Despite this being one of the more entertaining offseasons in recent memory, another year of Chicago Bulls basketball couldn’t come soon enough. The NBA’s first offseason game is set to tip off later today with the Mavericks heading to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves, and with that, we’re finally getting our first batch of NBA power rankings
This year, The Ringer held nothing back, as Kevin O’Connor took every opportunity to criticize Chicago for their lackluster offseason. He ranked the Bulls 24th in this year’s edition of preseason power rankings, placing them at the bottom of the “Blow-It Up Candidates” tier.
I was rather shocked to see this, as the only teams ranked below the Bulls are those who will likely be actively tanking to secure better draft lottery odds by the end of the year — Houston, San Antonio, Portland, Detroit, Charlotte, and Washington.
Here’s what O’Connor had to say to justify his lowly ranking of the Bulls:
"Arturas Karnisovas said at Bulls media day that he wants the team to change its “shooting profile” and “play faster.” If that’s the case, then why did the Bulls draft Julian Phillips, who made 23.9 percent of his college 3s? Why sign Torrey Craig, who was ignored behind the arc in last year’s playoffs? Why is DeMar DeRozan, the king of the midrange, still on the team?"
The Bulls have a lot left to prove to their critics ahead of the 2023-24 season.
Although the Bulls do deserve their fair share of criticism, I don’t understand why O’Connor is arguing in bad faith here. Chicago drafted Julian Phillips because they needed two-way depth on the wing after losing Derrick Jones Jr. and Javonte Green. The Bulls signed Torrey Craig because he was a 39.5% sniper from deep last season — and even shot 55.6% in the Western Conference semi-finals. DeMar DeRozan is still on the team because he’s an elite talent and the market for him is likely to be more competitive ahead of the trade deadline.
These questions are rather self-explanatory. It doesn’t take a detective or a top-tier journalist to answer them, yet O’Connor poses them anyway. But since I went along with his little game, I have a few questions of my own.
Why are we ignoring the signing of Jevon Carter? Why are we pretending Craig is a bad player due to one poor playoff series against the eventual NBA champions? Why is The Ringer claiming the Bulls should trade DeRozan for a king’s ransom when they only have DeMar ranked No. 41 in their 2023 NBA player rankings? Who is trading a haul for the 41st-best player in the league?
Of course, we won’t be so fortunate to have KOC answer these questions. Even if I did have the honor, I’m not so sure he’d be able to form a fair response. At the very least, however, let’s allow him the chance to elaborate on his opinion here. O’Connor continued on with this statement below:
"At 34 years old and with just a year left on his contract, DeRozan has no meaningful future in Chicago, which should make him a prime trade candidate. But the Bulls shouldn’t stop there. Chicago should consider a full-scale overhaul, potentially off-loading other veterans like Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. As a unit, this group is mediocre. But individually, all of those pieces could help other teams. If the Bulls want to contend, they must have the courage to start from scratch. Again."
Now here I can begin to agree with his sentiments. As much as I enjoy watching competitive basketball, there’s a very real discussion to be had regarding whether or not the Bulls should blow things up while their assets still carry inherent value. This group is mediocre, O’Connor is correct. But this leaves me wondering, why did he not rank them as such?
24th is not a ranking reserved for mediocre teams, that’s the upper half of draft lottery territory we’re talking about here. That is downright bad. This assessment feels particularly egregious when you take into account the fact that teams that suffered heavy losses this summer (Raptors, Heat) or were just downright bad (Magic, Pacers, Jazz, Nets) at times last year are all ranked ahead of Chicago.
The Bulls proved after the trade deadline last season just how effective they can be with a true point guard at the helm. They stumbled along the way, sure, but there’s no team in the “On the Rise” tier with more raw talent and experience on their roster than Chicago. This team is built to win now, and I believe in their ability to do so. And if the Bulls struggle once again and limp to a bottom-10 finish, I’ll personally mail Mr. O’Connor an apology card. Until then, however, I have to say I’m disappointed with The Ringer’s analysis here.