Nobody cares that the Bulls beat the Pistons over the weekend. We know they can beat bad teams. We know they can’t beat good teams. It is pretty remarkable how long this has been going on, one of the similarities between Boylen and Donovan eras. Surely the Donovan version is more competitive and aesthetically pleasing, but the ultimate results have been similar.
The thing I continue to be amazed by is that actually good teams have bad trip-up losses all the time in the NBA regular season. And the Bulls haven’t run into one of those circumstances in, like, two seasons?
Anyway, by virtue of simply existing and not actively trying to lose, the Bulls are still part of the East playoff, er, play-in picture. Currently in a tie for 10th with Indiana, but now 1.5 games over Toronto for that final spot with the Raptors on an eight-game losing streak that’s continued even after getting their starters back from health and safety protocols. They may trade Kyle Lowry this week. Above the Bulls include the Charlotte Hornets, who are a game better than Chicago but just lost their engine LaMelo Ball for the rest of the season due to a wrist fracture. The Knicks are in that mix as well, but we know they aren’t that good either and have a second-half schedule similarly difficult to the Bulls.
The trade deadline is Thursday afternoon, and the Bulls should realize their place: they are making this play-in (reminder, that’s seeds 7-10) by default. I don’t think even a bold deadline buy would get them into the top 6, as the teams in that range will likely be buying themselves and already have more talent if underwhelming records.
So what does Karnisovas do, if anything? So far he’s sat on his hands in the name of ‘evaluation’, but we all have completed that ourselves:
- Zach LaVine has played himself into being virtually untradeable
- None of the other young players (save Patrick Williams) have played themselves into looking like keepers
- The veterans have performed well to get them to this level
- The level is: they are good enough to not be an embarrassment, not good enough to beat good teams when they try
What real place is that as a franchise? I think setting a goal of ‘don’t be Boylen-esque embarrassing’ as pretty weak, but I see the reason to stay that course if that’s what you set in the offseason when obvious holes in the roster weren’t fixed.
But I really don’t think trading Thaddeus Young for a future asset will make them embarrassing again. As has been the past 20 years, the conference will always sink lower to compensate.
I just want Karnisovas to do something. That could mean selling on Young and/or other veterans. It could be as little as tinkering around the edges to at least solidify the team a bit: Felicio+Kornet+Arcidiacono+Hutchison could all be waived by Thursday at 3pm and more interesting players signed and I’d consider that ‘at least a move’.
Doing nothing would be so depressing, just another point of evidence that it’s the same ownership (and advisors) with Arturas looking more like Gar-nisovas.
At least we have rumors! Zach Lowe today re-emphasized that Young is likely to stay as the Bulls are valuing him internally more than his possible trade value (though he has a source saying a first-round pick is ‘likely’, which you’d think AK has to take). However, Lauri Markkanen as an upcoming restricted free agent may be on the move (Brian Windhorst said something similar last week).
Meanwhile, Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer had something juicer (warning: K. O’C. is a volume shooter when it comes to rumors) with the Bulls being in pursuit of another upcoming RFA in Lonzo Ball of the Pelicans. O’Connor even pegs the Bulls making an offer of Satoransky and second round picks, which sounds too low of an effort to be taken seriously (Jake Fischer at SI says Markkanen was discussed with the Pelicans). But it does reestablish the Bulls interest in Ball as a potential fit for them.