On offense, they can’t finish, and on defense, they can’t stop teams from scoring. Chicago is a league-worst 3–17, and its net rating of negative 13.6 points per 100 possessions is the worst outside the seven-win 2011–12 Bobcats (-15.5) in the last 20 years. The Bulls became the fastest team in NBA history to lose four games by at least 30 points.
But we were conditioned to expect this, and endure with the carrot of Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton, or Michael Porter Jr. dangling in front of us to hold us over until next summer.
We knew the Bulls were going to be bad. But this bad, and this boring? Really?
But while it’s strategic, the Bulls’ isn’t an experimental tank on a game-to-game and possession-to-possession basis. In addition to tanking — or perhaps to aid in that effort — the Sam Hinkie–era 76ers manipulated factors like pace and 3-point shooting, and other rebuilding teams have toyed with exotic defensive stratagems.
Chicago is running an old-fashioned tank job, built fully on trotting out bad players every night. It’s effective, certainly — gawp at that net rating again — but it’s also more listless and less fun to watch than other recent tanking efforts. The 2017–18 Bulls are an exercise in running NBA-level sets without the NBA-ready talent to support them.
The Bulls have been blown out seven times this season. Blowouts, if your rooting interest is with the team getting stomped, are boring. The fringe NBA players that the Bulls send out there every night with acknowledgment they won’t be around for many years aren’t exciting Bulls nation. Yes, casual (and even more than casual fans) aren’t going to tune in to watch Kris Dunn endlessly turn the ball over, Bobby Portis shoot stupid shots from all over the floor, and Grant pound the air out of the ball and then run himself into a trap.
But, and Zach Kram acknowledges this in the article, the re-installation of guys like David Nwaba, Nikola Mirotic, and Zach LaVine into the rotation should wring some of the boring out of this crew.
I think Kram misses a larger point. There’s an intrinsic charm in rebuilding teams. Watching young players develop is interesting, as is dissecting film and picking out strengths and weakness. Casual fans may pass but the die-hard fans still will be interested, as will the writers and analysts. I wouldn’t say the 2017-2018 Bulls are necessarily fun, but they aren’t boring either. And, I’d much rather watch this version of the Bulls than the underachieving version of the team the last two years that acted like they didn’t care half the time.
The Bulls are bad, awful, horrendous, whatever antonym you want to use to describe the antithesis of good. But calling this team boring is a stretch. With Gar Forman and John Paxson at the helm, who knows if this rebuild will actually work. As the article points out at the end, “management has already hampered its ability to make vast upgrades in upcoming drafts”, giving 2018 lottery balls outsized importance.