I've been an advocate of the Bulls missing the playoffs and getting the lottery pick. The weakness of the East means any team missing the playoffs is likely going to land a top 10 selection in the draft. In a deep draft like this grabbing a Paul George or Klay Thompson (both #10s) seems more likely than in a typical draft.
That said, whether the Bulls can accomplish the task of being bad enough may be proven out over the next week when the Bulls face a group of teams presently sitting along the bottom of the East.
The Bulls play five games in seven nights against some of the worst competition in the East. It kicks off tonight with the Milwaukee Bucks (4-16), followed by a game tomorrow in New York against the Knicks (5-14). The Bulls then play a road game against the Bucks on Friday, host the Raptors (the juggernaut of the group at 7-12) on Saturday, and the Magic (6-15) on Monday.
Seven days. Five teams. Collectively a 35% winning percentage the Bulls are going up against for five games. The Knicks would love to trade places with the Bulls in the standings and be 8-10, sadly, I'd love to trade places with them too since our management wasn't stupid enough to dump all of its long term picks away and could capitalize on that record.
When you look at how bad the East is, the Bulls are going to struggle to miss these playoffs, and they certainly aren't going at it with the zeal that I would. Chicago's best hope at missing the playoffs lays with the Nets and Knicks pulling their collective heads out of their ass because those teams have no benefit to losing.
Everyone was praising the Nets this summer, and I thought the Nets might have quite a team this year, but I noted that they were completely screwed in the long term. You think things are grim as a Bulls fan, imagine you were a Nets fan.
2014 1st: You get the worst of your pick, Indy's pick, and Atlanta's pick.
2015 1st: You get the worst of your pick or Atlanta's pick
2016 1st: Gone
2017 1st: You get the worst of your pick or Boston's pick
2018 1st: Gone
Effectively, locked out of quality first rounder for the next five years, no young talent, and a team that's among the worst in the NBA. Good luck Brooklyn.
The Bulls, meanwhile, may be down this year but have all the pieces to put it back together and become a great team again. For all the complaining about not making impact moves, Brooklyn proves why these "impact" moves can often lead to horrific results. The Nets made the type of splash many Bulls fans want, but put themselves in a position to be the worst team in the NBA with absolutely no hope whatsoever for the next half decade.
The Bulls have been far more conservative and while luck has gone against them in this run of Derrick's career, the team is still positioned to have significant influxes of new talent over the next few years. If they can understand this season is effectively over and make sure to land in the lottery and get a return on Deng, they'll be quite well positioned.
What happens in the next week will go a long way towards deciding that. If the Bulls win three of five games, it's going to push them back much closer to .500 and make it much tougher to fall out of things. If they drop four of five, they may or may not fall in the standings but as the schedule toughens they won't have picked up any ground in the softest part of the schedule.