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The Bulls have dropped in ESPN’s ‘Future’ Power Rankings

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number 24, from No. 20 in March

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls have an intriguing young core that looks more promising than the end of last season, but that didn’t stop them from dropping from No. 20 to No. 24 in ESPN’s Future Power Rankings done by Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks. While still better than the dead-last position the Bulls found themselves in at the start of the 2017-18 season, it’s obviously not great. The only teams below the Bulls are the Magic, Grizzlies, Cavaliers, Hawks, Kings and Hornets.

This exercise ranks all 30 teams based on five categories (players, management, money, market, draft) and determines an overall Future Power Rating (0 to 100) to project on-court success for the next three seasons. The players category obviously carries the most weight (58.3 percent of the rating), followed by management (16.7 percent) and then money, market and draft at 8.3 percent each.

Here’s how the Bulls ranked in each metric (Rank, Score):

Players: 23, 37.5

Management: 25, 32.5

Money: T-8, 67.5

Market: T-8, 60.0

Draft: T-5, 70.0

Overall: 24, 43.8

While Pelton touts the rise of Lauri Markkanen as a reason for Bulls optimism, as well as the selection of Wendell Carter Jr., he’s much more pessimistic about using their cap space this summer on Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker:

When we last did this exercise in March, only the Lakers had a better score in the money category than Chicago. Though the Bulls can create max cap space again next summer, all that translated to this year was signing Jabari Parker to a short-term contract he has little chance of outperforming. That and a lucrative long-term deal for Zach LaVine create additional questions about the vision of Chicago’s management, despite the success of 2017 lottery pick Lauri Markkanen and our optimism about 2018 pick Wendell Carter Jr.

Given Pelton’s win projections for the upcoming season, this analysis isn’t too much of a surprise. LaVine and Parker haven’t ever rated out as positive impact players, and there are reasons to believe it won’t happen, especially with some of the potential fit problems in Chicago. On the flip side, it’s also reasonable to have a more optimistic outlook that sees the Bulls in playoff contention in a weak East as soon as this year, but that will require a lot of stuff to go right for them.

As for the other categories, I don’t think many will quarrel with management being ranked so low, even despite what looks to be some nailed draft picks the last few years. The Bulls are in a big market and will have a lot of money to spend again next summer, but it will be on these young players to improve and the front office to sell a vision to attract more proven talent to Chicago.

And for the draft, the Bulls don’t own any other picks beyond their own (and in fact are still out on a 2019 second-round selection), but if they fail to take a step forward in 2018-19, well, there’s always another high lottery pick to add to the mix.