On Sunday primetime television, the Chicago Bulls played the worst half of basketball we’ve seen all season. In the first quarter, they scored nine points. By halftime, they trailed, 46-26, which is the fewest points in a half all season. It felt like they should have been down by twice that.
Technically, the Bulls are still in a playoff race — after spending much of the season within the upper half of the Eastern Conference, they entered Sunday one game back of the No. 8 seed. But predictions site FiveThirtyEight gives them a 33 percent chance of making the postseason, and with the way Chicago is playing, it feels like that chance is much closer to zero.
You can tell by Dwyane Wade’s answers like this one after the game that the players feel it and are frustrated, too.
“I wish upper management could be answering these questions because I'm tired of answering the same ones every game,” Wade said in the same interview. “I don't know. I wish I had the answer, I don't ... I just want to get out there and try to play, try to lead. And try to find a way that me and Jimmy can be better to help these guys.”
There may not be a way to do that. Don’t worry, though. The Bulls don’t really deserve to be in the playoffs anyway.
The Bulls’ offense never made any sense.
Everyone questioned the Bulls’ spacing from the moment they added Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo last summer. Here’s a visual representation of why it’s a problem.
The Bulls are pulling off the terrible three-point shooting trifecta — they make the fewest threes (6.8), take the fewest (21.1), and shoot the lowest percentage (32.3 percent). Not every team needs to be the Warriors or the Cavaliers with their three-point shooting, but the Bulls are so bad behind the arc that there’s simply no room for Wade or Jimmy Butler to operate.
(Then again, it says something that the league’s top two teams also top the league in three-point shooting, doesn’t it?)
Chicago’s offense is 24th-best in the league, and you can mostly thank Butler’s individual excellence for it not being even worse. When the Bulls hired Fred Hoiberg two seasons ago, they brought him in knowing his success at Iowa State came from pace-and-space offenses — and then they’ve forced him to coach personnel that doesn’t fit his schemes at all.
“A lot of people have a lot of things they can say about Fred as a coach, but I will defend him on this: This is a tough situation he's put in right now,” Wade said in the same post-game comments. “That's why sometimes I'm glad I'm on this side of the coin. I'm glad I got a jersey on; I don't have to make certain decisions, because it is tough.”
This doesn’t completely absolve him from blame, but it’s also not helping.
How much are Chicago’s veterans even trying anymore?
It may end up that Wade left Miami, only for his new team to miss the playoffs while his old team unexpectedly charged in and grabbed the final spot. That said, despite Wade and Butler jointly ripping their teammates back in January, Wade isn’t blameless. This right here isn’t playoff-worthy defense.
Dwyane Wade prepared and ready for the afternoon start pic.twitter.com/6JL0nmOegM— BullsBlogger (@BullsBlogger) March 12, 2017
This isn’t postseason effort, either.
Not a single Bull follows Jimmy on the break. pic.twitter.com/SVhaeoAvbi— BullsBlogger (@BullsBlogger) March 12, 2017
If Wade, who makes the pass to Butler, runs through the play, he has an easy putback. Instead, it’s Boston’s ball back the other way after a Celtic comes from out of bounds to collect the bouncing ball.
So no, Wade doesn’t have any room to call out his teammates.
The Bulls are fine right where they are: rebuilding outside of the playoffs.
Chicago has some fun young players, like Denzel Valentine, Cristiano Felicio, and Paul Zipser. They dealt for Cameron Payne at the deadline in exchange for Taj Gibson, who didn’t factor into the long-term plans. It might actually be time to trade Butler and start fresh next season, adding another lottery pick to the equation in this summer’s draft, plus whatever haul comes with a Butler trade.
Still, it’s hard to be too optimistic given the Bulls’ current management, which fans are literally revolting against with organized protests.
If nothing else, that nine-point first quarter was incredibly representative of where the franchise is right now.