Tanks for nothing: As hard as Bulls have tried, they just can’t lose enough

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Forget the tank.

Remove the idea of DeAndre Ayton or Marvin Bagley wearing red and white, racing down the floor on the break with Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen trailing.

But give the Bulls’ front office a golf clap. Vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman tried their best. Holding LaVine out as long as possible in his rehab from knee surgery? Genius. Trading shooter Nikola Mirotic and getting a first-round pick in return? Steller. Cutting the minutes of veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday in the final 25 regular-season games for Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne? Desperate, but at least well thought out.

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Unfortunately, it all will be for naught.

The Bulls have two major obstacles in their hopes of landing in the bottom four of the league standings: One, the trio of Markkanen, LaVine and Kris Dunn is too talented to play awful basketball. Two, there are at least seven other teams better at being worse than the Bulls.

It’s simple math. The Bulls are 20-37, eighth from the bottom in the NBA. The Suns and Hawks are tied for last at 18-41 and playing bum basketball at its finest.

On the surface, dropping three games in the standings to have the most balls in the lottery seems doable. But looking at the Bulls’ schedule, it really isn’t.

They have three games left against the 19-40 Nets, two against the 18-38 Grizzlies and two against the 24-33 Hornets. They also have single games against the 18-40 Mavericks, 23-36 Knicks, 18-39 Magic and Hawks.

That’s 11 games against teams that seem to have the same mission statement.

Factor in catching a team like the Pistons or Heat on an off night, and at least seven more victories are out there for coach Fred Hoiberg to put on his résumé.

Last season, a 27-55 record would have put the Bulls fourth from the bottom, but this season is different. The bottom of the league is a cesspool of bad basketball, and the Bulls just can’t keep up.

“We’re not out here to lose games, man,’’ LaVine said recently. “Sorry, that’s not how we’re wired in this locker room.’’

So say the Bulls stay the course and finish with the eighth-worst record. What does that mean?

According to tankathon.com, the Suns have a 60.3 percent chance to land a top-three pick and 22.5 percent chance to land the first pick. The Hawks have a 60.1 percent chance to get a top-three pick and 22.4 percent chance to grab No. 1. The Bulls are at 9.9 percent to get a top-three pick and just 2.8 percent to get the top pick.

No worries, you say? After all, the Bulls defied the odds in 2008, landing the No. 1 pick despite a 1.7 percent chance. A pick that became Derrick Rose.

Mathematically, the lottery gods have a small chance of smiling down on the Bulls twice.

So which players could be available around the eighth pick?

The Bulls are looking at Mikal Bridges, Mohamed Bamba or, if they get lucky, Jaren Jackson Jr.

What they have on their side is the Pelicans’ first-round protected pick, which is at No. 16. Could they package the eighth and 16th picks to move up to seventh or sixth? Absolutely.

But they’ll have to wait and see.

The reality is that the tank is dying a slow death.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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