
Everyone I know has already talked about how weird it was seeing Dwyane in a Bulls jersey for the first time (woops Noah still in the background of that one) and I can’t imagine it’ll be all that much easier accepting Rondo after years of feuding with the Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The two of these guys on the court will push Butler to small forward in the starting line-up, which is going to have a number of ripple effects on the offense. First, they’re going to be relying heavily on the cutting prowess of Wade and Butler to generate points as neither of these guys is above 32% from 3 for their careers. And second, all of these guys clogging up the guard spots is going to give head coach Fred Hoiberg some fits for who to play at power forward; Taj Gibson is an established work your ass off defensive presence, but the team has intriguing young players in Bobby Portis, Nikola Mirotic, and Doug McDermott and will be dying for any kind of spacing.
Which means that not only is this team looking at an Orlando levels of failure to shoot the basketball, but there could also be some really interesting chemistry issues in the locker room. Rondo has publicly admitted to not playing defense in years and has feuded with head coaches much more entrenched than the shaky Hoiberg. And, as for everyone who thinks this is still going to be Butler’s team after a hardworking, lunchpail, All-Star level season… well let me introduce you to Dwyane Wade. This guy is a champion, a proven Hall of Fame level player, and an all around great guy. If there’s any kind of flare-up between he and Butler it seems painfully clear who all the young, impressionable players on this team will end up siding with.
This is something that might come up with the Knicks later, but adding a bunch of talent and big names might not be the most conducive method to actual on court success. Chicago brought in some big stars from a few years ago, but these guys have absolutely no fit with the best players on the roster and will bring up even more questions to a group that was a young and somewhat of an awkward fit to begin with. Not a single one of their starters projects to be a good shooter or defender (never mind Butler is a terrific defender) and this team has some serious belly-up potential that could end with Hoiberg getting fired or Butler traded in an all-out tank season. There’s some interesting potential here if all of the pieces end up fitting together (and I did rate these guys much higher than I usually would with hating them and all) but I just don’t have the confidence in Hoiberg or any of these aging stars to confidently make that case.
Last year’s ranking: 15 (-2)