The Chicago Bulls are even bad at tanking, getting outdone by an Eastern Conference rival.
NBA rebuilds are not for the faint of heart, and the Chicago Bulls seem to lack the intestinal fortitude it takes to stomach such a turnaround. To use a poker analogy, the Bulls are the guy at the table “bleeding chips” — always wanting to be in the game, but never having the guts to go all-in.
Take last season for example. Even with Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine missing significant time, they still managed to win enough games to miss out on a top-five pick in the NBA Draft. They ended up with a nice, but not a trajectory altering player, in Wendell Carter Jr. In the offseason, they added Jabari Parker, signaling they were ready to begin the ascent out of the rebuild. Well, we all know how that has worked out.
In what seems like a never-ending rebuild, the Bulls’ ship continues to navigate these difficult waters without a rudder. They are wandering aimlessly without a clear and concise plan. They hired Fred Hoiberg and wanted a high-tempo offense. Presumably, they attempted to fill out their roster with players that fit that style. Then they fired Hoiberg and replaced him with Jim Boylen, his polar opposite.
It’s still unclear whether this philosophy change is long-term, despite what the front office says, but the Bulls were clearly tanking. They were doing a pretty good job of it until the New York Knicks dropped the mic this afternoon with their blockbuster trade. The Knicks sent Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr, Courtney Lee, and Trey Burke to the Dallas Mavericks for Dennis Smith Jr, DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews, and two future first-round draft picks.
In doing so, the Knicks unloaded their start 7-footer who is coming off a significant knee injury, and two huge contracts in exchange for a talented point guard and tons of draft capital. More importantly, they now have the salary cap space to sign two players this offseason to max deals. Moreover, they made their team worse in the process, meaning they are still in the lead for the Zion Williamson sweepstakes. That was an extremely bold move, but sometimes it takes chutzpah to dig yourselves out of perpetual mediocrity.
If all goes according to plan, the Knicks could end up with Williamson, and add guys like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. While the Bulls? Well, who knows. They have a coach no one wants to play for, with an offensive philosophy that doesn’t fit the roster. Aside from all that, the players they have on the roster don’t seem to play well together when they are actually trying.
So what’s the plan here? As always, no one knows. The one thing that is all but certain is that those responsible for failing at failing will continue to be the ones making the decisions, as there is no end in sight to John Paxson and Gar Forman’s reign of terror.