The Chicago Bulls Made Draft Night Interesting Then Made the Next Five Years Uninteresting
Is there any hope for parody in the NBA?
The top of the NBA draft was largely predetermined, thanks to months of professional in-depth analysis and the prophetic Lavar Ball. After pre-draft deals from the Sixers, Celtics and Lakers had been finalized, the top three picks at least, were set in relative stone. Once Philadelphia had secured the number one pick, they were locked in on Markelle Fultz. The Lakers, upon dealing DeAngelo Russell to the Nets seemed set on Lonzo Ball, but, they really had no choice because Ball was destined prenatally to be a Laker. The Celtics meanwhile, having stashed another first rounder to use in the construction of their okay-it’s-2020-and-LeBron-is-finally-old-now-so-lets-take-over-the-east team, were primed to take Jayson Tatum. And that’s what happened.
The draft is the draft. If you’re involved, you either might get picked, know someone who might get picked, are paid to cover it or are a serious hoops nerd. The kind of hoops nerd who enjoys debating how good Luke Kennard a.k.a. “The White CJ Miles” can actually be or whether the kings got more value from the 15th and 20th picks than they could have with the 10th pick. Which is all well and good. But none of that is the type of stuff that creates Twitter shockwaves. And those are what normal, sane people, care about: Twitter shockwaves.
Then the Bulls. The ‘we’re-going-to-run-and-gun-wait-no-we’re-going-to-sign-old-guys-who-can’t-shoot’ Bulls. The TNT Bulls. The insta-grouchy Bulls. The Cameron Payne ‘truther’ Bulls. The Paul Zipser emergence Bulls. The Robin-Lopez-will-swing-on-you Bulls. Decided to make Twitter shockwaves. Actually they decided to trade Jimmy Butler (their one and only blue-chipper) AND THE 16TH PICK, to the guy they fired two seasons ago (Tom Thibodeau) in exchange for a bag of wet socks (read: Chris Dunn and the 7th pick Lauri Markkanen) and Zach Lavine. Twitter shockwaves followed.
The trade set what was otherwise a pretty regular draft night abuzz. The storylines were like glacial rivers in June; clear, abundant and raging…
Thibs Gets Revenge! The Wolves are Ready to … wait for it… Make Some Noise in the Playoffs! Warriors Have New Conference Foe! Minnesota Finally has On-Court Leadership it Needs! How Will T-Wolves New Big Three Gel? Great Chicago Fire Ravages United Center!
It was draft day ecstasy for hoop-heads.
But the come down came swiftly and achingly.
In the second round, the “Great Chicago Dumpster-Fire Bulls” sold the 38th pick to the Warriors for 3.5 million dollars. The move was designed — presumably — to save money with which to buy-out the old guys they signed in last season’s antique shopping spree.
“What’s the big deal?” you might ask. The big deal is that suddenly, the best NBA basketball team ever assembled — the team that needs nothing other than cheap, athletic depth to ensure their manifest destiny of league-wide domination for the foreseeable future — was able to buy their way into the draft and get exactly that.
With the Bulls’ pick, the Warriors selected a guy named Jordan Bell from the University of Oregon. He can do stuff like this:
It was as if the Bulls realized how bad they were going to be for the next handful of years and said, “Fine, then nobody else gets to win either (pouty face).”
Suddenly, the hope that defined the night was squished like peanut butter and jelly between the bread of Joe Lacob’s sandwich. The realization that next year’s NBA champions — and the next year’s, and the next year’s, and the ne… were all but crowned was a sobering and hollow one. It felt a lot like the overwhelming feeling that takes hold when you realize that in five billion years, we’ll all be dead and none of this will matter.
That can be a debilitating and soul-crushing thought.
Until you realize, that you have roughly 79 years of (free) life that you can fill with all sorts of wonderful and fulfilling things like watching Russell Westbrook play basketball, and friendship, and wondering if Jae Crowder uses his hair as a counterbalance with which to calibrate his three-point shot, and listening to Walt Frazier style and profile, and watching the human-inspirational-meme Isaiah Thomas go ham against the Wizards with a fake front tooth, and following Joel Embiid on Twitter, and watching Russell Westbrook play basketball.
It all depends on how you perceive it.
The ‘Podfather’ Bill Simmons, may have provided the best reminder of why we shouldn’t throw our TV’s away and move to the woods just yet. On his podcast last week with Malcolm Gladwell, he said:
Here’s what I take solace in, and I would urge everyone to remember this: The NBA has been at this point so many times over the years, where we’ve looked at a team and we’re like, ‘Oh my god, nobody is gonna beat them. What do we do?’ That’s happened. It happened multiple times in the ‘80s… after the ’86 finals people were like, ‘What are we going to do. How do we beat [the Celtics]? They’re bigger than everybody. They have Larry Bird. They have the number two pick coming. This is impossible.’ And we’ve seen this happen… two or three times a decade. Shaq and penny looked invincible. Shaq and Kobe in the 2000’s — when they won in 2001 and they went 15–1 in the playoffs, all of us were like, ‘The decade is screwed. It’s over. What do we do?’ So, you know, the forces of the NBA that make it so compelling include injury luck — which hits everybody, egos, the salary cap, guys just not getting along. There’s a lot of things that could happen so I would urge everybody not to write the decade off yet.
Maybe Bill was just trying to keep his readers from tuning out from The Ringer, or maybe he’s right, or maybe both.
Either way, his point is worth considering. The NBA is dynamic. The same dynamic nature of the league that lead to the Twitter shockwaves of draft night and the ensuing come down after pick #38 is why the Warriors are far from guaranteed anything. Except for next year’s championship. Probably. That seems pretty guaranteed. But still!… you never now!
This is the NBA. In the words of brand ambassador extraordinaire, Kevin Garnett, well, I’ll let him say it…