For what it’s worth, I have an “area of specialization” in philosophy.
When working toward my Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Illinois, part of the curriculum involved picking two separate majors in which to “specialize.” But frankly … it was kind of stupid. Neither subject appears on your diploma, and all the specialization really entails is two more classes than normal in a specific area (which is not even enough to walk away with a minor). Long story short, I liked philosophy, I picked philosophy, and now I guess I’m proficient in philosophy. Basically, I know enough to make it look like I know what I’m doing.
Okay, so I promise this has to do with the Chicago Bulls.
The Ringer recently published an oral history of the 2004-05 Bulls. To spark your memory, that’s the infamous team known as the “Baby Bulls,” a squad who started 0-9 yet somehow ended the regular season 47-35. The team made the playoffs and ultimately lost in the 1st round, but considering the previous six-years were all disastrously losing seasons, this felt like a championship.
The Ringer’s Jake Malooley spoke with the likes of Tyson Chandler, Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, Andrés Nocioni, Antonio Davis, and many more to piece together an extremely captivating read. I encourage all Bulls fans to sit down and read through this story. And if not reading solely for enjoyment, read to understand how similar the archetype for building that mid-2000’s squad is to today’s rebuilding plan.
Now, get ready for your philosophy lesson.
John Paxson’s logic is flawed. In my opinion, the Bulls front office is operating on a propositional fallacy, specifically, they’re affirming the consequent.
What this fallacy means is that one’s logic is constructed on the idea that if A gets B, then, of course, B gets A. But, uh, no. For example, think about how if your heater was broken, your house would be cold. However, if you walk into your house and it’s cold, the reason isn’t necessarily that your heater is broken. Indeed, you may just not have turned it on, or maybe you left the windows open. Plenty of reasons exist.
Well, in 2004-05, the Bulls made the playoffs (A) built on tough defense, gritty coaching, and a BUNCH of young talent (B). A gets B. Fast forward to 2019, and the Bulls are preaching the same principles (B) and expected the playoffs to be an achievable goal (A). B doesn’t mean you’re getting A.
To be clear, a ton of season is left and the Bulls are technically only 2.0 games out of a playoff spot, so this could actually pan out. Like walking into your house, it might be cold because the heater is actually broken. Going in with that assumption, however, is wrong.
Perhaps, this isn’t an apples-to-apples example of affirming the consequent, but hopefully, you can see where I’m coming from.
The Bulls made the playoffs built this way. The Bulls are built this way, so they’ll make the playoffs.
Feel free to think of this as ad hoc ergo propter hoc or correlation =/= causation because that also makes sense.
In 2004-05, the playoffs weren’t the expressed goal for the Bulls. It kinda just happened. In the current day, it feels like Paxson is trying to build a team similar to that because the Bulls need to pull themselves out of a rut again.
To make this more clear, here are some of the similarities:
- 2004-05: Trading/signing veteran pieces like Antonio Davis, Adrian Griffin, and Othella Harrington.
- 2019-20: Trading/signing veteran pieces like Otto Porter, Thaddeus Young, and Tomas Satoransky
- 2004-05: Drafting a go-to, young guard in Ben Gordon
- 2019-20: Drafting a go-to, young guard in Coby White
- 2004-05: Riding young talent like Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler who were acquired by trading rising-star Elton Brand
- 2019-20: Riding super young talent like Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine who were acquired by trading Jimmy Butler.
- 2004-05: Making it a priority to get players from “blue-chip” programs (Chris Duhon and Luol Deng from Duke, Kirk Hinrich from Kansas, and Ben Gordon from UConn).
- 2019-20: Marking it a priority to get players from “blue-chip” programs (Coby White from UNC, Wendell Carter Jr. from Duke, Lauri Markkanen from Arizona).
- 2004-05: Get a coach who preaches defense and high character!
- 2019-20: Jim Boylen.
Hinrich is even quoted in the story as saying: “The team culture was going to be based on character and hard work and defense and playing for the team.” Sound familiar?
Anyway, I’m not going to go on. Of course, you can find plenty of differences in the two teams as well, the biggest of which might end up being their success. But, at the end of the day, the resemblance between the current Bulls rebuild and how Paxson rebuilt when he first started is uncanny.
Times change, leagues change. It’s fair to argue the Bulls front office is running a rebuild on an out-of-date model. Not to mention, a line of thinking that just doesn’t make much sense. The Bulls may have pulled themselves out of a bad situation with this plan before, but that simply isn’t the only reason it got done nor does that mean it’s going to work now.