Bulls changed philosophies, now will they start winning?

During the Bulls' busy off season, there was talk about whether they collected too many players who need the ball in their hands or paid too much for DeMar DeRozan.

But that's really beside the point. Things won't be perfect, because Arturas Karnisovas had his work cut out trying to send the Bulls on a transition from laughing stock to a team that's actually trying to be competent.

The Bulls as a franchise embraced being bad, but not bad enough to land a top-five draft pick. Four years ago, Bulls management looked out at the 20,000 fans that filled the United Center every game and decided to reward them by embarking on a 1980s-era philosophy of building through the draft.

The $82 million they had to pay DeRozan? It's called a "Loser Tax." That's the cost of convincing a legitimate NBA player to help clean up the pile of garbage that had been building on Madison Street instead of taking the midlevel exception from the Heat or Clippers.

DeRozan's primary job is to rub off on Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball, two guys who have never played for a winning team in the NBA. If all goes well, LaVine and Ball might be teaching future teammates how to win.

Or best case scenario, they'll be successful enough to convince other free agents to come aboard. You don't compete with NBA super teams by collecting No. 7 draft picks.

So what if DeRozan isn't a perfect fit? Who else were the Bulls going to get to fill that role? A mentor is exactly what LaVine has needed, and DeRozan is arriving just in time, because chances are after the season, LaVine's agents will be asking for more money than the Reinsdorf family refused to pay Jimmy Butler in 2017.

Coby White and Patrick Williams will miss training camp with injuries and that's not ideal, but it doesn't really change the dynamic. The Bulls will begin practice Tuesday with three all-stars (LaVine, DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic), a player who won an NBA title (Alex Caruso) and another who has been to the Finals (Derrick Jones Jr.).

The NBA is about collecting talent and counting on those players to figure out what it takes to win. If that means sacrificing individual stats for some of them, well, that's the challenge at every level of basketball.

It's possible the Bulls might lack defensive proficiency or they're undersized on the front line. The goal is to make the playoffs, challenge for a top-four seed in the East, be competitive most every night. It's a big jump from where they were, which was trying to be bad, then counting on guys like Jabari Parker and Otto Porter to teach an advanced class in NBA success.

Coach Billy Donovan worked with superstars in Oklahoma City, then transitioned to dealing with a younger group last year with the Bulls. This season will bring a different type of challenge, a mix of young and old, winners and non-winners, but much more talent than the Bulls have had in a few years.

Putting a competitive team on the floor is no cause for congratulations, but at least the Bulls finally realized trying to be bad was getting them nowhere.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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