Bernstein: Bulls Season Is Ending – What Was That?

Bulls coach Jim Boylen
Photo credit Kamil Krzaczynski/USA Today Sports
(670 The Score) The hamster wheel stops Wednesday night, with the Bulls having expended plenty of energy to remain pretty much where they began and still hoping to luck into improvement.

A bizarre chapter of another ongoing attempt at rebuild will conclude at an uncertain proximity to winning another NBA championship, after 82 games of ostensible development devolved into end-of-roster tryout camp for G-Leaguers. The fact that it wasn't even a full-blown tanking effort just makes it all the more strange, with the Bulls unable to secure the best possible draft lottery odds even as they start a collection of ciphers and vagabonds here at the bitter end.

They fired a coach to replace him with a stronger authority figure who could impose order and a winning culture based on defensive discipline. What we now know most about Jim Boylen is that his tactical chops are at best a work in progress, his team's defensive rating is an NBA sixth-worst 112.6 and he's more of an emotional evangelist than he is a manager or strategist, heart permanently on sleeve during games and after them as he waxes about spirit and purity of soul. 

Count me underwhelmed on this part of the experience, very much unsold on Boylen and bearish on his future as a head coach here or anywhere else. It doesn't bode well that in the recent players' poll conducted by The Athletic, Boylen was runner-up for "Which coach would you not want to play for?" He earned 21.1 percent of the vote to finish only behind Tom Thibodeau at 34.6 percent. So a headwind in free agency is already clear.

That was the process that resulted in the Jabari Parker fiasco, a confounding decision that appears rescued by the trade of him and Bobby Portis to Washington that brought Otto Porter Jr. to Chicago. The acquisition of Porter is probably the biggest single positive of the entire campaign, happening upon a core piece of whatever might be good next.  

It's also nice to know that someone other than Kris Dunn is the future lead guard, with some veterans available to pair with Zach LaVine as he continues to learn how to think the game like a star scorer. Meanwhile, Wendell Carter Jr. will start next year almost back at the beginning after his untimely thumb injury. We know little more about him that we did months ago.

Lauri Markkanen was hurt, then healed and playing at a high level, then fatigued and shut down. He remains a foundational element but took no incremental step forward.

So four Bulls players really matter right now, with all kinds of questions about their future growth together still entirely unsolved. We've no idea how or even if this collection of youth and skill will coalesce, not with the apparent commitment to a coach still trying to figure it all out as he goes, not without knowing who the primary ball-handler is supposed to be and having no idea if they will pick first or eighth in June.

That's all we have of significance at this point. Zion or Ja or somebody else, with most of the action since October turning out to mean little.

The 2018-'19 Bulls season is a thing that happened.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​