The Bulls fans’ guide to tanking over the last 21 games of the regular season

Coach Fred Hoiberg is holding out hope that his young Big Three can figure it out in the last 21 games.

The Bulls’ fan base is OK with Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn figuring it out going into next season, especially if it means a higher draft pick in June.

RELATED STORIES
With Big Three intact, Bulls overwhelmed by Hornets for fifth consecutive loss
Bulls beware: NBA commissioner Adam Silver issues stern warning on tanking

“They hopefully will get it going on the same night,’’ Hoiberg said after the Bulls’ 15-point loss Tuesday in Charlotte. “It hasn’t happened yet, but they’re obviously fully capable of doing that.’’

They likely are, but the people who actually want that to happen in the next five weeks are a small minority.

Management showed its hand out of the All-Star break in benching Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday. The Bulls have lost four in a row since, but almost no ground has been made up in the tanking ranks.

Digest this number for a moment: The eight bottom teams entered Wednesday a combined 1-41 in their last 42 games. Two of the teams — Memphis and Phoenix — are on 10-game losing streaks.

Bulls fans should forget about falling into the bottom five of the draft lottery. It’s not happening without some lucky bouncing balls.

So here’s the Bulls Fans’ Guide to Tanking for the last 21 games:

Whom to cheer for

1. Obviously, whoever is playing the Bulls: The losing streak is up to five, but the team still sits in the No. 8 spot in the battle for last place.

2. Whoever is playing New Orleans: The Bulls acquired the Pelicans’ first-round pick in the Nikola Mirotic trade, and while it’s protected if it falls in the top five, New Orleans has actually won six straight to make it the 20th pick overall for now. Unacceptable. The Bulls need the Pelicans to hit hard times and fall out of the playoffs.

Five Bulls who matter, in order of importance

1. Lauri Markkanen: The big man shot only 18 percent from three-point range in February.

2. Kris Dunn: His improvement in his second season has been eye-opening.

3. David Nwaba: When Nwaba plays well, the Bulls are usually in games. Time to think about an extension for him.

4. Zach LaVine: The knee is holding up, and the rhythm is coming back. Just get out of the season healthy.

5. Bobby Portis: The third-year big man has established himself as a legit weapon off the bench.

Five Bulls who have nothing left to show

1. Robin Lopez: He’s a nice trade chip to have going into the offseason because of an expiring contract.

2. Justin Holiday: See Robin Lopez.

3. Cristiano Felicio: Great for tanking, but he’s a fringe NBA player.

4. Jerian Grant: He already has shown that he’s a better option than Cameron Payne as a backup to Dunn.

5. Fred Hoiberg: The third-year coach has the ears and eyes of the players.

The three college players to watch (assuming the Bulls get the No. 8 pick)

1. Michael Porter Jr.: The freshman forward is cleared to practice after back surgery in November but has yet to play in a game. If his health checks out, the Bulls have to hope other teams will be scared off, and he slides.

2. Trae Young: The Bulls have no intention of drafting the over-hyped point guard, but they need another team in front of them to be fooled so that a more talented wing or big man slides down a spot.

3. Marvin Bagley III: Privately, this is the player several members of the organization believe is a better fit with Markkanen. He would give Hoiberg two versatile bigs.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.
Email: jcowley@suntimes.com