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ESPN’s Future Rankings have Bulls in 20th place

better than last, but ouch

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls fans hoping for a return to prominence sooner rather than later may be out of luck if ESPN insider projections from Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks are accurate.

In its future rankings, which projects team performance across the next three seasons, the Bulls check in at No. 20 in the NBA. While bad, this is still up ten spots from dead last since the last time ESPN did this exercise.

Here is the criteria Pelton and Marks used to determine these rankings.

PLAYERS (worth 58.3 percent of score): Current players and their potential for the future, factoring in expected departures

MANAGEMENT (worth 16.7 percent of score): Quality and stability of front office, ownership, coaching

MONEY (worth 8.3 percent of score): Projected salary-cap situation; ability and willingness to exceed cap and pay luxury tax

MARKET (worth 8.3 percent of score): Appeal to future acquisitions based on team quality, franchise reputation, city’s desirability as a destination, market size, taxes, business and entertainment opportunities, arena quality, fans

DRAFT (worth 8.3 percent of score): Future draft picks; draft positioning

The Bulls ranking isn’t inspiring any confidence in a team that is supposed to be in the midst of a quick rebuild (the following comments are my thoughts/analysis not quoted from ESPN article).

Players: 32.5; Tied 22nd in the NBA

This is concerning because it factors in both current and projected future performance. Pelton and Marks don’t have much confidence that the Bulls core will develop into a ‘Big Three’ at least in the next three years, though they did somewhat praise the trio:

Rookie forward Lauri Markkanen has been an immediate contributor and landed 19th in Insider’s recent top 25 players under 25 rankings. Kris Dunn has improved in his sophomore campaign, though it’s not yet clear he’s a long-term starter at point guard, and Zach LaVine has returned from an ACL tear suffered in February 2017.

That’s problematic for a team that mortgaged its future on these three players creating a quick rebuild in Chicago.

Management: 25.0; Tied 25th in the NBA

Just about a year ago, ESPN ranked the front office tandem of Gar Forman and John Paxson as the third worst in all of basketball.

Since then, the Bulls have executed a major trade involving a franchise player, brought in Doug Collins for a senior advisor role (whatever that means), stumbled across David Nwaba, signed Cristiano Felicio to a ridiculous contract, relegated Gar Forman to behind the scenes, and pried a first round draft pick from the New Orleans Pelicans in an ice cold trade market among many other moves.

The stance has softened somewhat towards Forman and Paxson this season because they’ve made some decent moves and Forman, who bore the brunt of the complaints, hasn’t been in the public eye. It’s anybody’s guess if this rebuild will actually work, so designating them as better than before but still really bad is probably appropriate.

This category also factors in coaching. Last March, ESPN ranked Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg as the worst head coach in the NBA. This season, he’s demonstrated a new level of competence with players that fit his style of play (amazing how that works, right?). Perhaps, the Bulls improvement in this category is mostly due to Hoiberg’s improvement and not anything the front office did.

Money: 92.5; 2nd in the NBA

The Bulls most valuable asset over the coming years is their cap space, saying “The summer of 2019 looks ideal for Chicago’s return to free agency”

But, just because they have a lot of money to shell out, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be able to attract top free agents to come to Chicago (see next point)...

Market: 55.0; Tied ninth in the NBA

Chicago is the third largest market in the nation and just a generally amazing city. The Bulls have led the NBA in attendance every year since 2010. Chicago is a basketball city embellished by the legacy of Michael Jordan and the rest of the 90s’ Bulls.

There’s so many reasons to want to play professional basketball in Chicago, yet most free agents still find a reason to stay away....

The Bulls always whiff on top free agents and have to settle for consolation prizes. Until that changes, the Bulls won’t climb higher in this category even though their city is amazing.

Draft: 87.5; Tied third in the NBA

Upon initial review, this one is kind of surprising considering that the Bulls 2018 draft position will be significantly worse than the top three pick goal they set for themselves prior to the season.

Perhaps the 87.5 score is a product of a mark in another category. ESPN ranked the Bulls players as tied for 22nd best in the NBA, meaning three more lottery picks are likely in the team’s future if that projection is correct.

Basically, ESPN doesn’t think the Bulls will seriously contend in the next three years meaning the goal of a quick rebuild would have been a colossal failure.

Ouch, even when the Bulls are high in a category it’s still not a good thing.