I can’t believe how much these last few weeks of the regular season are dragging. I reeeeeeally want to write the post-mortem on this wasted season, but we still have to endure a handful of bad basketball games. In the weeks to come, their will be plenty of grades, impressions, and suggestions for the Bulls all based on this atrocious season, but before I bombard you with those posts lets think about the brighter inevitabilities only the future can bring…
5 Things to look forward to this Bulls off-season
1) The Draft
Whether the Bulls are picking #1 overall, or scratching their heads over what to do with another #7 pick, the NBA Draft is the most important part of this upcoming off-season. Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, RJ Barrett, trading down, trading up, there are all sorts of draft day scenarios that could play out for the Bulls, including the possibility that they actually use their second round draft pick on a player. In some ways, the uncertainty of what the Bulls’ Front Office will decide to do with the second round pick is my favorite part of this draft. Surely they can’t trade it for more Cash Considerations, right? They couldn’t possibly risk the wrath and derision of the fans by trading for Cash, could they? I mean, they absolutely could! Which is why the second round pick is so exciting to me. Will it be a case of GarPax being GarPax? Or have they scouted enough players this year to confidently make a second round pick? Only Draft night will reveal the answers to these thrilling questions.
2) The Lottery Drawing
The night when we all find out if a seasons worth of crap basketball will net our favorite franchise a superstar that can rewrite destiny, or doom it to the basketball hell of mediocrity. This is the night that the Bulls will know where they pick 1-8. It’s also the night when a former Bull, member of the Front Office, or member of the Reinsdorf family, sits awkwardly behind a little podium with the team logo on it, waiting for their balls to drop (lottery balls, that is). Sometimes you get the added bonus of an embarrassing celebration from the chosen representative.
RIP Jerry Krause
3) NBA Summer League
The two and a half weeks that the NBA adjacent tournament takes over Las Vegas, are just about the best two and a half weeks of the summer for me. I love the NBA Summer League! In the broad scheme of things, it’s pretty dumb and probably doesn’t do much to develop the talent of the young players involved, but, as a basketball fan, it extends the NBA experience for a half month more. It will also give us Bulls fans a chance to see how Zion or Ja, fingers crossed, will fit with Carter and Hutch. I think you can tell a lot about a young player by how they perform in Summer League. If they’re dominating, then they’re NBA ready. Playing well but not standing out = They’re on the bench and struggling to get playing time. Overmatched and getting embarrassed? It’s time they moved to China.
4) The Circus that is Free Agency
Whether it’s David Nwaba or Shaquille Harrison, over the past couple off-seasons the Bulls have been able to find at least one talented castoff from another team. There is no reason to believe the Front Office won’t be able to identify yet another gem in the refuse pile of free agency. The Bulls definitely need depth at multiple positions. We can expect the FO to target veteran point guards to help guide this young squad; Could another Nate Robinson or DJ Augustin be in the Bulls future?
Another habit the Bulls have fallen into during the summer is signing a former Chicagoan to a Homecoming contract; Dwayne Wade and Jabari Parker are the two players that have set this precedent. Who’s next? Patrick Beverley? Evan Turner? Iman Shumpert? Or, dare I say it, Derrick Rose? Yes, any if not all, of these former Chicagoans might be headed home this summer, but at the very least it won’t be for $20+ million a season.
Just as intriguing as who the incoming free agents may be, is who the outgoing ones will be. Is there enough money to keep Robin Lopez in Chicago? Should he be brought back? Are bench players like Wayne Selden Jr, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Shaq Harrison, and Ryan Arcidiacono doing enough to stay with the team? There are a lot of questions leading into free agency this summer, which I plan on thoroughly exploring in a couple of weeks.
5) The Pressers
The off-season is full of press conferences for the Bulls; My favorite is the end of season “State of the Franchise” presser that GarPax give, usually fairly quickly, after the last Bulls game is played. This press conference sets the tone for the rest of the off-season. New buzz phrases get introduced, “Younger and more athletic,” “Healthy and ready to go,” we discover which players are now considered “part of the core” and which players are a cash grab away from having their tickets punched for a new ball club (Kris Dunn should probably keep his bags packed after this last road trip of the season). The end of the season presser gives us fans a strong sense of what the Front Office has identified as problem spots and priorities regarding the roster for the upcoming season. A lot can be gleaned by who is mentioned and who is not.
The post draft press conference is also a reliable source of entertainment, sometimes it even happens after the draft has been completed. This is the presser where the Front Office assures us that everything has gone to plan and they’ve picked, or traded for, exactly the player they always wanted, even if Zion Williamson ends up playing somewhere other than Chicago. If the Bulls aren’t gunning for Zion, and aren’t disappointed if they don’t land him, then they have no business existing in the NBA.
Other press conferences to look forward to include free agent introductions and the Beginning of the Season remarks. The former usually involve GarPax triumphantly tooting their own horn after signing a middle of the road NBA player for more money than they’re worth, and the latter requires GarPax to dodge questions from reporters about expectations for the upcoming season and culpability if the team doesn’t live up to the nebulous goals that have been set.
I’m making a bold prediction: This seasons buzz phrase is going to heavily feature the word “fit,” as in “We think player X fits well with what we’re trying to build here,” or “We decided to draft/sign/re-sign player X because of how his skills fit with the other core pieces.” One more, I predict this will be the theme of the summer, “We want our guys to fit the culture we’re trying to build here. We want them to come back from the summer with a competitive spirit and attitude, ready to work and win.” Hmmm, now that I read it back “work and win” is a better catch phrase. Too bad I already predicted “fit.”
It’s easy to feel a little bit awful about the Bulls after this pathetic season we just went through. Injuries, egos, trades, and firings dragged this us all to horrific depths. Oh, what relief an off-season can bring! What diversion and intrigue await! From the Draft to the circus of free agency, there is a lot for us Bulls fans to anticipate. Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!