Bulls thriving without Dwyane Wade; pass Heat in playoff race


The Bulls have been a better team since guard Dwyane Wade was injured in a game against the Grizzlies on March 15.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

There’s another twist in the Dwyane Wade-Chicago Bulls saga.

With Saturday’s dramatic 106-104 victory over the Hawks, the Bulls have moved past the Heat and Pacers in the playoff race and into the seventh spot. Chicago is tied with Miami and Indiana at 37-39 but owns the three-way tie-breaker. Miami is eighth by virtue of owning two-way tie-breaker with Indiana.

The Bulls are 5-3 since Wade was lost in mid-March for the rest of the regular season with a fractured elbow and are a different team, something that Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo have acknowledged.

“Everyone’s trust level with one another,” Butler told the Chicago Tribune when asked what’s different of late. “I think our roles are a lot clearer.”

The numbers are startling just how much better the Bulls have been without Wade.

With Wade playing in 57 of the first 68 games, the Bulls were 32-36, averaged 101.8 points per game while giving up 103.8 ppg. They shot .439 from the field, averaged 7.0 3-pointers while shooting .325 on threes. They averaged 21.8 assists.

Without Wade, the Bulls are 5-3, averaging 107.5 ppg and allowing 102.9 points. They are shooting .482 from the field, making 10.4 3-pointers per game while shooting .403 on threes. They dish out 27.4 assists per game.

“We’re playing together,” Rondo said. “I don’t know what it is. We’re playing for one another, very unselfish on both ends. We’re staying positive.”

From all reports the Bulls are playing much freer, running more and moving the ball much better in Wade’s absence.

Take a look at how much better Butler and Rondo have been:

Butler averaged 23.2 points, 5.1 assists and shot .239 before Wade’s injury. Since he is averaging 27.3 points, 8.5 assists and shooting .544.

Rondo averaged 7.2 points, 6.4 assists and shot .394 before Wade’s injury. Since he is averaging 11.8 points, 8.3 assists and shooting .500.

[Blow delivered by Knicks staggered Heat, but it wasn’t a knockout punch]

[Heat guard Tyler Johnson on working out after Knicks loss, ‘It’s just something I needed to do for me’]

All of which may or may not play into Wade’s upcoming decision. Last summer he left Miami after 13 seasons to sign a two-year $47 million deal with the Bulls that included a $23.8 million player option for 2017-18.

The homecoming has not been as expected on all fronts and Butler recently told reporters that the decision as to whether he returns is “weighing” on Wade.  

Wade, 35, has had a rocky season. He and Butler called out their teammates in January, Wade has hinted he is not happy with the team’s direction, he has taken subtle jabs at coach Fred Hoiberg and then the injury.

The injury led to speculation as to whether Wade had played his final game for the Bulls and if it could impact his decision to exercise the option to return to Chicago or possibly come back to the Heat.

Speculation is if Wade is not interested in being part of the Bulls’ rebuild he could return to Miami to close out his career and play once again for close friend Erik Spoelstra.

But that is a decision not only Wade would have to make but the Heat would need to take time with considering the price tag and if Miami plans to attempt to bring back Dion Waiters, who has emerged as a steady, solid starting two guard.

And now, with the Bulls thriving without Wade, how much would that impact his value on the open market and does he exercise that option for one more last big annual salary?

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