After their recent showcase in Paris ended with a win (did you know LaVine is French for 10th in the conference?), the Chicago Bulls sit at 21-24, with the All-Star break looming. Sitting within sniffing distance of both the playoffs and lottery, the Bulls have had to grapple with the mortality of a core featuring Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.
Much of the discourse surrounding Chicago this season has been focused on whether they should cut bait on this core, acknowledging the low ceiling of the current roster. Despite the stars’ ability to individually turn the tide of a given game (averaging a combined 67.5 points) the trio has a combined 67-70 record since the beginning of last season.
Trading their biggest stars might be the only way forward, but could the Chicago Bulls have done anything different to avoid this situation?
Conversely, the Bulls’ noted success against winning teams (8-1 against top seeds in the East) seems to favor continuity.
Particularly with the Magic still owning their first-rounder this year, fans and media are confounded about what could have been done differently to maximize what – theoretically – could have been a competitive group.
In essence, I believe the answer is… nothing. All roads led here — a middling play-in resident that no one sliding-door moment could have altered. Looking at their three biggest decisions (chosen by the highly quantitative process of me choosing) demonstrates the inevitability of the current situation.
Honorable Mention: Letting Lauri Markkanen walk was unfortunately an inevitable decision for the Bulls
With his massive success this season, this narrative has become practically unavoidable. Of course, I’m referring to the hypothetical question often posed by Bulls’ fans online, “What if the Bulls had kept Markkanen?”
The truth of the matter is he was widely disappointing in Chicago despite flashing talent and wouldn’t have been given the on-ball reps to develop as he has in Utah. Did they let a potential All-Star go? Yes, but he wouldn’t have been that here, so be glad he got the chance elsewhere.