Entering yesterday's trade deadline, there was a great deal of pressure on the shoulders of the Chicago Bulls' front office to either make moves to improve or instead accept reality and begin selling off assets to prepare for the future. In typical fashion, vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas instead opted to shrug off his responsibilities and instead do.... nothing.
This has been a reoccurring trend for Arturas, as the Bulls have only executed one trade since 2021 — a simple exchange of second-round picks to draft Julian Phillips in 2023. In the past, Karnisovas was able to fall back on the explosive moves he made in 2021 to justify his inaction. This time, however, Bulls fans and national media alike took the opportunity to rip into the mastermind behind Chicago's mediocrity.
To kick things off, it's important to highlight that the Bulls have remained quiet for three consecutive trade deadlines. They've also only signed one free agent from another team for more than the veteran's minimum over the last three years. That player was Jevon Carter, hardly an earth-shattering acquisition.
Now that we've had ample time to see how Karnisovas' tenure has panned out, it feels blasphemous to say it, but the current regime has had even less success than the notorious duo of Gar Forman and John Paxson. At the very least, GarPax yielded a high success rate with their draft picks, while Karnisovas only has the Ayo Dosunmu selection under his belt — in large part due to the fact Arturas has expended Chicago's draft capital on several ill-advised trades.
SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell reflects that sentiment, calling Karnisovas out for his unambitious decision-making that somehow makes GarPax look great in retrospect.
Perhaps worst of all, not only is Karnisovas actively ignoring the duties of his job, he doesn't even seem aware of the Bulls' placement in the current landscape of the league. Arturas claimed Chicago should remain competitive because the team is only three games back from sixth place, but the Bulls were actually 4.5 games back from the 6th place Pacers at the time his post-deadline presser took place.
Arturas Karnisovas is playing a dangerous game by provoking Bulls fans with his trade deadline indecision.
Karnisovas' presser was filled with many more examples of his incoherent babbling, as he looked rather bored in the face of the media's questions. You can watch the whole thing here, but I'll try to save you the wasted time. Karnisovas continually stressed the impressed the importance of remaining "competitive", even though the Bulls have repeatedly proven themselves to be anything but.
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times attempted to hold Karnisovas accountable by questioning just how this team could be deemed competitive with their current record, to which Arturas shrugged off and instead suggested we should see how these final 30 games pan out first. If the Bulls are not in a better position by then, Karnisovas said he deserves to take the blame.
Taking blame seemed to be an oddly re-occurring theme for his presser, as Karnisovas also claimed the front office would fully support his decision if he decided to initiate a rebuild. I'm not sure why he did this, as there was already a great deal of pent-up frustration pointed toward Jerry Reinsdorf and Chicago's ownership. Instead, Karnisovas has willingly directed this frustration back at himself as the sole person responsible for the Bulls' poor performance.
Arturas' faith in this roster is seemingly unwavering, but it's difficult to justify his steadfast beliefs when he has done very little to help support the players he has assembled.
Although yesterday's events led a great many fans to express their frustrations online, at least some people took the opportunity to have a laugh. The Bloody Horns Podcast jokes that the Bulls' 2024-25 lineup is already a lock for next season, a wisecrack that is unfortunately closer to the truth than I'd like to admit.
In the end, this was yet another trade deadline where we saw several teams around the league improve while the Bulls stood pat. Karnisovas may claim it was a buyers' market, but he has lost the benefit of the doubt by now after so many years of failing to address this team's most glaring holes. When compared to a team like the New York Knicks, it's hard not to feel rather jealous as a Bulls fan.