Bulls-Thunder: Three Takeaways From A Stinker

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - NOVEMBER 15: Chicago Bulls Forward Lauri Markkanen (24) going up for two points while Oklahoma City Thunder Forward Jerami Grant (9) and Oklahoma City Thunder Forward Paul George (13) plays defense during an NBA game between the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 15, 2017 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena Oklahoma City, OK. (Photo by Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - NOVEMBER 15: Chicago Bulls Forward Lauri Markkanen (24) going up for two points while Oklahoma City Thunder Forward Jerami Grant (9) and Oklahoma City Thunder Forward Paul George (13) plays defense during an NBA game between the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 15, 2017 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena Oklahoma City, OK. (Photo by Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bulls got embarrassed last night by the Thunder. Here are my Three takeaways from the game.

Breaking down Russ and Melo’s demolition derby.

In scoring seven points during the first quarter, GarPax’s Chicago Bulls logged the single-worst quarter in the franchise’s 51-year history, according to Chuck Swirsky on WLS-AM 890 AM radio broadcast.

The 2-10 Bulls’ 92-79 defeat to the new-look Oklahoma City Thunder may have appeared to be a fairly respectable margin of loss to a good team, but the gap was significantly larger than that for most of the night. Despite shooting just 36.1% from the floor, Oklahoma City dominated the Bulls (who shot 34.7%) during the game’s meaningful minutes.

Carmelo Anthony had 18 points and 11 rebounds, recovering MVP Russell Westbrook had 21 points and seven assists, and the Better Grant Brother (that’d be Jerami) had 15 points and 11 rebounds in a great performance off the bench.

After the Atlanta Hawks’ 46-point throttling of the Sacramento Kings last night, Chicago now occupies the 15th seed in the East. If you were to extend their 16.7% winning percentage out over the course of a full season, the Bulls would win 14 games.

The worst single-season record across 82 games is nine victories, courtesy of the 1973 Philadelphia 76ers. How badly do Bulls fans want Luka Doncic or Marvin Bagley III, wo players born after the Bulls won their last NBA title? In the ensuing two decades, eight different organizations have won a championship.

Don’t trust Gar Forman and John Paxson

Seriously though, this team has dribbled itself into total irrelevance because its front office “brain trust” were too darn lazy to outfit a top 12 player in the NBA with the type of players he deserved to be successful in the NBA’s JV conference.

Instead, we are left with an asset-poor Midwest edition of #TrustTheProcess, without even a modicum of the talent assessment abilities or aggressive asset accumulation efforts Sam Hinkie and co. brought to the table.

I think what really bugs me about the Bulls’ disastrous Jimmy Butler trade is the sheer laziness that move exhibited. And I don’t just mean the fact that it was a grossly one-sided deal, one so dumb that the Bulls stupidly decided to throw in their own pick in the offing.

Let’s backtrack to the summer of 2015, and the beginning of “Hoiball” in Chicago. After cruelly firing Coach Tom Thibodeau and replacing him with current head coach Fred Hoiberg (a man with all the composure and confidence of a particularly terrified deer in headlights), the Bulls’ front office, in their infinite wisdom drafted Bobby Portis.

That was the only offseason move made to a 50-win team that couldn’t get past the second round in the NBA’s inferior conference and boasted a rapidly aging front line.

After missing the playoffs in 2016, the Bulls offloaded Derrick Rose and Justin Holiday for Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant, let Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah walk in free agency, and then… blew $39 million and change on Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo. In 2016!!

When that decision, unsurprisingly, proved itself to be an utter failure, John Paxson and Gar Forman shrugged their shoulders and traded their best player. Jimmy Butler never got a fair shake.

Though Minnesota’s defense has been shakier than anticipated in the early going, that squad is currently 9-5 and seed third in a brutally tough Western Conference, coming off a 98-86 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs. Butler made just two of 13 shot attempts, but also pulled down six rebounds while dishing out five assists and locking down Spurs wings all night.

So we’re supposed to just sit back and let Gar Forman and John Paxson wow us with their can’t-miss talent appraisals? Let’s unpack that a bit, shall we?

The Kris Dunn-Jerian Grant competition had no winner against the Thunder

The only good yield from the aforementioned Jimmy Butler trade, tantalizing rookie big man Lauri Markkanen, deserves a point guard who actually understands how to look for a great shooter! I’m getting a bit concerned that our best two options for quarterbacking the Bulls’ offense, Grant and Dunn, are stifling the big man’s development by accidentally denying him quality looks.

Just kidding, I’m very, very, very, very concerned about Kris Dunn and Jerian Grant.

Grant had six points, three rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three turnovers in 26 minutes of game action. He was -14 for the night.

At one point, Grant ran towards the enemy basket on a breakaway and, with 20 seconds left on the shot clock and no Thunder defenders anywhere near him, forced up a three-point heave instead of taking the ball to the rack. Is he being coached to tank by his uncle, now a team ambassador? One can only hope when he makes knuckleheaded plays like that.

I wish I could tell you that was the nadir of Jerian Grant’s evening, dear reader. But I’m not going to do that. Because JERIAN GRANT ALSO DID THIS.

Go Bulls.

And Jerian Grant probably had a BETTER evening than his competition for the lead guard spot. Kris Dunn, a super-athlete point guard who can’t shoot or pass, played as the two-guard tonight, and had one heck of a stat line. In 29 minutes, Dunn also had one point, a triple, on one-for-11 shooting from the field.

Dunn had six boards, three dimes, two turnovers, and was a -9 in plus-minus rating in the contest. After a string of competent games in blowout losses, Dunn’s miserable showing in his first start as a Bull was fairly disheartening.

If Holiday misses any more time, here’s hoping Fred Hoiberg gives rookie G-League call-up Antonio Blakeney, out of LSU, a crack at the starting two-guard spot. Blakeney tied Lauri Markkanen’s game-high 16 points on five-of-12 shoot.

It’s impressive how random, unheralded Bulls additions like Blakeney and David Nwaba have thoroughly outperformed “core” pieces like the Bulls’ two crappy point guards, the Bulls’ two crappy 2016 small forward draftees (see below), and, of course, Bobby Portis.

A season after Jimmy, the Bulls have horrible small forwards on purpose

Injured second-year swingman David Nwaba has shown enough flashes of competence to earn the title of Bulls starting small forward, but in his absence our best option is clearly Denzel Valentine. Which is why the Bulls started… Quincy Pondexter.

Pondexter, who prior to this season hadn’t been healthy enough to play a game since Tom Thibodeau was the Bulls’ head coach (I’m not kidding), got the starting nod at the three-spot over Paul Zipser and Valentine.

Pondexter rewarded Fred Hoiberg’s sage decision with a brilliant slash line of four points, one rebound, a steal, one turnover, four fouls, and a -17 plus-minus rating, the worst of the night. Smooth move, Fred.

Valentine went five of nine from the field and three-of-six from deep. His three-point connection rate should have been three-of-seven, but Valentine opted not to attempt a buzzer-beating prayer at the end of the first quarter. Anyway, he had 13 points, three rebounds, and two assists and struggled to keep up with anybody he was defending.

Fun times. Paul Zipser, on the other hand, played very little defense AND did nothing on offense. In 17 minutes, the Bulls’ other small forward draftee from last season had two points (having made just a quarter of his four field goal looks), four rebounds, and one assist.