The Chicago Bulls lost by double digits for the second game in a row after having a lead that was blown by a terrible 4th quarter. Thursday was a frustrating one, as the Bulls played a Nets team that had just gotten rid of its two stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and did not have one of its other strong pieces in Nicolas Claxton. Additionally, the Nets had several players appearing in their first game this season with the Nets, including Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith, both of whom were acquired from the Mavericks in the Kyrie Irving trade.
This game was a chance for the Bulls to move into the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, pulling them even with the Atlanta Hawks and further improving their playoff chances. However, the Bulls were not able to capitalize on the opportunity.
Looking more deeply into the game, it really put Chicago’s weaknesses on display. The Bulls could not shoot from long range, only making 5 of their 26 three-point attempts. Additionally, they kept fouling in bad spots, allowing 25 free throws from the Nets and giving Cam Thomas and Spencer Dinwiddie a combined 22 attempts from the charity stripe. The combination of three-point shooting struggles and poor basketball IQ has led the team into this position, and it was only exemplified in this game.
The Chicago Bulls showed that they had one of the worst trade deadlines in the league with the loss against the Nets on Thursday.
The Bulls were mentioned in many different trade talks, with nearly every player having rumors surrounding them, even Zach LaVine with the Knicks as the deadline neared. However, the Bulls were one of two teams that did not make a single trade in what may have been the most eventful deadline in NBA history.
This is unacceptable from the Bulls, who are currently 9th in the East with a 26-29 record. Earlier on in the season, this performance was fine because there was still time for Chicago to turn it around, but now with just 27 games left in the season, the Bulls are left with play-in games and a paltry selection of draft picks for the future. The reality of the situation is that the Bulls mortgaged their future to win now, but injuries and poor team dynamics have left the franchise in a state of mediocrity. Rather than attempting to pick a direction with the trade deadline (either make moves that show trust in the core to win now or blow things up), the front office chose to stay pat.
With that being said, it is worth saying that the Bulls have seemed to play better than their record indicates. They currently have a +0.3 point differential per game, which is good for 8th in the East. However, they have been a victim of several late-game blowups, including several referee issues that have been reflected in the NBA’s Last Two Minute Reports. It is interesting to see that if some of those games had gone the other way, there could be a whole different story in terms of the sentiment surrounding the franchise as well as trade deadline strategies.
At the end of the day, the Bulls are not showing a sense of direction and could be locked in a poor position in the coming years. This roster has shown that it needs more pieces to truly become a contender, and it is up to Arturas Karnisovas and the rest of the front office to either chase after those players or start over with a rebuild. Currently, the Chicago Bulls have a roster that can go either way, but the franchise must choose one side or the other.