Anthony Davis sent shockwaves around the NBA when he came out and said that he wanted to be traded and that he would not be signing a long-term deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. Davis, one of the league’s best players, is likely coveted by most of the teams in the league due to his youth and the fact that he is so good at so many areas of the game. If the Chicago Bulls were on that list of teams after Davis, the All-Star let the world know that the feeling is not mutual.
A Brian Windhorst podcast revealed the information that Davis’ desire to not play was considered one of the worst-kept secrets in the NBA. Given the fact that Chicago is his hometown, this is a damning indictment against the franchise and the way it is run. It also speaks to the change in the team’s reputation from being a winner that great players would want to join to being an also-ran that great players want no part of.
To say that the attempt to rebuild after the Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau era in Chicago has failed would be an understatement. The Bulls haven’t just failed in most of the moves they have made to try to bring themselves back into contention in the Eastern Conference; they have failed spectacularly. Whether it was bringing Fred Hoiberg up from college to be their head coach or investing heavily in Zach LaVine, nothing the Bulls have done has seemed to work. But bringing in Anthony Davis could change all of that.
Davis is, arguably, the best player in the NBA right now. He is second in the league in scoring, trailing only James Harden to this point in the season. He is in the top three in the league in blocks and rebounds as well, making him a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor. He shoots over 50% from the field and is expanding his game to be a more reliable three-point shooter. In terms of adapting to the modern game, Davis is probably the best big man in the league.
But the organizational issues with the Chicago Bulls are a huge reason that players do not want to join the team. Among those issues is the fact that the team has seen its players get hurt on meaningless plays. Given Davis’ stature and the increased likelihood of big men sustaining injuries in the NBA, it’s understandable that he wouldn’t want to be a part of a franchise that has displayed a poor track record of managing minutes at the end of games.
Of course, with Davis being a star, it’s likely that he wouldn’t be on the floor in the final minutes of a blowout. But being a part of a team means wanting to be able to count on your teammates to be on the floor with you when you need them. And if players are getting hurt in blowouts, it would be hard to trust the coaching staff to make sure that those players would be healthy for when they are actually needed.
One of the main reasons for the problems with roster management is Jim Boylen, who took over once Hoiberg was let go. Boylen’s philosophy has clearly not clicked with the players, as his insistence on playing at maximum intensity at all times doesn’t mesh with a team that is in the middle of a season of tanking. And with so many young players on the team, Boylen’s continued employment runs the risk of wearing down several potential stars.
The Bulls aren’t seen as a threat to turn things around any time soon, with NBA bookmakers and handicappers not seeing much potential for improvement. Whereas other bottom-feeding teams like the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns should improve with the return of stars like Kristaps Porzingis or the development of young players like DeAndre Ayton, the Bulls don’t seem to have a very high ceiling beyond their current level of ability.
What is most unfortunate about the Anthony Davis situation is the fact that the team has a great array of pieces that they could use to trade for him. They have young talent like Lauri Markkanen that the Pelicans could use to rebuild after losing Davis. And they also have a big salary that they could move in Carmelo Anthony, which the Pelicans could waive to free up space for another potential star signing. But the way the franchise has been operated has prevented the Bulls from using their assets to the fullest.
Anthony Davis will likely end up in Los Angeles or with another contending team. And the fact that the Bulls could have been one of Davis’ primary suitors has to hurt fans who have gone from seeing the Bulls be the gold standard in the NBA to one of its worst clubs.