Chicago Bulls need to fully embrace the rebuild

Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images /

The Chicago Bulls are 9-26 this season in year two of rebuilding the franchise. The record is bad, but are they totally committed to the rebuild?

This summer, there was hope that the Chicago Bulls might sneak their way into the lower seedings of the Eastern Conference playoffs. That playoff hype seems like ancient history. After significant injuries to key players, the firing of Fred Hoiberg, a near-mutiny against new coach Jim Boylen and the exiling of Jabari Parker, the season has been a complete disaster from the onset.

Could this awful season get even worse? It depends on what the criteria for “worse” is. For many, winning this season is by losing as many games as possible. League office executives hate the term “tanking,” suggesting that teams are actively attempting to lose games. For a team like Chicago, having already lost as many games as it has so far, tanking might offer the best chance at winning in the future.

If the front office wants to achieve as many wins as possible the rest of the way, this might just be the worst-case scenario for their future. While this roster is full of nice, young talent, what is missing is that bona fide superstar. Winning as many games as possible after starting 9-26 only damages the chance for the Bulls to win a high lottery pick this summer.

Currently, the Bulls have the third-worst record in the NBA. With the new lottery rules taking effect next spring, the franchise is right where it needs to be. Teams with the three worst records in the lottery will have an equal opportunity at winning the top pick in the NBA Draft. So it goes without saying, right now the Chicago Bulls are right where they need to be.

The front office needs to embrace the opportunity to seize a top draft pick

The Bulls are not very good, and it doesn’t look they will be better any time soon. Their modest two-game winning streak was spoiled by getting throttled by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, 119-94. Any gains they’ve made defensively this season under Jim Boylen have been overshadowed by a terrible offense.

They don’t excel at any function of offense. The Bulls’ 101.1 offensive rating is the worst in the league. The team ranks 24th in 3-point field goal makes, 25th in attempts and 24th in percentage. The Bulls turn the ball over at an alarming rate, 14.8 per game which ranks 26th in the league.

They don’t shoot many free throws either, ranking 27th in makes and attempts. To make matters worse, in a 3-point shooting league, they rank 10th in 2-point attempts. At least we can give the team credit for being counter-cultural, right?

There is enough talent on the roster to consider the future bright

This is a bad team that continues to flounder. There is some solid talent on the roster, however, with Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. LaVine is averaging 23.9 points per game and has produced some exciting moments this season.

Markkanen is still recovering from the elbow injury that caused him to miss a good chunk of the beginning of the season, but he’s posting solid numbers: 17.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 39 percent from downtown.

Wendell Carter Jr. has shown promise, when he’s not in foul trouble, and Kris Dunn has shown the ability to take the reins and lead the team when necessary. There is enough talent on the roster to think the future is in good hands.

The Chicago Bulls need to develop an identity and stick with it

However, this is still a franchise without an identity. They spent the Fred Hoiberg years trying to be an offensive squad with leftovers from the Tom Thibodeau era of defense first, grind it out on offense.

When it finally seemed like they had embraced the new era of NBA basketball, acquiring Markkanen, LaVine and Dunn, they fired Hoiberg, hired his defensive coordinator in Jim Boylen and now want to slow it down and focus on defense — with Hoiberg’s offensive-minded roster.

Instead of embracing their rebuilding project and developing their youngsters like Chandler Hutchison, the Bulls have Justin Holiday in the starting lineup. Holiday is averaging 34.9 minutes a game (second on the team) to Hutchison’s 17.3. There is substance in making players earn their playing time, but Holiday is a prime candidate to be traded, not be part of the future.

The Chicago Bulls should be committed to developing their young players, not playing veterans like Holiday and Robin Lopez. While Lopez is only playing 17.4 minutes per game, mostly due to an injury-plagued Bobby Portis, he’s another trade candidate and not part of the future.

If Boylen is bold enough to bench Jabari Parker, he should take the next step and take deeper looks at Hutchison and especially Rawle Alkins. A rookie on a two-way contract, Alkins should be part of the plans the remainder of the season.

There is plenty to be gained from the remainder of the season

While developing a winning culture is essential for the sustained success of any organization, the key word for this team now is development. The Bulls need to see whether the Dunn-LaVine backcourt tandem can develop on-court chemistry. Can Markkanen develop into a star alongside Carter in the frontcourt?

It seems likely that Boylen will be back next season, but that won’t stop questions about his ability to coach and relate to today’s players. If history reverts to form, Bulls president John Paxson will tire of Boylen’s coaching style soon enough if he’s not winning, or maybe even if he is (example: Thibodeau).

Boylen’s safest bet is to link himself to the development of his core players (Dunn, LaVine, Markkanen, Carter) and hope the win-loss record results in Zion Williamson or another elite draft prospect.

Next. Week 11 NBA Power Rankings. dark

The rest of this season should clearly be about the future of this franchise. The best-case scenario centers around the young core’s continued development while eyeing the lottery and praying that a young phenom ends up joining them next summer. As soon as the Chicago Bulls fully embrace the concept of a full rebuild, the better it will be for everyone.