My guy Ricky was on 670TheScore before the lottery and when asked if not winning a top pick would be a failure, astutely summed up everything in saying “the Bulls are already a massive failure”.
The opportunity for a top-1 (or if generous, top-3) selection wouldn’t actually validate anything about the latest in John Paxson’s many team building paths, it was more of a get-out-of-jail-free card. It meant that, like 2008, poor decision-making and planning were obfuscated by a transcendent talent.
Now that such a selection isn’t happening, we’re just stuck with these bad moves, generated by effortless outdated processes.
The brains behind this operation, John Paxson, had both immediate reaction to the unfortunate results as well as time the next morning after sleeping, thinking, and chewing nails to come up with a bold rallying point for fans of this team to believe.
And while it’s easy to make fun of everything the guy says...actually that’s it: it’s easy.
- Paxson said a silver lining is that they gain a whopping $1.4m in cap space in dropping draft slots. This is the same team that didn’t even use their room exception last year.
- Mentions of how at least the top 2 picks went to the Western Conference, another reason the league has to realign away from conferences. It gives losers like Paxson these goals of competitiveness in the bad conference, and losers like Gar Forman can say the team made so many playoff appearances or wins in the east or whatever he used to say.
- Mentioned injuries again, at least not Derrick Rose this time, but ones they “couldn’t account for” like: Denzel Valentine, who has a punch-card for lower leg surgeries. Or Chandler Hutchison, who Jim Boylen credited for being tough playing through a broken toe that turned out to be a broken toe. (Also, like, these players aren’t good!)
- Their “board” going beyond 7. But as we’ve seen, it likely does not go to 38.
- This reference to their processes
“We do tier guys but now we have to get in to the process of getting to see them and know them and really dissect them. Our scouting department does a terrific job. It’s how we get to the point where we think we know who is in that next group. So we’ll just get to work now and we’ll get to have a lot of these young men into our building, get to know them. We’ll study them deeply and we’ll go from there.”
...but they notably did not do this with Lauri Markkanen and always remember they do not deserve credit for drafting him.
- This talk about point guards being important (breaking news!)
We have not at all given up on Kris Dunn as a basketball player, but we need really good play from the point guard position. It’s too important of a spot in this game to not have a player or two is really good for you. And I think the point guard, in so many ways, you see it all the time, he can make the game so much easier for other players, especially when you have two young bigs like we have.
yet this is the same guy who said “I’m comfortable with Dunn and Cameron Payne” last year.
There was also, from Paxson himself and from ‘observers’, this general thinking that the Bulls may not keep their pick and take consensus selection (or fixate on a Mark Bartelstein client to promise or trade-up) and instead use the pick for more established talent. Paxson talked about this like it was some wild concept, but yes it’s possible that they have one of their multiple monitors on The Trade Machine. They did just make their first team-improving trade in 10 years when they added ‘veteran who knows how to play’ Otto Porter, and there was talk of more of that this summer, whether with this pick or definitely in free agency.
But here’s the problem with that logic: their head coach is Jim Boylen! He’s the burn it all down wind sprint toughness teacher exit meetings guy, not the actual good basketball coach who will get more wins guy. I suppose there is logic to a more veteran group making it coach-proof, but these are also the guys who will tune Coach CareFactor out first.
So when I see consternation over Paxson building a ‘mediocre’ team that gets bounced from the first round of the (East) playoffs, I don’t think that’s the right thing to worry about. This team is so far away from that, it’d be a hell of an achievement! It’d likely mean that Boylen isn’t an overmatched doofus, that the existing ‘core’ pieces show real development, and they make a couple smart transactions.
Given that they already boffed the rebuild so far in not accumulating assets, I would be ok if they kept steering in this direction! Become mediocre, where you can try and upgrade from that raised position, instead of going back to the bottom.
But while that seems far-fetched to accomplish, I’m not even sure that is Paxson’s goal. Per usual he’s aiming lower. When discussing Boylen’s attributes, Paxson again went first to being a ‘hard playing, competitive team’. Not any scheme or playing style, just effort and toughness. So likely they lean into that, say maybe overpay with cap space to get Patrick Beverley...
...and the squad still doesn’t get on the dreaded ‘treadmill of mediocrity’, but faceplant while stepping on the damned treadmill. Beverley has an ‘unpredictable’ knee issue, there won’t be absolutely perfect health elsewhere, Boylen and the roster depth negatively affect things to where they’ll be worse than their overall talent would suggest, and Paxson will be back in the lottery again next year saying how injuries really hurt and they don’t want to do this again. Again looking for luck to bail them out.