Billy Donovan Tabs Bulls’ Top Need Ahead of Trade Deadline: Identity

Billy Donovan, Bulls coach

Getty Billy Donovan, Bulls coach

If there is a complaint that most Chicago Bulls observers share as the team stands a third of the way through the NBA season, it is the utter lack of identity. They have some high-powered offensive players, most notably guard Zach LaVine and his 28.2 points per game but rank just 14th in offensive efficiency and have no real complementary parts.

They brought in new coach Billy Donovan, praised for his defense-first mentality, but have seen their D go from ninth in the NBA (allowing 108.9 points per 100 possessions) under oft-maligned Jim Boylen last year to 23rd (112.5 points per 100 possessions) this year. The Bulls do not have the horses to play consistent, NBA-level defense.

So the Bulls have reaped what they’ve sewn—a sub-mediocre collection of players, some with talent, but few that really seem to mesh. And Donovan, 25 games into coaching this team, seems to understand that some changes need to be made to chart a path for this franchise, starting with the trade deadline on March 25.

‘What Do We Want the Identity of a Bulls Player to Look Like?’

Here’s how Donovan laid out what he and team VP Arturas Karnisovas need to do in the coming weeks, per the Sun-Times:

We’re going to probably sit down and say, ‘OK, what do we want the identity of a Bulls player to look like? What does that look like for us?’ But I think before you can have that [discussion], [you want] these guys [to] have done everything they could as far as putting their best foot forward. I really feel like they bought in on trying to get better, trying to improve each and every day. Are there some flaws? Are there some deficiencies? Are there some areas that we’re just not as good as we want to be? Absolutely. Dealing with some injuries? That doesn’t help. …

I think Arturas, just my time with him, is a very patient guy, and he’s a very observant guy, and he’s a very, very bright guy. He’s evaluating everything and looking at everything, and I really trust and believe he’s going to want to make decisions that I know are going to help the Chicago Bulls.

If that sounds frustratingly basic, it should. The franchise has been flailing for six seasons since ownership made the grave mistake of siding with the management combo of Gar Forman and John Paxson over coach Tom Thibodeau, and it might be nice if the team at least had some players who personified the identity of the team. Alas, it’s not so.

Bulls Must Find Role Players, Identity Pieces

And so the Bulls will head into the trading deadline with a two-pronged task. They must first figure out what players they would prefer to move, the ones that don’t fit in the long- and short-terms, the ones that make Donovan’s job as an Xs-and-Os guy difficult. Improving the fit of the players on the roster and the way the lineups go together is Job 1.

But beyond that, the team must figure out what players it wants—which current Bulls can fit with the identity the team wants going forward, and which attainable players on other teams can bolster that identity. That is lacking.

Frustratingly so, in fact.

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