Plenty of good Bulls were never meant to last

DeMar DeRozan's run with the Bulls officially came to an end Monday.

It included a disproportionate amount of late-game thrills, but just one playoff series.

No one can say DeRozan didn't give his best effort in Chicago. He became the first player in NBA history to hit buzzer-beating game-winning shots on consecutive days, both on the road, both bringing the Bulls from behind. He also delivered the stunning eight-game streak of 35 points on 50% shooting in 2021-22.

DeRozan went to Sacramento in a sign-and-trade not because the Bulls didn't need him, but because they gave too much money to too many lesser players. An NBA youth movement usually turns out better with a positive role model in the room and DeRozan did a nice job of leading some improved teammates last year.

Many have said it was time to blow up the roster and start over. That's actually a myth. How many recent NBA champions bottomed out in order to become Finals contenders?

Boston, no. Denver, no. Golden State, not really, but the Warriors did dip into the lottery a couple of times due to injuries. Milwaukee, no. The Lakers, yes — they had three straight No. 2 overall picks from 2015-17. Toronto, no. Then we're back to Golden State again.

There's nothing to suggest the Bulls are doing the right thing by moving on from DeRozan. Maybe it will pay off with a chance to draft future Duke sensation Cooper Flagg. But keep in mind, the NBA's worst team has just a 14% chance of landing the top pick in the lottery.

It's not even clear if the Bulls will be able to commit to a full youth movement, since Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig are all still on the roster — making a combined $93.7 million this season, which is the real reason DeRozan had to go.

But let's not make this another “If only the Bulls were competent” column. The goal is to summarize DeRozan's brief, entertaining legacy in Chicago.

Ranking him among the best Bulls players is pointless. There are the championship Bulls and everyone else. He couldn't possibly have made a greater impact than Horace Grant or Steve Kerr.

The non-Jordan years get pretty ugly. There have been 45 of those and the Bulls have made it to the conference finals just 3 times. There's the 1970s nucleus with Jerry Sloan, Bob Love and Norm Van Lier. Then the Derrick Rose MVP squad of 2011 with a popular supporting cast.

So probably the only way to celebrate DeRozan's legacy with the Bulls is to anoint him captain of the prolific group that spent three seasons or less in Chicago.

There's actually a strong competition for the No. 1 spot, but we'll give it to DeRozan based on his leadership skills. Here's a not-very-well-thought-out ranking of the Bulls' Three Years or Less Club:

1. DeRozan; 2. Dennis Rodman; 3. Pau Gasol; 4. Alex Caruso; 5. Ben Wallace; 6. Elton Brand; 7. Wilbur Holland; 8. Jalen Rose; 9. Ricky Sobers; 10. Dwyane Wade; 11. Ron Artest; 12. Antonio Davis; 13. Kyle Korver; 14. P. J. Brown; 15. John Salmons; 16. Pete Myers; 17. Ronnie Brewer; 18. Ron Mercer; 19. Donyell Marshall; 20. Robin Lopez; 21. Kris Dunn; 22. George Gervin; 23. Larry Hughes; 24. Larry Kenon; 25. Omer Asik.

It shouldn't have ended like this, DeMar, but at least you are now part of an esteemed group of ex-Bulls.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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