Welcome to the Eastern Conference, where aiming low is the trend and where misery loves company.
The Bulls spent the summer building a roster that had cellar-dweller written all over it. At least in most offseasons it did, but this wasn’t your typical NBA offseason.
With the league tweaking its lottery rules, this will be the last time the worst record earns the most Ping-Pong balls in the hopper. And the Bulls aren’t the only team trying to take advantage.
The bottom of the East looks like the G-League, starting with the Nets. They acquired D’Angelo Russell to build around and will roll him out with DeMarre Carroll and Jeremy Lin.
Not to be outdone, the Hawks will march out point guard Dennis Schroder and hope that rookie big man John Collins continues to develop.
The woeful Knicks finally picked a lane, moving on from Carmelo Anthony and deciding to build around Kristaps Porzingis.
And the Pacers basically gave away Paul George this summer and will give the Bulls a serious run for worst in the East.
So where exactly do the Bulls fit in all of this?
Likely in last place, just as general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson envisioned when they jump-started the rebuild by trading Jimmy Butler.
By the end of the season, Zach LaVine will be the best player on the roster. The problem is that LaVine is recovering from ACL surgery, and the Bulls are in no hurry to get him out there.
Second-year point guard Kris Dunn is a work in progress, and rookie Lauri Markkanen is about to go through some serious growing pains playing the four and five off the bench. Markkanen is talented and will be a huge piece moving forward, but he’s still only 20.
On top of being young, the Bulls have two key cards to play if they need to get worse, with Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday as potential trade candidates if it means collecting more draft picks.
It sure looks and feels like a 20-win team, and Gar/Pax have every intention of keeping it that way in 2017-18.
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PREDICTED ORDER OF THE NBA BOTTOM
5. New York Knicks
4. Atlanta Hawks
3. Indiana Pacers
2. Brooklyn Nets
PREDICTED ORDER OF THE EASTERN CONFERENCE REGULAR SEASON
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Boston Celtics
3. Washington Wizards
4. Milwaukee Bucks
5. Miami Heat
6. Toronto Raptors
7. Charlotte Hornets
8. Philadelphia 76ers
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Cavs over the Celtics in five
ALL-EASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM
G – Kyrie Irving – BOS
G – John Wall – WASH
F – LeBron James – CLE
F – Giannis Antetokounmpo – MIL
C – Hassan Whiteside – MIA
ALL-EASTERN CONFERENCE SECOND TEAM
G – Kemba Walker – CHAR
G – Kyle Lowry – TOR
F – DeMar DeRozan – TOR
F – Kristaps Porzingis – NYK
C – Myles Turner – IND
EASTERN CONFERENCE HONORS
MVP – LeBron James – Cleveland
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Ben Simmons – Philadelphia
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – Jayson Tatum – Boston
COACH OF THE YEAR – Brett Brown – Philadelphia
COACH ON THE HOT SEAT – Mike Budenholzer – Atlanta
MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER – Justin Holiday – BULLS
MOST OVERRATED PLAYER – Kyrie Irving – Boston
BIG-NAME TRADE CANDIDATE – Jahlil Okafor – Philadelphia
PREDICTED ORDER OF THE WESTERN CONFERENCE REGULAR SEASON
1. Golden State Warriors
2. Houston Rockets
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Oklahoma City Thunder
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
6. Portland Trail Blazers
7. Utah Jazz
8. Los Angeles Clippers
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Warriors over the Rockets in five
Warriors over the Cavaliers in seven
ALL-WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM
G – Stephen Curry – GS
G – Russell Westbrook – OKC
F – Kevin Durant – GS
F – Kawhi Leonard – SA
C – Karl-Anthony Towns – MIN
ALL-WESTERN CONFERENCE SECOND TEAM
G – Chris Paul – HOU
G – James Harden – HOU
F – Jimmy Butler – MIN
F – Paul George – OKC
C – DeMarcus Cousins – NO
WESTERN CONFERENCE HONORS
MVP – Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City
COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Tony Parker – San Antonio
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – Dennis Smith Jr. – Dallas
COACH OF THE YEAR – Tom Thibodeau – Minnesota
COACH ON THE HOT SEAT – Alvin Gentry – New Orleans
MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER – Damian Lillard – Portland
MOST OVERRATED PLAYER – Carmelo Anthony – Oklahoma City
BIG-NAME TRADE CANDIDATE – DeMarcus Cousins – New Orleans