The Chicago Bulls were caught between a rock and a hard place ahead of the trade deadline. As a result of the deal that brought Nikola Vucevic to the Windy City two years ago, the team had a difficult target to hit in order to keep its own first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
At the same time, the club’s roster wasn’t really good enough (or, rather, cohesive enough) to be a serious playoff threat. Consequently, chief decision-maker Arturas Karnisovas was left with little ability to take meaningful steps in either direction.
So, what does one do when they’re locked into the purgatory that is the league’s middle ground? In Karnisovas’ case, the decision was made to shoot for the playoffs. To that end, veteran guard Patrick Beverley was plucked from the buyout market as a replacement for the injured Lonzo Ball.
Once the initial Beverley bump wore off, however, the team settled back into its tiresome ways. As of this writing, Chicago has lost three games in four tries to drop to 12th place in the Eastern Conference, i.e. just outside of the playoff discussion, but well above the bottom four where keeping their pick is the endgame.
With that being the case, Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz just slammed the Bulls for their headlong march to the lower middle.
B/R: The 2022-23 Campaign Is a ‘Lost Season’ for the Chicago Bulls
On Monday, Swartz dropped his predictions on what the ultimate fate of each of the Association’s bubble teams would be, predicting whether they’d land in the playoffs, play-in tournament or lottery range of the conference table. Where the Bulls were concerned, the hoops scribe landed on the latter designation.
Effectively swapping Goran Dragic for Patrick Beverley isn’t going to do enough to jump the Bulls into the play-in tournament, as the latter is averaging 4.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and shooting 43.5 percent overall in his first six games in Chicago.
This is a team that needed to make a splash at the trade deadline and has gone just 3-8 since Feb. 9. With no more reinforcements coming and with Lonzo Ball officially ruled out for the year, this has become a lost season for the Bulls.
During the aforementioned 3-8 stretch, the Bulls have been the picture of mediocrity from a statistical standpoint, ranking 19th in offensive rating (111.4), 16th in net rating (0.1), 28th in assist percentage (55.1), 17th in effective field-goal percentage (53.9), 15th in rebounding percentage (50.3) and 22nd in turnover percentage (14.4).
DeMar DeRozan Is Still a Believer
He may not be the flamethrower that Zach LaVine is currently, but Chicago’s leading scorer for the year, DeMar DeRozan, is also playing better of late despite his team’s downturn. Against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, the veteran scored 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting and added five boards and three assists.
That performance came on the heels of a 31-point, six-assist night versus the Phoenix Suns on March 3.
And just as he shook his pre-All-Star break funk, he’s of the opinion that the Bulls can get back on track heading into the season’s homestretch.
“We still have the opportunity to make the most out of it,” he said, via 670 The Score’s Cody Westerlund after the loss to Indy. “We just got to dig deep. We all have got to find something within ourselves to make something happen.”
As of this writing, the Bulls are a game and a half behind the No. 10 Washington Wizards at the bottom of the play-in range and 3.5 games behind the No. 8 Atlanta Hawks at the bottom of the playoff bracket. Just 17 games remain on their schedule.