The Chicago Bulls have had one of the worst seasons out of any organization in the NBA, on and off the court.
After the departure of their lone superstar, Jimmy Butler, there were very low expectations set for this team for this season. Needless to say, this team still managed to underperform. There were many reasons for this underwhelming effort. The bright side in all of this is that it was not their talent necessarily that caused them to underperform. There were a variety of reasons that caused this roster to fail this season. It just wouldn’t be fair to dump it all on the players.
To start off, while it may not be entirely the players’ fault for the Bulls struggles this season, they are still the ones who take the court. The Bulls currently stand at 23rd in the league in terms of win percentage, however they are currently 28th in plus/minus rating. The players are not performing on either side of the floor as the Bulls rank 25th in the league in defense and 27th in the league in offense. They also rank 20th in the league in rebounding so there is not much to be desired on the glass either. The one bright spot in the roster’s play this season has been their promising young stars.
The bright side
Regardless of this team’s record this year, the Bulls have assembled a strong young core which can lead this organization in the future. Rookie forward, Lauri Markkanen, put his name on the map as one of the more promising young players in the association. Markkanen averaged 15.1 points per game to go along with 7.5 rebounds per game in 29.8 minutes per game according to nba.com. He also shot 43.2 percent from the field as a rookie. The promising forward made a name for himself this season by putting the league on notice that he is ready to be one of the premier faces of the franchise.
Besides Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls acquired two young prolific stud guards from the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler trade last season in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. Zach LaVine returned from a serious ACL injury that kept him out for one year this January and looked like he was going to be an impact player from the jump. He did look a little rusty, shooting 38.3 percent from the field. The previous season he shot 46 percent from the field. That is to be expected from a young player returning from a huge injury, who did not get a full season under his belt to get into a rhythm.
Kris Dunn had himself a rebound season after what was considered an underwhelming rookie campaign. Dunn averaged 13.8 points per game to go along with 6 assists per game which was a substantial jump from the year before where he only put up 3.8 points per game and 2.4 assists per game. This increase in statistics shows a clear upward progression from the young guard which leaves a lot for Bulls fans to be excited about.
The players alone cannot be held accountable for a 27-55 record. There were many scandals and rumors that surfaced this year that damaged the team’s reputation. To start the 2017-2018 NBA season, Bobby Ports and Nikola Mirotic engaged in a physical altercation. This caused disarray in the locker room and kept Mirotic sidelined for nearly two months. This incident forced the locker room to pick sides and ruined the chemistry that was growing amongst the players. Mirotic and Portis did not speak up about until right before Mirotic returned to the court.
To make matters worse, management did not do a great job handling the situation as well due to the fact many trade rumors came to light right after the incident regarding Mirotic. The Bulls started quietly shopping Mirotic around the league and Mirotic himself requested a trade.
Things started to change though when Mirotic returned to the floor. The Bulls went on their best run of the season in December and January. Their offense peaked as the statistics have shown. The Bulls put up 106.9 points per game in December and 110.9 points per game in January. Mirotic was an offensive weapon that put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. Niko forced defenders to play tight defense on him through his jumpshot. Just as momentum was picking up, the Bulls traded Mirotic to the Pelicans which was the start of a dismal end of the season.
Rumors started to surface that the Bulls were losing games on purpose. Their intent was to increase their chances of getting a higher draft pick. While the Bulls denied it, the NBA came out and publicly called out the organization for tanking. The league called out the Bulls for supposedly sitting starters Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez when they were healthy. Tanking has serious consequences that go beyond the league standings. Throwing games away stifles player progression and establishes a losing culture in the locker room.
Management took the blame on a lot of these rumors. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg cannot be let off the hook so easily either. At the end of the day, he is the coach. He is the one that has the final say on whether to sit or start players. Hoiberg can be identified as an offensive minded coach. Trying to establish a consistent and efficient offensive system this season has not worked out so well. The Bulls ranked 27th in opponents’ points per game this year. Disregarding one half of the game won’t get you far. It doesn’t matter how many times the ball goes in the basket.
No one really expected this franchise to put out a winning season right after losing their all star player. People expected this team to lose a lot of games this season. No one expected this organization to lose some credibility in the process however. There are a lot of areas the Bulls can improve on for upcoming seasons. Bringing back Fred Hoiberg as the coach was a questionable decision. The good news is at least the team has players to work with. Bulls fans are hoping for large leaps from their young starters. Zach LaVine will have his first full healthy season as a Bull. It will be interesting to see how well he plays with his teammates in an 82 game span.
Chicago will get a high draft pick in this year’s draft, so there is still hope that the franchise can pick up another young star. There is a lot to be desired in the Bulls future. These players need to establish. All Chicago fans can do at this point is just hope. Hope that things will eventually turn around in the windy city.