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Bulls vs. Wizards game preview and thread: battle for the 10 seed

two of the East’s fail franchises face off

NBA: Washington Wizards at Chicago Bulls Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Today, our 27-33 Chicago Bulls, the 11th seed in the East, will play host to the visiting 28-31 Washington Wizards, the 10th seed. Both clubs occupy similar positions of utter irrelevance in the national NBA conversation, as each has been totally de-clawed by internal systemic rot for years. They’ll be battling it out for scraps as play-in tournament also-rans today, a total indictment of both franchises’ failure to build sustainable winners in recent years.

Last summer, the Wiz overpaid their “superstar” guard, Bradley Beal, to the tune of a five-year, $251 million maximum salary ($65 million more than a non-incumbent club could have offered the 29-year-old shooting guard). As you’ll doubtless recall, Chicago followed suit with its own non-2023 All-Star shooting guard, Zach LaVine. The team’s front office inked LaVine to a five-year deal worth $215.2 million. It’s worked out so well that there were at least somewhat-real rumblings of a deal with the Knicks for LaVine’s contract around this year’s trade deadline. That’s not to say that both players aren’t talented scorers. LaVine and Beal could prove helpful on actual contenders with their diverse offensive games, but are just not No. 1 options on a team with serious title aspirations, despite being paid like they are.

Both the Wizards and Bulls patched together their rosters around these players in the hopes of notching some first-round home game playoff revenue, nothing more. The funny thing is, there’s no guarantee they’ll even be able to do that this year. Both franchises stubbornly dug in their heels around the trade deadline (the Bulls infamously did nothing, the Wizards traded a promising recent lottery pick under team control to reaffirm their support of non-All-Star forward Kyle Kuzma), pretending that the sub-.500 rosters they’ve built will somehow be good enough to make any kind of meaningful postseason noise, when that’s never remotely been the goal of either organization.

Following its most dominant win of the season, Chicago is looking totally reinvigorated after adding hometown hero Patrick Beverley off the buyout market scrap heap, which is itself sort of an indictment of the team’s half-hearted approach to real personnel improvement. Beverley, still a competent 3-and-D player with some court awareness, already looks like a massive upgrade over incumbent healthy Bulls point guards Ayo Dosunmu and Goran Dragic.

Better point guard options were available via trade (would, say, the package of ex-Bull Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and an unprotected first-rounder that Dallas surrendered for Kyrie Irving be available for LaVine or DeMar DeRoan?) if Chicago wanted to seriously address some of its real issues. This Pat Bev addition may indeed help the Bulls lap the Wizards and/or Toronto Raptors as all three irrelevant teams jockey for the right to be knocked out of the first game of the play-in tournament. But it merely obfuscates the bigger problem: this Chicago roster, built around a “Big Three” that doesn’t play defense, just does not fit.

That said, I think there’s a decent chance the Bulls win today, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Injury Report:

The two Bulls with surgically-enhanced knees this season remain out. Reserve point guard Goran Dragic, now shifted to a third-stringer with the advent of Pat Bev, is unavailable due to “left knee soreness.” Will he negotiate a buyout with the ‘dorfs before the season is done?

The big absence on the other side is starting center Kristaps Porzingis, who has quietly emerged as the Wizards’ best player this season, though he’s still a shadow of his All-Star New York Knicks self.

Game Time:

2:30 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago