Every week, ESPNChicago.com Bulls writer Nick Friedell is joined by two other ESPN writers to weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Bulls followers.
1. Would you trade Tom Thibodeau for a lottery pick?
Nick Friedell: No. Thibs is still one of the biggest assets the Bulls have. I wouldn't give him up -- especially if you had no idea where the pick would fall. There are some great players in the 2014 draft but as is always the case in any draft -- nobody knows exactly how players will respond once they get in the league. The only way any deal happens is if Thibs and the front office decide they just can't get along anymore.
Jon Greenberg: In theory, are you nuts? Given some context about the team's situation, the Bulls' front office should think about it and then forget it. I know Marc Stein has posited that the Knicks could make a run at Thibs, the ex-assistant who was canned years back, but they don't have a lottery pick so they're out of this theoretical conversation. To me, a coach like Thibodeau is more valuable than a lottery pick in all but the rarest of circumstances. While it's a "player's league," Thibodeau is unique. He's easily a top-five coach and, as his former player Brian Scalabrine told me a couple of years ago, a culture changer, an unofficial position usually reserved for players. "That's an unbelievable thing for a coach to do," Scalabrine said. The question lingering over the team is: Can Thibodeau and the front office co-exist for a long period of time? Both parties are headstrong, but they can and have worked together. Almost every team has a similar situation as the front office and the head coach sometimes have to approach a situation from different vantage points. To give up on Thibodeau now, for a chance, just a chance, at a talented rookie seems absurd. And a lot of teams would probably think giving up on a lottery pick for a coach is just as crazy.
Scoop Jackson: Never. What they need to do is look into a bigger problem they have other than coaching (but I'll let them figure that out and keep my mouth shut). Trade Thibs for a lottery pick? Then who's going to coach that team once it gets finalized? Thibs is the most important person associated with the Bulls' organization next to Derrick Rose, and I don't hear anyone talking about trading or getting rid of him.
2. Does Thibodeau risk losing his players at some point during another lost season?
Nick Friedell: Thibs is as hard-charging a coach as they come, but he's got to pull back on the reins a little bit now. He knows this team can't compete for a title this season. He can't push as hard with this group knowing that they are still having a hard time getting over the fact Rose got hurt again.
Jon Greenberg: Not really. Will he grate on them more if they're losing? Yes. But he's a lot more savvy than he's given credit for. Yes, he's extremely exacting, and the players grumble about his machine-gun pace behind the scenes, but he knows this league. He's coached in it his entire life, and he's been on the staffs of horrible teams and contenders and everything in between. Look at how he coached Nate Robinson last season, especially late in the season. Thibodeau will do whatever it takes to win, but he is also cognizant of limits. While the Bulls don't always like Thibodeau, they respect him and he respects them (or most of them). I just hope his head doesn't explode one day on the sidelines.
Scoop Jackson: Never, again. First, no one on this teams knows for sure if they'll be back next season so why devalue themselves by not playing and purposely tanking? Second, the players respect Thibs too much to do that to him. When players tune coaches out it's for personal reasons, and every player in the Bulls' locker room knows that what's happened to this team has nothing to do with Thibs. They know none of this is his fault.
3. What is the biggest positive that can be gleaned from this season?
Nick Friedell: In reality, nobody within the organization will say this, but the Bulls may be better off when they lose. Thibodeau is not going to let his team tank so it's a tricky balance, but what are the Bulls playing for this season? The chance to maybe make it into the second round? The key for Thibodeau is to try to get his team to still play hard. Bulls general manager Gar Forman has talked about keeping the culture the Bulls have built in place. Playing hard and still losing some games and getting a better spot in the lottery might be the best long-term situation for the organization.
Jon Greenberg: If you're medically cleared to watch Bulls basketball this season, you can hopefully take solace in the development of three exciting players: Taj Gibson, Tony Snell and Jimmy Butler. These are athletes the Bulls need to complement Rose -- when he can play again, that is. Gibson's game has expanded after a disappointing, injury-hindered season. So far, he looks like he's worth every bit of that $38 million contract extension. Gibson is a potential All-Star, the successor to Luol Deng as the shining example of Thibodeau's team-first system. Snell has been pressed into action because of injuries and he's been a revelation as the team has foundered. Snell looks like a 40 percent 3-point shooter with an ability to finish at the rim and defend. And, of course, there's Butler, who was everyone's pick to take "the next step" this season as a full-time starter. Finally back from a turf toe injury, he needs to show that last season was no fluke and he can be a two-way player. While the Bulls will be tough to watch for much of the season, focus on these three.
Scoop Jackson: That the East as a conference is just as bad as the Bulls are as a team. But at least the Bulls have excuses in injuries and Murphy's Law. The Eastern Conference as a whole has no excuse. The Bulls being surrounded by so many bad teams almost makes them look good. They are six games under .500 and are still holding down the eight spot if the playoffs began today. And we all saw last season what type of "miracles" can happen once the playoffs start.