With the NBA Trade Deadline Looming, It’s Time for the Bulls’ Front Office to Accept Defeat

I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

When the front office first started to preach (now-infamous) “continuity” at the 2022 NBA trade deadline, I let them have it. The Chicago Bulls were sitting in the top spot of the Eastern Conference and were in line to appear in their first playoff series since the 2016-17 season.

Even after the team went a concerning 8-14 in their final 22 regular season games and fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in five swift Round 1 games, I let them have it. Sure, I had my worries about the lack of 3-point shooting, rim protection, and wing defense, but continuity didn’t mean taking your foot completely off the gas, right? If this front office was aggressive enough to trade for Nikola Vucevic and sign DeMar DeRozan, they’d surely be aggressive enough to tweak the supporting cast.

I wasn’t a fan of how they only added Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic in the offseason, but I let them have it. I guess I just respected the transparency of it all. Arturas Karnisovas said continuity, and damn it he was going to give it to us!

All the way up until the Bulls were 22-24 and a couple of games back from the 8th seed, I let them freakin’ have it. The start to the season was disturbing, but they were finally turning a corner with an 11-6 stretch and looked ready to show us what the front office had seen all along.

Then, I couldn’t let them have it anymore.

A loss to a Pacers team that was on a seven-game losing streak (and without its best player) was followed by a loss to a 13-win Charlotte Hornets team with the worst offense in basketball. Instead of beating both and moving back to .500, the Bulls dropped to a 6-11 record against teams that sit below .500. As far as I’m concerned, that right there should decide the future of the Chicago Bulls.

I don’t think it can get any more cut and dry for this front office than that. This veteran team – centered around three “All-Stars” – had two softballs sitting on a tee. Make contact, and you might have enough to justify rounding the bases. Swing and miss, and the game is over.

The Chicago Bulls lost. The front office lost. Continuity lost. The time to accept that is now with the trade deadline less than two weeks away.

Indeed, this is when tough decisions need to be made. And, quite frankly, I’m not sure this is a tough decision anymore. Staying the course with this roster is accepting the unacceptable. Karnisovas said it himself: There had to be a year-over-year improvement for this season to be deemed a success. And the Bulls have done only the opposite of improving.

I’m always hesitant to use the words “blow it up” because I think the definition of that can vary. But I’m not quite sure any other term meets the mark. It’s abundantly clear at this point in time that this trio can not co-exist for the long haul. Not to mention, it’s abundantly clear that this front office failed in prioritizing some of the most important attributes of the modern NBA: 3-point shooting and length at the wing.

The only way to fix this is to now take a step backward. It’s time to officially rule this season dead. The goal now should be to maximize the value of the assets that this team does have. And, fortunately for them, we do know that those assets are highly coveted around the NBA.

Indeed, whether it be Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan, or even Zach LaVine, the Bulls are in no place to rule any as completely off the table. I think this is especially true for those former two players. Vucevic is an unrestricted free agent in the coming months, while DeRozan will be up for a lofty contract extension this offseason (that he will want and deserve). Both players can likely net a healthy return from contending teams, and the Bulls need to be willing to hear out those returns.

The only reason I don’t fully lump LaVine in with both players is that he’s in the first year of his five-year deal. While I do believe there would be a genuine interest in his services, he might be even more valuable in a year or two. Not to mention, if the Bulls were going to try to retool around anyone, LaVine would make the most sense as the youngest of the three.

And, look, do I actually believe that the Bulls will listen to trades for all three of these players in the coming weeks? No. Not at all. But I don’t necessarily need that to be the case to feel at least a little better about the future.

All I need is for this Bulls’ front office to show that they understand this current iteration of the team isn’t the right one. Whether that be moving more marginal talent like Coby White, Andre Drummond, and Goran Dragic to begin restocking assets or trading a big fish like Vucevic because they have no plans to re-sign him, I just need to see the process of change start. Then, if you want to make the biggest moves in the offseason, be my guest.

Self-acceptance is the first step. The front office needs to come to terms with the fact that they failed. I can promise them that admitting this and pursuing change will win them a lot more fans than standing by a sinking ship. I get that giving up on something only a year and a half in may come with its criticism and skepticism. But I can almost guarantee that there will be fewer critics now than there would be if they hold out hope for another whole year.

The most admirable thing about this front office when they took over was that they weren’t prepared to tolerate mediocrity and losing. It’s time to make that known again.

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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