Give the Chicago Bulls credit for trying, at least. In an NBA world defined by teams either trading away all of their picks or hoarding everyone else's, they strove for a middle ground. Rather than give up all of their draft equity for a single star, they spread a healthy amount across several players. Two picks for Nikola Vucevic. One for DeMar DeRozan. Some role players for Lonzo Ball. The idea was deceptively simple: if everyone else is going to sell out for two or three great players, we can corner the market and flawed but good ones.
For a moment, it seemed as if they might've found something. Chicago held the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference for significant chunks of last season. DeRozan looked like an MVP candidate. The best version of the Bulls presented a viable alternative to the NBA's great binary. They didn't tank for stars and they didn't exactly trade for them either. They traveled to the island of misfit basketball players and returned with a surprisingly coherent team.
We know how the story is going to end because we got a preview of it last season. Superstars create a margin of error that the Bulls simply didn't have. A rash of injuries limited Chicago to 46 wins a season ago. Denver won 48 games without Jamal Murray or Michael Porter Jr. because winning any fewer with Nikola Jokic is essentially impossible. The Bulls have no such player, and their margin of error is therefore razor thin. Knock a few Jenga pieces out of place and the whole tower comes crumbling down.
Ball hasn't played this season. It's not clear when he will. Vucevic was an All-Star in Orlando and is more like a league-average starting center in Chicago. A year after shooting 53.5 percent in the clutch, DeRozan is at roughly 35 percent this season. Chicago went from one of the NBA's best late-game finishers to an 0-7 clutch record thus far this season. Taken individually each of these issues are surmountable. Together they make a rather precarious situation increasingly untenable. The cracks are already beginning to widen.