The Chicago Bulls snapped a brutal, 11-game home losing streak tonight, clobbering the Memphis Grizzlies 122-110 at the United Center. The Bulls ‘improved’ to 14-44 with the win.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) February 14, 2019
Otto Porter Jr., who came over to the Windy City with his hefty contract from Washington in the trade that sent Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker to the Wizards, led all scorers with 37 points on 80% (!) shooting from the field. He also grabbed 10 rebounds. Simply put, he was fantastic.
Don’t look now, but ever since that trade, the Bulls are 2-2. They beat Brooklyn on the road in the first game after the trade, and then lost two close ones to the Wizards and Milwaukee Bucks before beating the Grizzlies tonight. And in each game, Porter Jr. has played well. He has shot the ball very well and scored no less than 17 points. Tonight was his best performance.
But here’s where I’m confused — wasn’t this trade supposed to cement the Bulls as legitimate contenders to secure the best odds to draft Duke standout Zion Williamson this summer? Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the Bulls are very much a rebuilding team. They have an intriguing core that hasn’t been able to play much at all together due to injuries. But still, they have work to do on the roster — work that was supposed to get easier with someone like Williamson.
But here we are — The Bulls have beaten a decent Nets’ team, fought hard against an elite Bucks’ team and now beaten the Grizzlies. If all had gone according to plan, Chicago would’ve been 0-4 in their last four games; instead, they are 2-2. Those two wins have pushed the Bulls from third-worst in the NBA to a comfortable fourth-worst. Their chances to land the ultimate prize, Williamson, have dwindled significantly.
There is still some talent to be had in the upcoming NBA draft (such as Williamson’s Duke teammates — R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish), and I will leave the detailed prospect analysis to my more NBA-knowledgeable colleagues at Sports Mockery. But Williamson is the ultimate, unanimous prize. And the Bulls have hurt their chances at landing him with these wins.
On the bright side, Porter Jr. and the Bulls have made themselves an entertaining watch again the last few games. And Porter Jr. certainly looks like he can be a piece of the larger Bulls’ puzzle moving forward. That’s encouraging, and refreshing, to see.
But now, the question becomes: Because of these victories, how good will that larger Bulls’ puzzle ever end up being?
Dhruv Koul covers his favorite Chicago sports teams for Sports Mockery. Follow him on Twitter @DhruvKoul to continue the conversation.