CHICAGO – Was it the boldest expectation given to a particular team in the franchise’s history? No.
Was it a bit high, considering what happened the year before, and the lack of an elite acquisition to justify it? That’s probably accurate.
“We think we can compete, and when you can compete at a high level, you have the ability to be a playoff-caliber team. We set that as a goal,” said Paxson at media day on September 30th.
Halfway through the season, the Bulls have looked far from a playoff team, even if they’re still in the hunt thanks to thanks to the parity of the Eastern Conference.
After a loss to the Celtics on Monday, Jim Boylen’s team sits at 14-27 on the season and currently five games out of the last spot in the conference. That belongs to the Brooklyn Nets at the moment, and they sit three games under .500 at 18-21 at the moment.
Consistency all-around has escaped the Bulls, who’ve yet to put together three-straight wins this season and have only won back-to-back contests twice over the course of 41 games. Only once this season, on December 14th against the Clippers, have the Bulls defeated a team with a winning record, losing every other contest before or after to a contending team.
At the end of 2019 and the start of 2020, the Bulls have endured their worst stretch, losing eight of their last ten games including six-in-a-row before finally beating the Pistons on Saturday evening. Their offense has struggled most of the season, with their 105.7 points per game average ranking 25th in the league, and the team has endured a number of struggles in the clutch that have cost them victories in the fourth quarter.
There have been a few bright spots, including the play of Zach LaVine, who is making his case for a spot in the NBA All-Star Game. He’s averaging 24.5 points per game but has turned up his play as of late, getting 30.1 points a contest while shooting 47.4 percent from the field in the month of January. LaVine currently is fifth in the Eastern Conference All-Star voting for guards but could get a nod as a reserve.
Guard Kris Dunn has embraced his role off the bench and has been at or near the top of the NBA in steals all season. He’s currently averaging two per game, which is second-best in the league behind Ben Simmons of the Sixers.
But ups and downs have been the theme for the rest of the roster along with the team, who has to deal with another month without Wendell Carter Jr. in the lineup following a severe ankle sprain. There are 42 games left for the Bulls to start showing if they can fulfill the goal set forth by Paxson at the beginning of the season, but they’ll have to correct a number of issues before doing so.