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The Bulls and 'teardown' are being mentioned in the same sentence ... but does it make sense?

Will Gottlieb Avatar
December 3, 2022

It was bound to happen at some point or another.

Everyone wants the Bulls to tear it down.

The Bulls are in the middle of the bad teams with good players Venn diagram. So it’s no surprise they’re every armchair GM’s favorite blow it up team of 2022-23

There’s no question the Bulls are in the middle. And no one wants to be in the middle. But for at least 20 of the 30 teams, it just happens. Four or so teams are in contention for the title every year and another four or so more are in contention for the number one draft pick.

On Monday, The Ringer’s Michael Pina wrote that the Bulls being the most depressing team in the NBA.

On Wednesday, Bill Simmons went full mailroom Charlie Day meme with the trade machine, suggesting:

  • DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic to the Los Angeles Lakers for Russell Westbrook, 2027 unprotected first round draft pick and 2029 top 4 protected draft pick
  • Zach LaVine to the New York Knicks for Obi Toppin, expiring contracts including Evan Fournier and top-4 protected 2023 draft pick
  • Alex Caruso to the Golden State Warriors for Moses Moody, Donte DiVincenzo, 2027 pick swap, $3 million in cash considerations

On Friday, Zach Lowe said, in regards to the rumored DeRozan and Vucevic for Russell Westbrook, 2027 and 2029 Lakers draft picks trade idea, “I can tell you 100 percent for sure, the Lakers have had internal discussions about that very possibility, if it would ever come up.”

The argument for a teardown

The Bulls are 8-12, outside of even the play-in tournament and not going anywhere fast. Would it be an admission of total failure less than two seasons after putting this group together? Yes. But should that be considered an embarrassment? Absolutely not. Think objectively — they need to do what is in the best interest of the team moving forward.

I get it. There are days where this level of mediocrity-induced frustration makes me want to press the eject button. Kirk Goldsberry, on the Lowe Post, used the analogy of continuing to drive a car with a flat tire, which I think is apt.

The Bulls lost the Vucevic trade with flying colors. They overpaid for DeRozan when they didn’t need to. They maxed out an injured LaVine and no one knows when Lonzo Ball is coming back, if ever. Patrick Williams isn’t blossoming. But all could be absolved if they acquire more incoming picks than the ones they sent out to bring that group together in the first place.

The two worst things a front office can have are stubbornness and a lack of self-awareness. The lane the Bulls chose in 2020 has failed. It’s time to look themselves in the mirror and pick a new one. Because if they don’t they may end up giving the Magic the fifth overall pick.

Argument against a teardown

The Bulls have played the second-hardest schedule in the league so far. LaVine will start to look himself at some point. Ball may come back and be the saving grace. They could still put something together and even if they blow it up, where does that leave them? With Obi Toppin, Moses Moody and one additional pick in the next four years. That doesn’t feel like a better path forward than retooling and trying to build through the middle.

Even if the Bulls do blow it up, they’re not guaranteed Victor Wembanyama, let alone the ability to draft at all this year — they owe their draft pick to the Orlando Magic, top-four protected.

But that nightmare scenario of giving up the fifth overall pick could happen whether or not the Bulls trade DeRozan. Trying to out-tank the Magic, Spurs, Hornets, Pistons and Rockets might be even more difficult than trying to make the play in. And even if the Bulls do beat those teams to the very bottom, they’d still have roughly a 50 percent chance of keeping the pick.

Is the outcome of no DeRozan, no LaVine, no Vucevic, no Caruso AND no draft pick somehow more appealing than at least trying? Sure, they’d have a few potentially valuable picks five years down the line, but what do you do until then?

In reality

The weakest argument for not tanking is that the Bulls won’t do it. So set aside whether you think Jerry Reinsdorf and Arturas Karnisovas would blow it up, and only consider whether it is the best course of action.

At this point, the Bulls need to do something — they can’t continue on without making roster improvements with so many glaring weaknesses and major contract decisions.

And they won’t be afforded the chance to wait until they can evaluate the roster fully healthy.

So to me, it all comes down to value.

Should they decide to blow it up, it would need to be because it is the best path forward. That means doing much better than Obi Toppin and a protected pick for Zach LaVine. Blowing it up without a path back. If they’re going to go that direction, they need a longer-term plan that gives them the chance to be good on whatever timeline they choose. It can’t be the aimless, half-hearted tank we saw from 2016-2020.

It’s easy to suggest all or nothing. But the majority of teams don’t end up on one extreme or the other. There are ways to build through the middle, and unless there is a clear win, whether that means assets or incoming players, the Bulls shouldn’t blow it up for the sake of blowing it up.

Where do you stand?

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