Do Bulls have a brighter future than their rebuilding peers?
The Bulls could help cement their status as kings of the East's least by beating New York on Saturday.
They have a 14-6 record against the other lottery teams in the Eastern Conference. Overall, they're stuck on one victory against a team with a winning record and that came against an extremely short-handed Clippers squad at the United Center on Dec. 14. Bad teams, though, the Bulls can handle, especially in the East.
They should enjoy this while it lasts. After Saturday, there are only two games left against non-playoff teams from the East -- home dates with Cleveland and New York. Of the Bulls' final 22 games, 17 feature opponents that are currently in playoff position.
So does beating bad teams mean the Bulls have a brighter future than the rest? Not necessarily, but let's take a closer look at the NBA's rebuilding squads and grade their progress.
Keep in mind, these are teams judged to be in rebuilding mode. Golden State, San Antonio and Portland, for example, are currently in the lottery, but are not rebuilds. Records are through Thursday:
This season hasn't gone well, but it's possible the rebuild would have a completely different vibe without two bizarre decisions -- signing Jabari Parker and then trading him for Otto Porter. Needless to say, the Porter acquisition has been awful. He's played in 24 games for the Bulls at a cost of more than $27 million, and there's another year left on his contract. The Bulls' young group has been decent, but they'll need some veterans on the floor during crunchtime to start winning games consistently. Grade: C+
The Wizards made some interesting moves, hanging onto all-star SG Bradley Beal, grabbing some versatile frontcourt players and could be ready to challenge for the playoffs if John Wall comes back healthy next year. One downside -- Washington has a ton of payroll invested in the Wall-Beal backcourt. Those two are set to make a combined $84 million in 2022-23. Grade: B
The Hornets have a pretty good young team, but you have to wonder if the upside is limited. Second-round pick Devonte Graham has been their best piece and head coach James Borrego looks like a good one. Charlotte went all-in on a young lineup right away, but does have a point guard in Terry Rozier who played in the Eastern Conference finals twice with Boston. Grade: C+
A few years ago, the Pistons were planning to build around C Andre Drummond and PG Reggie Jackson. They just gave away both guys and decided to start over. They'll get a high draft pick, but a long-term rebuild doesn't make sense when Detroit has 30-year-old Blake Griffin locked in for a couple more years. Grade: D
This is another awkward roster. The Cavs have a couple of former all-stars in PF Kevin Love and C Andre Drummond, along with a couple erratic young guards in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. The Cavs could definitely use someone to stabilize the backcourt. Grade: D+
New York (17-42)
Free-agent addition Julius Randle has been good and SG R.J. Barrett is the third-leading rookie scorer. The problem is, the Knicks don't have much else. The three-headed point guard of Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Nkilitina has floundered, while last year's top pick, Kevin Knox, has been a bust so far. There is lots of cap room, though. Grade: C-
Trae Young was an all-star starter, PF John Collins is positing good numbers and unlike the Bulls, Atlanta has eight wins over teams with winning records. So there's a lot to like about the Hawks. They ditched most of their veterans, which hurt the overall record, and the jury's out on rookies DeAndre Hunter and Cam Reddish. They also traded for currently-injured ex-Rockets center Clint Capela. Grade: A-
The Grizzlies' progress can be traced mostly to having a healthy Ja Morant, so give a check mark for lottery luck. But Memphis has another solid rookie in forward Brandon Clarke and a second-round success story with Dillon Brooks. The Grizz sacrificed some depth to gamble that injured SF Justise Winslow will be a good third wheel, so a fade is possible this year. Grade: A
De'Aaron Fox definitely has all-star potential, but SG Buddy Hield isn't playing well and PF Marvin Bagley III is always hurt. The Kings could make a run for the No. 8 seed in the West, but it feels like this team needs another dynamic piece. Grade: C
The Suns did a lot of things right. They settled on Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre as the main rebuilding pieces and brought in veteran PG Ricky Rubio to provide leadership. Phoenix seems to be struggling with how to best integrate second-year C Deandre Ayton, while injuries to Dario Saric and Frank Kaminsky hurt the depth. Grade: B
GM Gersson Rosas executed one of the all-time midseason makeovers, adding D'Angelo Russell from Golden State, among many others. The Timberwolves are now starting Nuggets castoffs Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez, and made rookie Jarrett Culver go to the bench. Minnesota has lost 18 of the last 19 games Karl Anthony Towns has played in, but he hasn't gotten on the floor with Russell yet. Grade: C
Bulls game dayBulls game day
Bulls vs. New York Knicks, 4 p.m. Saturday at Madison Square Garden
TV: NBCSCH • Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The Knicks (17-42) are riding a six-game losing streak. ... The Bulls' first trip to New York back on Oct. 28 helped set the tone for a disappointing season. The Bulls led by 18 points after one quarter and were still ahead 98-90 with 3:33 left in the game, then watched the Knicks finish with a 15-0 run. ... Ex Bulls PF Bobby Portis sparked the rally with his 3-point shooting and finished with 28 points. He's scored more than 20 just twice all season, however. ... New York's top scorer is PF Julius Randle at 19.2 ppg, followed by rookie SG RJ Barrett at 13.7 points. ... Former Bulls PF Taj Gibson missed Thursday's loss to Philadelphia with back spasms.
Next: Dallas Mavericks, 7 p.m. Monday at the United Center
-- Mike McGraw