(CBS) As the inconsistent Bulls reside in a land of battling for the final Eastern Conference playoff spots with no realistic championship aspirations, speculation has swirled regarding the future of many involved in the organization, including management.
On that front, don’t expect any change this offseason.
The jobs of executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman are safe this offseason, the Tribune’s K.C. Johnson reported Tuesday evening. Even if the Bulls were to miss the playoffs for the second straight year, Paxson and Forman would be retained, one source told the Tribune.
This news comes as the Bulls sit at 26-26 and seventh in the Eastern Conference in what’s been a transition season but not the start of a ground-up rebuild. Upon trading Derrick Rose last June just before the draft, Forman explained the team’s goal was to remain competitive while also getting younger and more athletic. He cited a reluctance to bottom out because of the difficulty of crawling out of such a hole.
Less than two weeks later, the Bulls signed veterans Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo in their quest to stay competitive. As the Bulls sit at .500, there remains an “internal feeling” that Forman’s plan “is working,” the Tribune reported.
Paxson and Forman have received criticism for their work in the first round of the past five drafts. Marquis Teague (2012) and Tony Snell (2013) were misses. In 2014, the Bulls ended up trading two first-round picks and three second-rounders to acquire Doug McDermott at No. 11. He’s proved to be a rotation player but not a consistent difference-maker. The team’s most recent first-round picks — Bobby Portis in 2015 and Denzel Valentine in 2016 — have been fringe rotation players or out of the rotation completely at various times this season.
Paxson and Forman also were in the spotlight for firing successful coach Tom Thibodeau in May 2015. Thibodeau had led the Bulls to five straight playoff appearances, the last several years of which his relationship deteriorated with management and too many others in the organization.
Forman’s hand-picked replacement was Fred Hoiberg, whose Bulls went 42-40 in his debut campaign in 2015-’16 as Chicago missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
In addition to building the teams that went to the playoffs seven straight times from 2009-’15 and having a championship contender until Rose’s string of serious knee injuries, Bulls management’s other best work came when it hit the jackpot by drafting Jimmy Butler at the end of the first round in 2011. An All-Star for three seasons running now, Butler is arguable a top-10 player and has carried the team for much of the season.
Paxson has been in the Bulls’ basketball operations department since 2003, when he took over as general manager. He moved to his current role in 2009, when Forman was promoted to general manager. Forman got his start with the Bulls as a scout in 1998.