As the Bulls visit the nation’s capital, they’re stepping into a nightmare.
And no, not the political climate.
Rather, they’re getting an up-close view of their rebuild’s worst-case scenario: mediocrity.
The Washington Wizards have lived at the bottom of the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture for years while paying out multi-million dollar contracts to NBA stars John Wall and Bradley Beal. They’ve brought in every combination of role-players imaginable, now including former Bulls Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis. But for all the money they’ve spent, and for all the playoff bids they’ve earned, they don’t have much to show for it.
They have the revenue of the past dozen seasons, obviously. They’ve got two straight appearances in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, sure. And, of course, they’ve got a photo album’s worth of happy memories.
But at the end of the day, the Bulls want more than that for themselves. When a team is striving for something a little more gold and shiny, mediocrity is the worst place to be.
If you’re at the bottom, where the Bulls are now, at least you’ve got a good draft spot in your future. If you’re at the top, then you’re just a few moves away from making a championship run. But if you’re 11th in the Eastern Conference, you’re just stuck.
The Bulls made that decision two seasons ago, trading Jimmy Butler and knocking over a series of dominoes leading to a rebuild, and the Wizards’ current situation is a good reminder of why they should be making every move possible to avoid ending up there again.
If that means officially shutting down Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn for the rest of the season; if that means continuing to limit Ryan Arcidiacono‘s minutes, as they’ve been doing the past few games; or if that means firing members of the front office, as the Wizards did on Tuesday, then do it.
The right moves – or even one right move, in some cases – can be the difference between ending up in mediocrity and ending up at the top. The Bulls have made good moves in the past, especially their decisions on draft day. But they’re also just one more Jabari Parker signing away from ending up where they don’t want to be.
In an ironic way, the Bulls and Wizards could be staring into the eyes of their future selves on Wednesday night. The Bulls could end up stuck in the middle of a conference with few options of escaping. And the Wizards could end up entering a full-on rebuild as soon as the end of this season.
It’s a funny fate for two teams that met in the playoffs just a few seasons ago.
Follow Katy on Twitter @katyduffy_ for more Bulls news and opinion.