Choking 24-point lead to Pacers is actually a good thing for the Bulls

Coby White, Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Coby White, Alex Caruso, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports) /

If you told me that Zach LaVine would flirt with a 35-point triple-double, Coby White chipped in 25 points, and the inconsistent trio of Nikola Vucevic, Ayo Dosunmu, and Patrick Williams all played relatively well against a floundering Pacers team that was 2-16 in their last 18 games, I would have felt pretty confident in the Chicago Bulls‘ chances of securing a win… if it happened in any other season than the one this team is currently having.

Despite racking up a lead in excess of 20 points in the third quarter, the Bulls still managed to choke against lesser competition and rack up their fifth loss in as many games. Coby in particular played stellar basketball, drilling five triples from beyond the arc and logging more points than any player not named Zach LaVine or Buddy Hield, despite coming off the bench.

If you feel like you’ve seen this story before, it’s because you have. In fact, Chicago has blown leads of 15+ points five times this season, including three occasions in which they built a lead of 20 points or higher.

Despite how embarrassing it is to choke away yet another big lead, this loss to the Indiana Pacers may actually benefit the Chicago Bulls in the end.

With this latest loss, the Bulls have dropped to 26-32 and possess the NBA’s third-longest losing streak at five games. Since the Lakers won and advanced to 27-32, they have now leaped the Bulls and pushed Chicago even further down the league’s standings.

Instead of looking at how far this team is out of playoff contention, however, I believe it’s far more beneficial to look at how Chicago’s odds of keeping their top 4-protected pick in this year’s draft improve with each subsequent loss.

By directly losing to Indiana, the Bulls are now only a single game ahead of the Pacers and just 2.5 names ahead of the Magic. Bottoming out and securing top-five odds in the draft lottery is a very realistic scenario for this team, should they commit to losing instead of winning meaningless games.

With how incredibly talented some of the most sought-after prospects are in this year’s draft, every loss is going to count. With only 3 games separating the bottom-four teams, it’s clear to see several teams have already committed to a rebuild and the margins for better odds here are going to be razor-thin. With Indiana losing 13 of their last 16 games, and Orlando being far out of the play-in picture, I expect it won’t take long for these teams to turn their sights toward the draft as well.

That’s why the Bulls have come to a critical junction here, where the choices they make will have a massive impact on the franchise’s future outlook. Now is the time for Chicago to commit to restructuring this team. A 42.1% chance to retain this year’s pick is the best the Bulls are going to get this season.

Now is the time to throw “continuity” and meaningless wins out the window. We already witnessed a half-baked rebuild that lasted half of a decade under GarPax. There’s a real opportunity for the Bulls to land a true difference-maker at the top of this year’s draft. AKME cannot afford to make the same mistakes as their predecessors, lest they risk sharing the same fate.

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