The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The stagnation of the Chicago Bulls should be studied

Maya Oclassen

In a league that has seen more player movement in recent years than ever before, the Chicago Bulls have strategically elected to go back in time, operating like a 1960s powerhouse focused on loyalty and consistency. There’s only one problem: Their only consistency is mediocrity. Will they do anything about this?

At the beginning of the decade, the Bulls sat near the bottom of the Eastern conference standings alongside the Indiana Pacers, their small market neighbor that hadn’t been relevant since their beloved superstar Paul George packed his bags for Oklahoma City in 2017. Both teams were rebuilding, but the Bulls, who finished three games behind the Pacers, had a star in Zach Lavine and traded for Nikola Vucevic midseason. Meanwhile, the Pacers’ star Domantas Sabonis wasn’t bringing enough wins to the team.

In the 2021 offseason, Chicago made two blockbuster moves in August by trading for Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan. In offloading all but one first round pick until 2024, the Bulls had fully bought in to winning an NBA championship. After a great start, however, injuries to Ball, Coby White and Patrick Williams caused the Bulls to fall to the sixth seed in the conference, losing in the first round to the Milwaukee Bucks in just five games.

The next season, they ran it back without Ball (who has not played since 2021) but finished with a losing record despite having two top-15 scorers and the league’s top rebounder in Vucevic. After falling to the Miami Heat in the play-in tournament, fans believed the team would make some moves to improve their chances for the 2023-24 season. Despite these beliefs, the team decided to run it back, and yet again, fell to the Heat in the tournament, missing the playoffs for the second straight year. We come to today, where the Bulls have not made a trade involving a player since 2022, something that is unheard of even for the league’s best teams, which the Bulls are not.

Let’s go back to the Pacers, a struggling franchise that indicated change needed to be made to begin competing. After a rough start in 2021-22 that saw another plateauing season, they traded for their star, Tyrese Haliburton. They then shipped off the aging Malcolm Brogdon for assets they would use for a blockbuster of their own and a diamond-in-the-rough player in Aaron Nesmith. However, they still stalled out, only improving from 13th in the conference to 11th.

Unlike the Bulls, however, Indiana recognized they needed a few more pieces to make it to the top to not stagnate. They got those pieces by trading just two second-round picks for the New York Knicks’ Obi Toppin and snagging former All-Star Pascal Siakam from Toronto. They immediately reaped the benefits from these trades, improving to the sixth seed in the conference and defeating the Bucks and Knicks in the playoffs to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Pacers and their neighbors, the Bulls, were in very similar situations moving into the 2020s, but when things weren’t working for the Pacers, they adjusted before they could get caught in a Chicago-like situation that I personally believed Indiana would end up in before the Haliburton trade. There is some optimism the Bulls will finally move on from one of their two clashing offensive stars, Zach Lavine, in the offseason, but the front office will have to get out of their comfort zone and do something they haven’t in two years: pull the trigger.

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  • C

    ChrisMay 26, 2024 at 9:39 am

    100% agree!! Also study cheap owners vs bad management vs bad coaching…Chicago has had the trifecta going since Jordan left!!SAD SAD franchise! Unfortunately i, like the fans, stay loyal and that might be the worst offense of all!