I regret to inform everyone that yet another Bulls season has turned to trash. A home loss to the Wizards, one of the worst teams in the league that were on a back-to-back and part of a stretch that was looking to get their coach fired...that pretty much calls it.
The frontcourt has been ravaged by injuries, and so what had been seen as a stretch a winnable games (they get a free pass getting blown out by good teams, for some reason) instead resolved to a 2-4 record.
And now the upcoming schedule looks daunting, with no hope on the immediate horizon. All of the injuries either have weeks-long or indefinite timelines: Carter (thigh contusion), Markkanen (shoulder), Porter (back fat), and Hutchison (mysterious personal reasons). The backfill on the deep end of the roster has forced Billy Donovan to deploy some grotesque configurations like starting Denzel Valentine at small forward or playing Felicio and Arcidiacono at all. I can’t fucking stand watching it!
And like every year, it was completely foreseeable and not properly mitigated. Bulls ownership boasted about their new dynamic front office hires and paying market rate for a coaching staff, but then (after what looks like a good draft) they didn’t follow through. Whether due to cheapness or incompetence, they:
- Kept every part of the vaunted young core around
- Used less than half of their available cap exceptions to sign a single player, Garrett Temple, who was a pleasant surprise early but now is back to being Garrett Temple (last eight games: 23.7% from the field, 15.6% from three)
- Went into this season without a point guard
- Completely punted on the back-third of the depth chart to where not only in this situation they don’t have replacement-level veterans but there isn’t even a developmental prospect to try out as a silver lining.
The inactivity was galling, and the explanation of it depressing. Before the season, Arturas Karnisovas said he had no goals yet outside of ‘evaluation’, and then hasn’t been heard from since.
The conventional wisdom I saw at the time (but won’t research to reidentify) was with an extremely-generous-to-the-new-guy mindset figuring there was no cost to this strategy. That it was inherently better to wait instead of making a mistake.
But we have seen the cost of waiting. A lot of potential trade values that I was told ‘couldn’t get any lower’, has in fact gone down. The evaluation of Coby White has been informative but in the wrong direction.
And now we’re deep into the season without a plan, which is the only thing worse than going into it without one.
Since there were no goals heading into this season, I don’t know what the Bulls should do to try and salvage it. Do they really try and make a trade or signings to shore up frontcourt depth? Diminish White’s role as he’s backsliding? It has much less impact now than if this happened before the season.
But then should they go the other way, either keep doing nothing or dump a veteran? This may meagerly add to the asset base (second round picks and a small percentage bump in lottery odds), but there’s a downside: you ruin whatever evaluation system Donovan has fostered with competitive games to this point. Plus it may finally start to piss off Zach LaVine that he is on a terrible team every year, and has to talk to the media about final minute misses while the front office that put him in these no-hope situations literally doesn’t even show themselves.
And beyond their one very-good player: do they care about pissing off the fans? I think the answer to that is a definitive no: nobody is stepping foot in the United Center this year regardless, and a smart business kid like Jerry Reinsdorf’s knows not to throw more money at a problem when you can just spin stasis as ‘deliberate and patient’.
Which is too bad, because trades (heck, even trade rumors) are way more exciting than what’ll be on the court these next couple weeks. The Bulls came out of the offseason signaling that it could be a throwaway year, and that likely outcome has indeed happened.