It’s that time of year again, when various media outlets begin re-evaluating the previous year of basketball and compiling their rankings and tier lists for the year to come. The Athletic has emerged as one of the more credible NBA sites over the last decade, but they have also been consistently harsh on the Bulls as of late, so I was curious to see where Chicago’s elite talent ranked in this year’s edition of their player rankings (subscription required).
The Bulls have a history of being under-ranked in recent years, both individually and as a team. Chicago has received criticism from the media when signing Zach LaVine to either of his big extensions and who could forget DeMar DeRozan being ranked as the 82nd-best player in the NBA and worst signing of the offseason?
Although I’ll admit I love being able to draft our hometown players for cheap in fantasy basketball, this constant effort to devalue the efforts of the Bulls’ All-Star duo can be extremely frustrating at times. Things are no different here, as The Athletic provided yet another brutal (and unnecessary, in my opinion) assessment of DeRozan and LaVine.
DeRozan ranks in tier 3C, which consists of players ranked between No. 34 and 39, with DeMar right at 36 on the list. LaVine, on the other hand, finds himself placed in tier 4C, leading his tier at the 67th position. This might seem like an obviously bad take at face value, but it only gets worse when you see whom these two All-Stars were placed alongside in these rankings
The national media is once again sleeping on Bulls All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine.
If you don’t personally believe in DeMar DeRozan due to his lack of playoff success, that’s fine. His resume speaks for itself, and he has work to do on that end. That being said, placing DeRozan at No. 36 on this list just feels disingenuous, considering he’s been a top-10 scorer in the league over the last three seasons and has qualified for two consecutive All-Star Games in a row. As of right now, there just aren’t 35 players better than DeMar right now.
But if you thought The Athletic’s take on DeRozan was bad, close your eyes now, because they got it horribly wrong with Zach LaVine. It was tough seeing DeRozan ranked below Khris Middleton, but having LaVine below the likes of Chris Paul, Austin Reaves, and Derrick White isn’t just a bad opinion, it’s just objectively false.
We can sit here and debate aesthetics and how each player fits on their team, but at the end of the day, the numbers prove that both DeMar and Zach deserve to be much, much higher on these rankings. What’s perhaps most shocking to me is that in last year’s edition of this article, The Athletic placed DeRozan and LaVine at No. 25 and 32, respectively. I’m not sure what attributed to their steep dip other than the Bulls’ poor performance as a team, even though both stars had rather respectable individual seasons.
As for the rest of the roster, both Alex Caruso and Nikola Vucevic also managed to crack the list. I wouldn’t be too overjoyed, however, as The Athletic also ranked Caruso one spot beneath Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Vooch a few spots under the likes of very disappointing players last season such as Dillon Brooks, Russell Westbrook, and Jordan Poole.
I don’t have an explanation for these rankings, I really don’t. They are that bad. At the very least, I hope the Bulls can just end up using this as more fuel to the fire. But if posting a losing record and missing the playoffs wasn’t enough motivation in the first place, we Bulls fans might be in bigger trouble than we thought.