Chicago Bulls mailbag: What will happen this summer?

The Chicago Bulls’ season ended with an odd mix of potential (2-0 playoff series lead vs. Boston) and disappointment (4 straight losses after 41-41 regular season).

This will be an important summer for the future of the franchise, but when vice president of basketball operations John Paxson spoke last week, he seemed to caution fans not to get their hopes up for major changes.

So what will happen this summer? Let’s turn to Twitter to answer reader questions:

Q: Do you think the Bulls will finally trade Jimmy this June? — @BernieMTwo

A: No, I don’t. Paxson specifically stated the team does not want to blow things up and start over. Most fans will recall the disastrous post-championship rebuild as a reason Paxson got the job in the first place.

It’s difficult to imagine a Butler trade that makes the Bulls better. A far better plan is to keep building around the 27-year-old, three-time all-star.

Paxson is always hedging his comments, making it sounds like he’s open to a Butler trade. I’d say yes if the Celtics offered both Brooklyn picks and Avery Bradley, but I don’t think that will happen. We’re not even sure Boston would offer this year’s No. 1 if it wins the lottery.

Q: Who do you think is the realistic free-agency goal for the Bulls? — @WarmWhiteLight

A: I’m not sure there is one. Since nobody expects Dwyane Wade to turn down $23.8 million to play for the Bulls next season and Paxson acknowledged Rajon Rondo is coming back, the Bulls will have about $20 million in cap space.

Paxson also talked about a desire to re-sign restricted free agents Nikola Mirotic and Cristiano Felicio. If they do that, there won’t be much cash left.

General manager Gar Forman referenced 2018, when the Bulls could have much more cap space when the Wade and Rondo deals expire.

I would talk to Denver’s Danilo Gallinari before handing a pen to Mirotic. He would be a nice fit next to Butler.

More likely, the Bulls will try to find a couple of value free agents. I’d suggest targeting ex-Bull Justin Holiday. The Bulls may have to consider overseas players and D-Leaguers. This isn’t a deep free-agent class.

Q: Do you foresee Bulls letting Niko walk and going after a guy like Rudy Gay? — @PaulConner33

A: If Mirotic gets a big offer sheet, the Bulls should prepare for the possibility he won’t return. Brooklyn gave a $75 million offer sheet to Portland’s Allen Crabbe last summer, so anything is possible.

Gay is interesting. He’s planning to walk away from the $14.2 million final year on his contract, even though he’s recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. He might be a decent fit. With so many teams using small lineups, he could play the four next to Butler.

Gay, 30, has made the playoffs once in 13 seasons, so he will be looking to join a winner. Whether he likes the Bulls’ potential or decides to be a reserve with Golden State remains to be seen. Gay averaged 18.7 points on 45-percent shooting last season, so he could help some team.

Q: Likelihood of Gordon Hayward, Patty Mills? — @Lou_305

A: No chance at Hayward. To leave a good situation in Utah, he’d probably be looking at Boston, with his college coach Brad Stevens and a chance to be a contender.

Mills also seems unlikely, since Rondo is expected back. San Antonio probably will try to lock him up as a succession plan for Tony Parker.

Q: Is bringing Derrick Rose back on a discount as backup worth it? — @Kenny1024A

A: Rose averaged 19.8 points and shot 51 percent over 13 games in March before a cartilage tear ended his first — and maybe only — season in New York. He has game, but the injury history lowers his value.

For the Bulls, it would be an awkward reunion. Maybe in a few years, but not now.

Q: Can we please draft someone with potential and athleticism instead of four years college experience? — @egerdian

A: Well, Bulls fans probably will be glad to know no college seniors appear to be in the mix for the No. 16 pick. An athletic wing would be a good fit, since Wade won’t play much longer. Two guys who might fit the bill are Indiana’s 6-foot-8 OG Anunoby, who tore his ACL in January, and 6-7 Terrence Ferguson, a Tulsa native who skipped college to play pro in Australia.

Anunoby is much stronger, more of a 3-4, who needs to work on his shot. Ferguson resembles a longer Corey Brewer, with a thin frame.

Q: How will the guys work in the off-season? — @JeannieBean23

A: Paxson’s message last week was essentially, “None of our young guys were very good last season, but we’re going to make sure they get better.”

They’ve been pushing for Mirotic, Paul Zipser, Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine, Cameron Payne and others to spend a full summer in Chicago to work on their game.

If Payne can push the tempo and the others can hit 3-pointers with more consistency, it would be a positive step.

Q: Why don’t they want to change the front office? — @alby_aguilar

A: I saved the most popular question for last.

As I’ve said before, you’ve got to look at the history. The Bulls have made the playoffs 11 of 13 years and almost always lead in attendance. Since Paxson took over in 2003, he helped build two playoff teams, while Forman has a couple of big draft wins with Butler and Taj Gibson, No. 30 and 26, respectively.

They might have made it to the Finals if not for Rose’s knee injuries. There’s room to improve with creating a positive and collaborative environment and getting the players to believe winning is the most important goal. The tension during the Tom Thibodeau era wasn’t a good look.

Jerry Reinsdorf is always loyal to employees, so don’t expect change. To answer a question with a question, would you rather trust the retool to a management team with a history of success or start over with someone new?

Q: When is Jerry Reinsdorf going to sell the team? — @JamesOgle35

A: He won’t. With a long list of limited partners and son Michael running the team, the Bulls will stay in the family.

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