What Tristan Thompson Means to the Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls have been without a true power forward ever since second year player Patrick Williams tore the ligaments in his left wrist in October.

How badly have the Bulls been hurting for size? They’ve been starting 6’4 Javonte Green at the four.

Now it should be noted that Green has performed far beyond his modest stature. He’s everywhere on the court and has the hops and craftiness to make up for what he lacks in height.

Despite not having a power forward on the active roster, the Bulls have been at the top of the standings in the NBA Eastern Conference all season. Going into the All-Star break, they are again ranked #1.

With the swift start out of the gate, and inspired play by star guard Zack LaVine and newly acquired DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso suddenly championship gold seemed possible. Fans were beside themselves. This could be the year the Bulls become champions again.

However, that soon changed. Gradually, the better teams in the league figured out how to disarm the Bulls winning machine. NBA coaches don’t earn millions of dollars to be figureheads. They understand both the physics and the psychology the game. Opposing coaches deduced that you defeat the Bulls with size.

Artūras Karnišovas and Marc Eversley in the Bulls front office had a decision to make. Do they embrace the possibility of a championship season by trading for a power forward this year? Or, do they stand pat with the team that got them to the #1 seed in the East and make a run for the championship next year when Williams is healthy again? From my understanding, they looked at all possibilities.

One trade that was explored was for Indiana Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis. The All-Star big man would have been a great fit alongside Nikola Vucevic on the frontline. However, the asking price of Williams and flourishing rookie Ayo Dosunmu was too much. Sabonis ended up being traded to the Sacramento Kings.

The trade deadline came and went without a Bulls move. Many assumed this was it for the Bulls this year. But Karnišovas and Eversley weren’t done.

When the Kings traded for Sabonis, they included Tristan Thompson in the package coming back to the Pacers. Then when it was announced that the Indiana would be waiving Thompson so he could sign with a contender, the Bulls VP and GM went to work convincing the big man to come to the Bulls. And it apparently has worked.

The Bulls don’t need the second coming of Tim Duncan. We need what Bulls announcing great Stacey King calls a “hard hat and lunch pail” guy. It’s a term of great respect King has voiced for players like Taj Gibson over the years. It describes blue-collar guys who play tough defense, clog up the paint, change shots, hit the floor for rebounds, and chip in a few points. That’s exactly the type of play that Thompson is expected to bring to the Bulls.

Thompson is a 6’9 power forward/center. He was drafted with the fourth pick overall in 2011 by the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the Cavs he went to the NBA Finals three seasons in a row, winning a championship with the team in 2016. He has also played for the Boston Celtics and the Sacramento Kings.

Thompson instantly upgrades the Bulls’ frontline and makes them a playoff threat. Even more exciting is that Williams is expected to potentially return in time for the playoffs as well. Ball and Caruso are also expected to be back by then.

Add to that, the fact that Vucevic has been on a tear in the past few weeks, Coby White has blossomed into a legitimate scorer, and Dosunmu has been running the point like he’s been in the league for years.

After all the ups and downs, this could end up being the magical year Bulls fans have longed for. Only time will tell, of course. I’m not making any predictions. But our chances just got a lot better.

Peace. Love. Trust.

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