In all, the Chicago Bulls are having one of the most disastrous seasons in the history of the franchise. Even considering that the post-Jordan era has brought some miserable basketball to Chicago, this season has been one of the worst. However, since the trade deadline, the Bulls have seen a small resurgence. Seeing that there is not much left for them to play for this season, what has caused this spell of good basketball?
Since the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 7 the Bulls have posted a record of 8-6. For this Bulls team, that is an incredible run especially considering they have picked up wins against the 76ers and the Nets. This is the same team that went 2-16 over their last 18 contests before the trade deadline.
A turnaround like this in such a short period is not the product of just one change, but a few that have coincided.
Even the six losses the Bulls have acquired in this stretch have been good, hard-fought losses, Something unheard of during their atrocious stretch between Christmas and the trade deadline. They were blown out on numerous occasions during that stretch. Since the deadline, they have only had one such loss and it was their most recent against the Pistons. The Bulls have lost two games since the deadline to the Bucks, who have the best record in the NBA. Their other losses, against the Pacers, Pistons, Hawks, and Wizards were all single-digit losses. However, the scoreboard does not tell the entire story.
The Bulls have been on a tear lately averaging 117.7ppg in their last 12 games, fourth in the NBA, with a net offensive rating ranking seventh in the league.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 8, 2019
The attitude of the players on the court has seen a dramatic change. During their losing streak, the Bulls looked like boys playing against men. From the opening tip, they knew they were going to lose, that they played like it. Their attitudes were horrible, and every day there was a new story in the media about how the locker room was in turmoil.
Now, the Bulls are more confident than ever. Players look like they enjoy playing together. Lauri Markkanen and Zach Lavine have surged to be one of the best backcourt-frontcourt duos in the league throughout their stretch. Robin Lopez has enjoyed a resurgence as well, scoring in double digits in eight of his last ten games. The Bulls are playing with pride again, and that has made a tremendous difference in the final lines.
It looks like the Bulls have the cornerstones of their rebuild. https://t.co/i4dyvWjM2b
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) March 9, 2019
Most obviously, the addition of Otto Porter Jr. can be pinpointed as the event that transformed the Bulls from possibly the NBA’s worst team, to perhaps the NBA’s most dangerous non-playoff team. Since his transition from the Wizards, Otto Porter Jr. has scored in double digits in 11 of the 13 games he has appeared in, dropping 20 points or more four times. His scoring presence has wholly transformed the Bulls offense. He has been the sharpshooter from deep that the Bulls have lacked this season, and that has caused defenses to have to guard him on the arch. Since joining the Bulls, Porter has shot an impressive 49% from 3-point range. Because of this, driving lanes that were nowhere to be found previously have opened up for the likes of Lavine and Markkanen. Unlike with Chandler Hutchison, defenders can no longer crash and double team Lopez when he catches the ball in the post because they have to respect the threat of a dish out to Porter on the arch.
The leadership of a young veteran in Porter has been instrumental in the development of the Bulls even younger core, as well as helped glue the locker room back together.
Despite a horrendous start to his head coaching career, Jim Boylen has seemed to pull in the reins on the team. A locker room ready to stage a mutiny against their new head coach is seemingly starting to fall in line behind him. During their losing stretch, Boylen was under an immense amount of heat from the players, media, and fans. However, winning can cause memories to be short. With the Bulls looking sharp, the same groups who repeatedly called for Boylen’s job have begun to see him as a suitable coach.
"I'm starting to like him (Jim Boylen)."
– @BarstoolBigCat on ESPN 1000
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) March 7, 2019
Without the pressure of the playoffs looming over them, the Bulls look like they are having fun playing basketball. After the firing of Fred Hoiberg, the entire Bulls franchise felt like they needed to right the ship, and fast. This may be the first time since his firing that the team has felt like they didn’t need to prove anything to anyone but themselves. With expectations low, Chicago has seemed to embrace their underdog mentality and begun to play basketball again. Without outside pressures, the team is having fun again, and it is showing on the court. The press is not reporting on any locker room drama and fans are no longer berating them for being an embarrassment night in and night out.
The Bulls team pre-trade deadline and post-trade deadline are the same in name only. The style of their play and the way they are carrying themselves is unrecognizable from the sorry excuse for an NBA team that disgraced the court every night before the deadline. Now, the Bulls look strong, and with a high lottery draft pick coming this offseason, if the Bulls can continue to play like this throughout the remainder of the season, there will be much hope for the 2019-20 season.