Chicago Bulls: Time To Look Ahead To Next Season?

Feb 27, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg reacts during the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 27, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg reacts during the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Many expected the Chicago Bulls to be the second-best team in the Eastern Conference behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. But thanks to a season full of twists and turns, they find themselves battling for their playoff lives.

A few weeks ago, I stated that losing had become the identity of the Chicago Bulls. While some Bulls fans weren’t ready to accept the reality at that point in time, things may be a little different today.

You see, following a pair of losses to the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic, the Bulls fell to 30-30 on the season. More importantly, this marks the first time since the end of the 2009-10 campaign that the Bulls are outside the top eight teams in the conference this late in the season.

Being that most teams will go through stretches where they lose games, it’s more than that with this ball club. It’s the way they are losing games that should irritate every fan who attends the games or watches the games on television.

Let’s start by revisiting the outing against the Heat, for example. The final score of that contest was 129-111, which marked a season-high in points for Miami. In addition to that, the Heat connected on 67.5 percent of its shot attempts and recorded a ridiculous 74 points in the paint. In other words, Chicago’s porous defensive resembled the kind of effort one would expect to see in an All-Star Game.

"“We didn’t execute the game plan,” Pau Gasol said, via the Chicago Tribune. “We knew this team was high-scoring in the paint. They picked us apart and got shots they wanted. We didn’t force them to take 3s or long shots.“We have to do a much better job of getting into bodies and forcing passes to the weak side. We have to start hitting bodies and being a lot more physical. They played way too comfortable.”"

In the game against the Magic on Wednesday night, it was more of the same. As has been the case many times this season, the Bulls played down to the level of their opponent. Don’t let the final 102-89 margin fool you, because the final score was not indicative of how badly the Bulls played, especially from a defensive standpoint.

How bad are these Bulls right now?

Well, if the 30-30 record doesn’t tell the story, here are a few additional points that may do the trick. For starters, the Bulls have dropped 14 of their previous 20 games, including four consecutive losses in the last week. That equates to a 30 percent winning percentage over that stretch for those of you who care enough to do the math.

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Along with that, the Bulls have given up at least 100 points in 15 consecutive games, which marks the first time in three decades this team has endured such a stretch of defensive futility.  Furthermore, there have been 10 instances in which the Bulls have allowed an opponent to score 60 points in a half.

Not exactly the kind of basketball you would expect from a group that was one of the top defensive teams in four out of five seasons under the previous coaching regime.

Sure, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic will return to the lineup at some point. But that fact will not transform this group into a better basketball team.

"“I think your record always shows who you are,” Pau Gasol told CSN Chicago. “I don’t think we’re better than what our record is. I think at the end of the day talent doesn’t win games, sometimes it’s more the little things, the togetherness, the experience and doing the right things on the floor.”"

Will the Bulls make the playoffs?

At this point, I would have to say absolutely not, but stranger things have happened. However, even if they did turn things around and qualify for a playoff berth, the chances of them getting past the first round are between slim and none based on what we have seen up to this point.

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That being said, it may be time look ahead to the upcoming offseason, which should be an interesting one because the team has glaring needs in several areas.