Entering the season looking to improve on last year’s 46-36 record and potentially win a playoff season or two, saying things have gotten a little derailed off the tracks for the Chicago Bulls this season would certainly be an understatement. The wins aren’t coming in as often as expected, injuries continue to plague the team, and a few crucial players have failed to meet the high standards the fanbase has set for them so far this season.
Considering the Bulls have already attained wins over the Bucks, Celtics (twice), Nets, Heat (also twice), and Mavericks, it would be extremely easy to look at Chicago’s extremely difficult strength of schedule and write this off as just an unlucky start. But that would simply be dishonest.
The truth is that the Bulls’ poor start has them sitting at 14-19, with only eight teams tied or below them in the standings. In games played against these 8 teams, Chicago has achieved a lowly 2-5 record, including losses against the Spurs, Thunder, Rockets, Wizards, and Magic.
This is simply inexcusable for any team with playoff aspirations, much less a roster that has sacrificed over three years of draft capital to be assembled in the first place. A sense of entitlement seems to permeate across the roster, as the Bulls routinely struggle to perform against teams they deem themselves better than.
There’s no easy way to say this, but the Chicago Bulls have become the NBA’s most frustrating team to watch in the 2022-23 season.
There are only so many post-game press conferences one can listen to where Billy Donovan or a member of the roster points out where the Bulls’ failings lie, just for the team to continue committing those same mistakes game in and game out. There are no adjustments being made schematically by the coaching staff as well as mentally by the players themselves.
That’s ultimately what this all boils down to. As easy as it is to place the sole blame for this team’s shortcomings at Donovan’s feet, there’s nothing he can do if his team doesn’t take their competition seriously and show up to play from the jump.
That much was made clear as day in Monday’s contest against the Houston Rockets. Going down 23-5 not even five minutes into the game against this rebuilding version of the Rockets is an utter embarrassment for the fans to have to watch. Yes, the Bulls did ultimately claw themselves out of that hole by the end of the first half, but if they never dug it for themselves in the first place, perhaps Chicago builds large enough of a lead to stifle a strong second half from Houston.
The Chicago Bulls are now the league’s sixth-worst first-half team with a -4.3 net rating in their games this season. Compared to their 1.8 net rating in the second half — 11th best in the NBA — it’s clear to see this team has a preparation problem. It’s impossible to say for certainty what goes on behind the scenes, but the fact that the Bulls’ performance takes a tremendous -8.8 net rating dip in the second quarter to me indicates that this team does not know how to perform without DeMar DeRozan pulling more than his fair share of the weight.
Despite his reputation as a ‘playoff choker’, it should be unequivocally known that the only reason the Bulls are winning at all is due to DeMar’s proficiency in the late fourth quarter. He’s proven to be the offensive threat in the clutch that LaVine simply never has been.
And yet, if the Bulls are to make a major trade to switch direction sometime in the next year, DeRozan will almost certainly be the first person out the door. What more would you expect, from the most frustrating team in basketball?