Why tanking probably won't help the Chicago Bulls' rebuild
With the All-Star Game upon us and just 25 games left in the NBA regular season, there's nothing particularly puzzling about the Chicago Bulls.
The best news is they've gotten positive returns from their three main rebuilding blocks -- Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. Now they're hoping to add to that nucleus with two first-round draft picks in June.
Some have implored the Bulls to lose as many games as possible in order to improve their chances of getting a higher draft pick.
So maybe it's time for another reminder: Don't bother trying to lose games. It won't matter. Lottery picks are typically used on one-and-done college players, whose NBA success is difficult to predict.
If the season ended today, the Bulls would choose No. 8 and either 16 or 17, barring some extreme lottery luck and pending the results of a New Orleans-Denver coin flip. The Bulls will have a chance to draft good players with both of those picks. Whether they hit or miss is up to them, for the most part.
One part of this logic is if the Bulls have a good thing going with the LaVine-Dunn-Markkanen trio, don't mess it up by trying to lose. Those three have played in the same game just three times this season, and those were LaVine's first three games back after recovering from ACL surgery.
The other point is draft position has little to do with adding quality players.
The 2017 draft is a perfect example since the two best players right now -- Utah's Donovan Mitchell and the Lakers' Kyle Kuzma -- were chosen No. 13 and 27, respectively.
If the 2013 draft was done again, Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo would be a no-brainer for the first pick and he was chosen 15th.
In 2014, the Bulls traded picks 16 and 19 to get Doug McDermott. It turned out the player chosen at 19, Denver's Gary Harris, has been better.
Even when the top pick produces the draft's best player, there's no guarantee that prize will turn your team into a championship contender. Case in point, Karl Anthony Towns in Minnesota.
The best thing the Bulls can do in the final 25 games is build a little momentum with their rebuilding trio.
If all goes well, they could head into next season with a game plan of trying to win. They'll be able to keep building with the two new first-round draft picks, two sizable expiring contracts in Robin Lopez and Omer Asik, plus cap space to spend in 2019 free-agency.
Coach Fred Hoiberg has talked about giving some guys at the end of the bench more playing time so the team can judge their value. But, realistically, whom do the Bulls really need to see besides Cam Payne, who is ready to play after foot surgery, and newcomer Noah Vonleh?
The next 25 games aren't going to definitively decide whether Paul Zipser can be a helpful NBA player. Whether Cristiano Felicio plays or not, the Bulls are pretty much stuck with him after giving him a four-year deal worth $32 million.
The best performing role player right now is Bobby Portis, who has been the Bulls' third-leading scorer since Nikola Mirotic was traded, averaging 13.9 points. Denzel Valentine has shown some nice improvement, but he still runs hot and cold. He admitted after Wednesday's loss to Toronto the all-star break is coming at a good time.
Jerian Grant generally did a nice job as backup point guard. As a starter, he doesn't seem to run the offense as well as Dunn. David Nwaba technically is a second-year player after getting called up from the G-League to the Lakers last season, but he seems to be hitting the rookie wall.
Portis, Valentine and Nwaba figure to stick around. Zipser is under contract next year at a low price. The Bulls probably will be on the lookout for a more experience backup point guard, but there's no reason to rush.
The Bulls could give shooting guard Antonio Blakeney more NBA opportunities. The two-way player leads the G-League in scoring at 28.2 points per game. He has played in 12 games for the Bulls and hasn't had the same results.
The race for the NBA's worst record is tightly bunched among the bottom eight teams. If the Bulls happen to win a close game against Atlanta or Brooklyn in the next few weeks, don't be alarmed. It's not going to matter.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls