Bulls executives John Paxson, left, and Gar Forman

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Bernstein: Bulls Got Out-Tanked

The No. 7 pick will bring a consolation prize, not a transformational star.

Dan Bernstein
May 16, 2018 - 2:07 pm
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By Dan Bernstein--
670TheScore.com senior columnist

(670 The Score) ​​So there it is, seven months of Bulls basketball reduced to pretty much nothing. Their whole season was about this chance to find the guy who could be The Man, galvanizing the rebuild that was embraced when Jimmy Butler was dealt for youth and hope.

And the prize for it all now looks like consolation.

The star player who will eventually carry the Bulls back into contention isn't coming from the No. 7 pick that the Bulls were awarded at the NBA Draft lottery on Tuesday night, the fact that Lauri Maarkanen overachieved from that slot notwithstanding. In fact, touting the surprise value discovered in last year's pick only serves to remind us of the prevailing truth that most great ones don't fall to there and are much more difficult to procure.

He may not have come from the top three or four either, but that doesn't change that the unstated but widely understood goal of 2017-'18 was to be drafting there for a better shot at a transformational talent. All that "give opportunities to the young players" and "we have to see what we have" stuff was code for keeping the chance for losses as high as possible, easily enough interpreted by the league office to draw warnings for the appearances it made so obvious.

The Bulls blew it, and we knew that they were blowing it when they were rattling off wins, and we said so at the time, that the team was valuing relatively meaningless short-term feelings about outcomes over getting closer to winning a championship. They rationalized it by claiming that young players had to learn to win, and it showed the league some kind of plucky indomitable spirit or something, and all it got them was a worse player. Nobody is really going to care about those December victories that too many enjoyed.

This was all so simple, but other teams did it better. The Bulls now can cross off the 2018 draft as a chance to find the best player on their envisioned competitive team and now must explore other means, like writing checks or making more deals. It can still be done.

But that part of the plan didn't work, as they were beaten in the race to close enough to the bottom. What was the point?

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein. ​​