For the first time in recent memory, the Bulls are on the cusp of missing the NBA playoffs. In what has been an already long season, marred by inconsistencies, injuries and coaching drama, missing out on the postseason would be the ultimate conclusion.
Currently in a 4-way tie between spots 6-9 in the East with the Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets and Detroit Pistons, and only two games ahead of the Washington Wizards, Chicago enters a crucial week. Derrick Rose continues to be on a game by game basis, Jimmy Butler's return could be as soon as Saturday night, though nothing is guaranteed. Nikola Mirotic is still weeks away. With games against the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets, the Bulls could be on the outside looking in by this time next week.
For seven straight years, the Bulls have appeared in the postseason, an achievement in which the front office prides itself on. But, would it be a good thing if this team's season was to end ahead of schedule?
In what's been a reality for quite some time now, these Bulls as currently constructed are not going to win the NBA Championship, that's entirely laughable. There mere thought of them being mentioned as conference contenders offers a chuckle as well.
And thus, if the Bulls do happen to miss the playoffs, it could potentially, and possibly finally, force the front office, specifically the often-maligned duo of Gar Forman and John Paxson, to remove the blinders and take a hard look at reassessing this roster moving forward. These sort of things happen in sports, although when they do, especially after consecutive seasons, change is needed.
For two years now, the front office has held the belief that the makeup of the Bulls had enough to compete for a championship. But as we've seen, two years in a row, that's not the case. Yes, a head coaching change was warranted as Tom Thibodeau's voice rang hollow, but their issues run much deeper than that. It's very clear that with this group, there is a disconnect throughout. While the guys may "like" each other off the court, on, it's plainly obvious the collective talent isn't working.
Instead, making the playoffs, regardless of where they finish, will only strengthen the argument for GarPax that they're right there. However, that's what got them in trouble after last season's disappointing finish, and if it happens again, the Bulls could very well be stuck under fruitless expectations once more.
Look no further than Forman's recent comments regarding Pau Gasol. The front office sees him as a "core" piece of the team moving forward, at 36 years old. Bringing him back, and at the large amount of money he'll more than likely command as the salary cap is set to rise, is a death sentence. While Gasol is indeed, open to returning, as he said, much of that depends on how the season evolves. Slipping out of the postseason could be the only way the Bulls are able to move on from the big Spaniard, as in doing so, could inevitably push him to sign with a true contender as his career comes to an end.
Short-sightedness is what got this team in the position they are today. Injuries have played a part, yes, but even when healthy, this ball club was far short of a contender. The pieces to the Bulls puzzle do not fit, but for some reason GarPax continue to force their way.
For Chicago, to move forward as an organization, more than anything, needs a roster shakeup. The front office has to provide Hoiberg with personnel who will fit, and grow within his system. It has to build around the actual core, of Jimmy Butler, Bobby Portis, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic and even Derrick Rose (though we don't know yet how that situation will play out). With having 13 of their final 24 games on the road, 10 of the 24 against playoff teams, five against perennial playoff teams, missing the playoffs is viable, and could be the only way that that can come to fruition.