Brace yourselves to be disappointed by Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, Bulls fans.
Be ready to feel like flipping the channel as soon as ESPN shows another team getting the first or second pick. Or feel like flipping off Bulls management, out of habit.
Every outlet in Chicago happily keeps reminding us the Bulls have a 12.5 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick. What typically goes unsaid is they have an 87.5 percent chance of not getting Zion Williamson. Realism isn’t the opposite of optimism — only its enemy.
What fun it would be to be stunned the way everyone was 11 years ago, when the Bulls had only a 1.7 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick that would allow them to draft Derrick Rose, and incredibly, the pingpong balls bounced their way. How monumental an ordinary weekday in May would become if the Bulls woke up Wednesday in position to draft Williamson, who will change the NBA overnight. But as Bulls executive vice president John Paxson advised in April, “luck and hope are not a strategy or a plan,” so adjust your expectations accordingly.
Yes, defying the odds and drafting Williamson could put the Bulls back on a championship arc. That’s the easy part of the exercise, letting the heart overrule the head and arguing over the best ways to use Williamson, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. on the floor at the same time. That’s the most entertaining aspect of the Bulls offseason so far, imagining how Williamson would energize a fan base that hasn’t been the same since Rose blew out his knee in 2012. That’s the dream that has made so much tough reality tolerable for months, our local zeal for Zion.
READ MORE: The Bulls rebuild would be accelerated with a little draft lottery luck — but ‘luck and hope are not a strategy or a plan’ »
Just keep in mind that if math prevails and the Bulls miss out on Williamson or point guard Ja Morant at No. 2, losing the 2019 lottery doesn’t mean it’s already time to start planning for the 2020 lottery. No matter what happens Tuesday night, nothing changes about the Bulls needing to be good next season. The playoffs should remain the goal in 2019-20 no matter how the pingpong balls bounce.
But it isn’t just about the lottery. The Bulls need to stay healthy to get back in playoff contention. If they can, the core — Markkanen, Carter, Zach LaVine and Otto Porter Jr. — gives them reason to believe they could flirt with a .500 record in the Eastern Conference. And the No. 8 seed in this year’s playoffs, the Pistons, finished 41-41. The No. 7 seed, the Magic, improved 17 games from last season. The Bulls, 22-60 in a season full of injury and ineptness, could make a similar leap with good health and a smart plan for free agency.