(670 The Score) Executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson believes the Bulls have already accomplished a quality early steps in the heavy lifting of their rebuild. Now, the attention turns to a focus on player development.
“Our future’s really, really bright,” Paxson said in an interview on the Bernstein and Goff Show on 670 The Score on Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve got the three kids — Kris Dunn, Zach (LaVine), Lauri Markkanen — who are starters in this league. We believe over the next few years, they’ll become high-level starters, hopefully, maybe an All-Star player or two in that group. I think this year we’ve learned that Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis are good rotational players that can help a team become successful. We will have draft picks going out. We will have cap room to spend. We will spend it the right way. We’re not going to go out and start throwing money out 32-, 34-year-old players. We’re going to be smart and conscientious about that. I like our future. I think it’s bright, and we’re going to be patient with this process.”
Paxson is quick to point out plenty of hard work remains. He stresses patience, and as he does, he acknowledged the next crucial step.
“The toughest part is when you’re trying to build a team — and basketball is still a team game but you need great individual talent — bringing it all together, the components of it,” Paxson said. “If you do have a great player or two or three, finding the players that complement them. It’s what the Bulls did in Jerry Krause’s era so well, playing off Michael and Scottie primarily but finding those other pieces. It really is team-building. I think sometimes you can get caught up in just accumulating a bunch of talent, but if it doesn’t fit … they don’t mesh. That’s the tough part of it but also the great part about it. You’re always looking for players that fit what you want to be. I think, again, that’s where we’re heading in the right direction.”
Paxson believes that despite a 20-37 record, these Bulls have made progress on finding complementary pieces. And that includes not just thinking in terms of who fits around the go-to players on the floor but also third-year coach Fred Hoiberg. Paxson admitted it wasn’t fair in Hoiberg’s first two seasons that the Bulls built a roster that was ill-suited for him, particularly last season with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo.
Asked about Hoiberg’s progress as a coach now, Paxson responded he’s “done a really good job this year.”
“Fred, more than an any time in his three years here, right now he’s kind of got his feet firmly planted,” Paxson said. “The young guys are listening to him. They’re playing hard for him, and I think that says a lot. When you have a young group of guys that are competing and playing hard most nights, that’s a reflection on the attention going into each practice every day.”