There is one spot you don’t want to be in the NBA, and the Chicago Bulls are in it with few options to get out.
Not bad enough. Not good enough.
As an NBA team, you never want to be stuck in the middle. Not bad enough to get a top pick, but not good enough to be considered a contender. It’s why teams like the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons have struggled to gain relevancy, despite being in the lottery constantly.
Going into Monday, the Chicago Bulls are 11-15, good for 11th in the Eastern Conference. They found a creative way to lose just last night to the Atlanta Hawks.
— NBA (@NBA) December 12, 2022
The roster, led by Guards Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, seems too talented to be struggling the way they are you would think. Individually, there is the talent that is valued across the league. However, one player makes this roster whole.
Point Guard Lonzo Ball has been out since January 2022 with a knee injury and the Bulls have seemingly given up on figuring out when he’s returning. Ball completes this team and makes them relevant. Through 24 games last season, Chicago was 16-8 and the surprise of the NBA. Now, they are playing wait-and-see, hoping for good news on Ball’s knee. The problem is, they have no backup plan.
If they were to give up on this season and explore trade possibilities for DeRozan and Center Nikola Vucevic and Guard Alex Caruso, among others, they are no guarantees to get a high first-round pick. Their own 2022 pick is currently owned by the Orlando Magic due to the Nikola Vucevic trade in 2021, a trade they most certainly take back if they could do it over. Unless that pick ends up in the top four, it goes to Orlando. If they end up trading their major players for assets, those teams trading would be sending picks in the 20s or first-rounders beyond 2023. Not an ideal situation.
Okay! Let’s end up bad enough that we secure a top-four pick.
That would mean Chicago would have to out-tank the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, and Charlotte Hornets to put themselves in a position to land a coveted draft pick. That feels… unlikely, to say it nicely. If those five teams never won another game this season, they wouldn’t be too upset. Can’t do much there, unless you get the luck of the NBA draft lottery,
Okay fine! Let’s win some games!
The Bulls aren’t very good at that either. They rank 22nd offensively and defensively, according to NBA.com stats and research. It is a headache to try and watch LaVine and DeRozan play my-turn-your-turn offense, with a sprinkle of Vucecic touches inside or as a spot-up shooter. Their bench, a bright spot in the early season, now ranks 22nd in points per game. It’s what makes Ball so great, an effective two-way player who would instantly turn this team into a top-half offense and defense. It’s also what makes this whole season so painful, knowing that we don’t know when Lonzo Ball is coming through that tunnel again.
There’s also Zach LaVine and his new 5 years, 215 million-dollar contract. Is it tradable? Do GM Marc Eversley and EVP of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovs view him as the best player on a championship team type of guy? We don’t know yet. I would say no, as would many Bulls fans, but it’s not our decision. If a team like the New York Knicks came in with a monster offer for LaVine, what does Bulls management say? There is no clear-cut answer.
NBA purgatory sucks. You never know what to think, every game you watch feels like a chore, and your sports life is worse because of it. Unfortunately for Bulls fans, welcome to NBA purgatory.
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