By Chris Pennant (@kwandarykitten)
In case you didn’t hear, the Chicago Bulls lost yesterday.
Yes, it was a loss to the streaking Brooklyn Nets, who finally look to be digging themselves out of the gully Billy King threw them into all those seasons ago.
Yes, they had an eight-point lead with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter and let it slip away.
Yes, they had a putrid possession with seconds on the clock and a chance to take the lead, and yes, Jim Boylen used all his timeouts so they couldn’t advance the ball.
Did you really expect anything different?
The hoopla surrounding the Bulls’ coaching change has finally died down, leaving only the grasping Twitter mavens to make stale jokes about pushups and wind sprints. The Bulls have become predictable and boring, with the only surprises coming when they cull a surprise victory from their stocking full of coal. (That’s the only Christmas reference you get, be happy with it.) Other than another injury to report — Zach LaVine suffered an ankle sprain against Orlando last week – what else is there to say about the Bulls at present?
There’s a lot to say about a winning team when they lose, or even a mediocre team when they lose. However, when a bad team loses, it’s expected. So go the expectations for the Chicago Bulls, who were supposedly in position to contend soon: to lose, not heroically or stoically, but just to lose.
Most Likely to Be Traded Class of 2019
The only thing of significance to look forward to for players and fans alike is the February 7 trade deadline. The Bulls will be sellers, obviously, but who will be sold off is a tougher question to answer. A slew of injuries and internal turmoil turned a decent roster into a bunch of question marks, but with the deadline so late in the season (the 55th game of the year is the next day, February 8), the full potential of any enticing players should have been revealed by then.
The players most likely to be ghost by February:
Holiday is having the best season of his career in terms of shooting. After ranking near the bottom of field goal percentage for shooting guards, he’s upped his averages to 40 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range. Holiday has become a true “3-and-D” threat in a league where perimeter defense is essential. The New Orleans Pelicans could be a likely destination for the well-traveled guard, as he could provide complementary shooting off the bench and at the close of games.
News came out earlier this week that the Bulls are shopping their $20 million dollar man, even as he’s been removed from the regular rotation. Parker’s played relatively well so far this season, averaging 15 points, seven rebounds and two assists in 30 minutes per game. GMs won’t necessarily be soured by his defensive reluctance, and there could be a lot of candidates to pick him up, including the Portland Trail Blazers, who might want more scoring in the post than they’re currently getting from Zach Collins or Maurice Harkless.
BoPo will be a restricted free agent come summertime, and he’s said that he’d like to stay in Chicago. Portis logged the best season of his young career last year, averaging per 36 minutes stats of 21 points, 10 rebounds and three assists on 47 percent shooting. His energy would a welcome sight for a team trying to improve their bench and he’s got a consistent midrange shot. The only question marks are his three-point shooting, which is spotty at best, and how well he returns from his early-season injury.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the New York Knicks consider picking up Portis via trade rather than waiting to sign him in the offseason. He’s a better version of Kyle O’Quinn, who filled a role rather nicely with the Knicks a couple of seasons ago, and his hustle would have the potential to make him a favorite in the garden.
Will They or Won’t They?
Ideally, the Bulls would make a trade to improve their draft position or further shed salary in order to make room for free agents once their core players begin to mature and find success. However, that same predictability I mentioned before is why we might not see any big moves come February. Holiday took the place of Kirk Hinrich as the Bull who was always shipped off at the deadline then brought back in the offseason, so he’ll be traded regardless of anything else, but other moves are so certain.
The Bulls are currently in the bottom four of the league, so they’d have equal odds with Phoenix, Cleveland and Atlanta for the number one pick in the draft. However, Miami (#7), New Orleans (#10) or even the foolhardy Wizards (#6) should be looking to add further for the stretch run and have enticing selection spots for a Bulls team with only one pick in next year’s draft.
After the cacophony of the last two weeks, I’m honestly glad to see the Bulls settle into quiet and predictable defeat. But with a deep draft looming, it would be welcome to see them do something we wouldn’t expect.
Beast of the Week: Kris Dunn has put up two big games since returning to the lineup earlier this month. He led the Bulls to a rare road win against the Spurs with 24 points and a scorching second half, hitting seven of nine shots, then put up another 24 with six assists in Wednesday’s loss to Brooklyn. It’s still hard to figure out exactly where Dunn will fit with the Bulls going forward – he’s not the best distributor as a point guard and his scoring is streaky – but his play coming off injury is promising.
Predictions: With all the drama surrounding the team, it’ll be a bittersweet sight for Bulls fans to see Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Tom Thibodeau at the United Center the day after Christmas. Minnesota has lost five of their last six and probably won’t make the playoffs, but many are supporting Rose for Most Improved Player. It’ll be a shame for the Bulls to lose that game, but since I’m doing the unthinkable and positing they’ll two in a row, I think they’re allowed to drop one to the T’Wolves.
Dec. 21 vs. Magic – W
Dec. 23 at Cavs – W
Dec. 26 vs. Timberwolves – L
One Last Thing: Remember how the Bears gave Mike Glennon a huge contract for no apparent reason, and then let him go after one season, and it ended up costing them almost 19 million dollars? Remember how silly that felt? Probably not, since the Bears are division champions and people are forgetting the questionable choices Ryan Pace made. The message for GarPax: winning masks a lot of mistakes.
Until next time, keep your champagne on ice.
Chris Pennant covers the Chicago Bulls and basketball in general for WARR