Sadly, the Chicago Bulls are not competing in the ongoing NBA Playoffs. While this might be annoying for Bulls fans, they shouldn’t totally ignore them. In fact, there’s quite a lot of value, for both team and fans, in monitoring this postseason.
According to normal rebuild expectations, Chicago would hope to make it back to the playoffs around 2020. In the meantime, I’d encourage Gar Forman, John Paxson and Co. to prepare for that moment well, and analyzing these playoffs could only help that effort.
For simplicity, I’ll break down the lessons team-by-team.
Lesson: Blowing it up was probably the right decision.
It seems like Washington has rolled with the same nucleus for ages now, with the same result each time: playoff disappointment. Sound familiar?
For the Wizards, their nucleus has been John Wall and Bradley Beal, a duo not too unlike that of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler with Chicago. Both groups, despite changes to the roster around them, just couldn’t get it done.
This year they weren’t even able to advance to the second round after losing to the Toronto Raptors in six games. It’s unclear if they will pursue a rebuild like the Bulls, but Chicago can use Washington’s example to support their belief that starting from scratch is often a good choice.
Lesson: It doesn’t take a super-team to give LeBron James a run for his money.
While the Bulls have the pieces and picks to potentially build a super-team, it’s also very likely that only one of their young players blossoms into a superstar. The latter situation describes the Indiana Pacers led by point guard Victor Oladipo, who nearly defeated LBJ and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, falling short by just four points in Game 7. Interestingly enough, the Pacers had a large lead in total point differential for the series too.
For Bulls management, this could certainly become relevant. A couple years down the road they might have the choice of taking on a star for one year, or using the money on a couple other role players on longer contracts. They should at least consider the latter option, especially if the current Bulls team is progressing and exhibiting such great team chemistry like the Pacers. It might be the best way to take down LeBron.
While signings like that do depend on their unique situation, GarPax should not blindly spend every single resource they have to acquire an extra star if they won’t be around for long, and especially if they don’t mesh well together. For more on that subject, let’s pick apart the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Lesson: Super-teams are only super if they play well together.
Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony seemed to represent a legitimate threat to the Golden State Warriors dynasty. 82 games of below-expectations basketball later they were facing the upstart Utah Jazz in the first round, and were promptly sent home in six games.
I’m a firm believer that the underwhelming on-court chemistry between Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Kris Dunn this season was due to a limited amount of games together. However, if it becomes evident in a couple years or so that the trio just don’t play cohesively, even if they put up great numbers, the Bulls should consider dealing one of them.
Obviously, it’s not a scenario that I’m predicting. However, if the issue does arise, the failure of the 2017-18 Thunder should ring clear in the Bulls’ minds.
New Orleans Pelicans
Lesson: Never underestimate the worth of an elite ball distributor.
Rajon Rondo is doing amazing things in the playoffs. Again, sound familiar? Him and Anthony Davis have the Pelicans neck-and-neck (beak-and-neck?) with the mighty Warriors after destroying the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. In his first seven playoff games thus far, the 32 year-old is averaging an incredible 13.9 assists per game.
While Kris Dunn may not be as proficient passing the rock as Rondo, he did post a 6.0 APG average in his sophomore season, impressively close to Rondo’s 2017 numbers and better than his second-year average too. Yes, Dunn has a lot of room for improvement. However, he’s already a better scorer than Rondo, and so I implore the Bulls and their fans to truly appreciate his value if he develops into an elite passer as well.
Lesson: Patience is a virtue.
It’s feasible that Chicago could compete for a low playoff seed next year if they have a healthy roster and draft well. I would urge everyone to maintain their perspective on the franchise, however, and not overreact if the Bulls get booted from the postseason early.
Enter the Philadelphia 76ers, who after such an impressive season are now on the verge of being swept by the Boston Celtics. Their fans may feel the sting of elimination this year, but they, like Bulls fans in the future, should be just as optimistic about the future as they were at the start of this series.
Feature Photo Credit: Source: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images North America