Chicago Bulls are playing to lose to move up in NBA lottery
Chicago Bulls fans don’t look now, but your 20-38 team seems to have the competition right where they want them.
Having lost 10 of their last 12 games, not the least of which being their home-court meltdown against the Philadelphia 76ers where the team squandered a five-point lead in the last 36 seconds, the Bulls are now just three games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix for the league’s worst record and heading up with a bullet.
There’s no question the Bulls are committed to doing what they must in order to secure the highest pick that they can come draft lottery time in June.
Clearly, that includes saying all the right things, even on a night that will be remembered for your team doing all the wrong things when the time truly came for distinguishing one squad from the other.
"These are learning opportunities for our team," Coach Fred Hoiberg told ESPN. "I couldn't be happier the way we went and played and competed. A lot of guys played well, so there's a lot of positives to take out."
After the final whistle, management probably felt the need to look no farther than the other locker room for assurances they have finally chartered the right course for their young, but long-troubled franchise.
Philadelphia went through several seasons of the same kind of “lose as many as we can” in the name of getting better over the long haul game-planning, a process that ultimately landed them superstars-in-the-making Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Bulls’ fans imagine one of those two transformative talents in a lineup that already includes a promising core of Lauri Markkanen, Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis.
Of that quartet, all have had their moments to shine this season, but none more so than Markkanen, who at 14.8 ranks fourth in scoring by rookies behind only Simmons (16.7 ppg), Utah’s Donovan Mitchell (19.7) and Los Angeles' Kyle Kuzma (15.5).
With less than a full season under his best, Markkanen has already drawn comparisons to surefire Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.
After missing the team’s first 43 games recovering from a left ACL injury he suffered last season while still a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Lavine has rebounded to average a team-leading 17.5 over the team’s last 16, albeit the team’s has gone just 5-11 over that stretch, lowlighted by an seven-game losing streak where four of their losses were by an average of 13.5 points.
But as Lavine's minutes have increased, so has his production, topping 20 points in five of his last seven outings on an average of just 26 minutes.
Alas, in yet another season where the Bulls have thoroughly underwhelmed as a whole, hope still springs eternal for Bulls fans on a few different fronts.
In that, perhaps, they can rejoice. It may be one of the few things they’ll have to cheer about the rest of this already forsaken season.