As they were already eliminated from the 2021 postseason, the Chicago Bulls walked into Sunday’s season finale with far more motivation to lose than to win.
As has been the case all year long during this seemingly backward season in the Windy City, they did the opposite.
Chicago beat Milwaukee 118-112, finishing the regular season 31-41, and falling short of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
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A Closing Victory
When the Brooklyn Nets beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, it erased any chances of the Milwaukee Bucks earning the top-two seed in the Eastern Conference.
It also killed what was once a star-studded matchup that would have featured all of Jrue Holiday, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic facing off.
Chicago rolled out a starting five of Coby White, Garrett Temple, Patrick Williams, Lauri Markkanen, and Thaddeus Young. Prior to Sunday, that lineup had played just 19 minutes together all season.
Young lead the team in scoring with 20 points, and White followed him up with 19 points. And in what was potentially his last game in a Bulls’ uniform, Markkanen scored 17.
It was enough to get the win, over Milwaukee’s second unit and reserves.
But it served as a damning blow to their 2021 draft hopes.
For those unfamiliar, the Chicago Bulls’ first-round pick this year went to the Orlando Magic as a part of their trade deadline blockbuster for Nikola Vucevic.
But only if it falls outside of the top four.
At the time of the trade, it seemed a ridiculous concept. With two All-Stars in the fold, there was little thought that the Bulls would fall that far in the standings.
But an extended COVID-19 related absence for LaVine provided little opportunity for him and Vucevic, as well as the rest of the team’s personnel to mesh.
Chicago went 12-26 from the trade deadline up until the season finale, meaning a loss to the Bucks would have provided them with a 26.3% chance at landing in the top four and a 6% shot at the first overall pick.
But with their win, those chances have slipped to 20.3% and 4% respectively.
Chicago Has Another Draft Pick
What’s lost in all the fret and worry over the Chicago Bulls’ pending first-round pick, is that they’ve still got a solid selection in the second round to pick with.
It came as a part of the deal that sent Nikola Mirotic to the New Orleans Pelicans back in 2018. In a recent mock draft for Bleacher Report, Jonathan Wasserman selected J.T. Thor for the Bulls.
The 6-10 forward averaged 9.4 points and five rebounds as a freshman at Auburn University.
As it stands, the Bulls’ second-round pick is slated for 40th overall. Nothing’s come of a prospect at that position in the draft since the Miami Heat drafted Josh Richardson back in 2015.
But the last time that Chicago selected in the second round, it should be noted that panned out fairly well. Daniel Gafford was drafted by the Bulls with the 38th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.