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Chicago Sun Times
Chicago Sun-Times
21 Oct 2023
https://chicago.suntimes.com/authors/joe-cowley


NextImg:Bulls reside in ‘NBA Hell’ and other predictions for the 2023-24 season

The draft assets for the next few years are dried up, the salary cap for the mediocre product is bumping against the ceiling, and the face of the franchise is making max money with minimal return.

This is the very description of “NBA Hell.’’ A place the Bulls comfortably reside, feet up on the table, beer in hand.

And they’re not alone.

Minnesota, Atlanta, Dallas, Ben Simmons’ Brooklyn team, they share some or all of these stains, and the clean-up in some cases is hazmat-suit worthy.

The question for teams residing in area code 666 is simple: What’s the plan to turn it around and who is accountable?

In the case of the Bulls, “continuity’’ is the plan and all indications are accountability will fall on the players this season.

The front office and coaching staff were quietly extended prior to the 2022-23 campaign, and the Reinsdorfs have taken the stance that executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas walked the organization into the mud and now needs to get them out.

Would making the playoffs for the second time in Karnisovas’ four years on the job be enough? Considering where the bar is set, yes. And there’s no reason the Bulls shouldn’t accomplish that.

The top of the Eastern Conference improved over the summer and could be very top heavy, but there are a lot of flawed teams after Boston and Milwaukee.

The problem is Karnisovas is not only banking on the Bulls’ 14-9 record after last year’s All-Star Break, but is holding onto the idea that they were three minutes away from beating Miami in the final play-in game and look at the run that the Heat went on.

Dangerous thinking considering the Bulls no longer have a Patrick Beverley, and they don’t have anything close to a Jimmy Butler.

“I think for this group we want to get in the playoffs,’’ Karnisovas said when training camp started. “Example last year that once you get in the playoffs, there’s an opportunity for a lot of teams.’’

The Bulls will likely get that opportunity.

However, it doesn’t change where they are. Kick the feet up, pop the beer open. Welcome to “NBA Hell.’’

PREDICTED ORDER OF THE NBA BOTTOM

5. San Antonio Spurs

4. Detroit Pistons

3. Houston Rockets

2. Washington Wizards

1. Portland Trail Blazers

PREDICTED ORDER OF THE EASTERN CONFERENCE REGULAR SEASON

1. Milwaukee Bucks

2. Boston Celtics

3. Cleveland Cavaliers

4. New York Knicks

5. Philadelphia 76ers

6. Miami Heat

7. BULLS

8. Indiana Pacers

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Bucks over Celtics in five

ALL-EASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM

G – Damian Lillard – MIL

G – Donovan Mitchell – CLE

F – Jimmy Butler – MIA

F – Giannis Antetokounmpo – MIL

C – Joel Embiid – PHI

ALL-EASTERN CONFERENCE SECOND TEAM

G – Jalen Brunson – NYK

G – LaMelo Ball – CHAR

F – Jayson Tatum – BOS

F – Jaylen Brown – BOS

C – Bam Adebayo – MIA

EASTERN CONFERENCE HONORS

MVP – Giannis Antetokounmpo – MIL

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Cade Cunningham - DET

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – Ausar Thompson - DET

COACH OF THE YEAR – Tom Thibodeau - NYK

COACH ON THE HOT SEAT – Steve Clifford - CHA

MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER – Nic Claxton - BRK

MOST OVERRATED PLAYER – Trae Young - ATL

BIG-NAME TRADE CANDIDATE – James Harden – PHI

PREDICTED ORDER OF THE WESTERN CONFERENCE REGULAR SEASON

1. Denver Nuggets

2. Phoenix Suns

3. Los Angeles Lakers

4. Memphis Grizzlies

5. Sacramento Kings

6. Golden State Warriors

7. Oklahoma City Thunder

8. Los Angeles Clippers

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Suns over Lakers in seven

NBA FINALS

Bucks over Suns in seven

ALL-WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM

G – Luka Doncic – DAL

G – Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – OKC

F – LeBron James – LAL

F – Kevin Durant - PHX

C – Nikola Jokic – DEN

ALL-WESTERN CONFERENCE SECOND TEAM

G – Devin Booker – PHX

G – Anthony Edwards – MIN

F – Zion Williamson – NOR

F – Kawhi Leonard – LAC

C – Anthony Davis – LAL

WESTERN CONFERENCE HONORS

MVP – Luka Doncic – DAL

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Anfernee Simons – POR

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – Victor Wembanyama – SAS

COACH OF THE YEAR – Frank Vogel – PHX

COACH ON THE HOT SEAT – Jason Kidd – DAL

MOST UNDERRATED PLAYER – Brandon Clarke – MEM

MOST OVERRATED PLAYER – Kyrie Irving – DAL

BIG-NAME TRADE CANDIDATE – Karl-Anthony Towns – MIN