On paper, it appears the Bulls are in the midst of a somewhat usual three-game losing streak that occurs in the throes of an 82-game season.
But things could be much more critical, and the front office must consider the crossroads the franchise is in.
Last year is over, and when the Bulls failed to show up for the second half of Game 6 in the Eastern Conference semifinals at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers, their best chance with the core being constructed as such likely went up in smoke with it.
The theories and finger-pointing has been entertaining, if not fruitless in the time since, as the same participants have deflected attention or tacitly stated the issue lies in other directions.
But none of that matters now, as the Bulls are in the one space teams aspire to get to, but hate staying in beyond a short period of time: the no-man’s land of contention.
Good enough to be better than the also-rans, talented enough to be ensured of a playoff spot in an improved Eastern Conference but not good enough to be feared by the true championship contenders.
Many have asked if the Bulls are the scintillating bunch that can win six straight, showing offensive efficiency to Fred Hoiberg’s intended desire or if they’re the seemingly lifeless bunch that doesn’t look very happy to play with each other consistently, and can’t sustain the proper mental concentration over a 48-minute game.
The uncomfortable answer: They’re both, which makes things that much more difficult for Gar Forman and John Paxson leading to the trade deadline a little over a month away.
When you’re good enough to pull off wins against the best of the best, it’s seduces many into believing this momentum can be carried into June because when called upon, championship-style teams have fallen to your talent and continuity.
But there’s fewer games against the Spurs or the Cavaliers in the regular season and more against the likes of the Wizards or the Pistons or Bucks or Hawks, where consistency is formed.
Where a championship is forged, along with championship habits, which the Bulls don’t appear to have 37 games into the season.
Aside from Jimmy Butler and on occasion, a healthy Derrick Rose, there aren’t any other impact players on the roster, someone who can have a tangible effect on games consistently from a ball-handling position.
And how comfortable will the Bulls be with their swingmen headed into the playoffs being Tony Snell, Doug McDermott and presumably, Mike Dunleavy coming back off a back injury at his age, after the all-star break, which by proxy is after the trade deadline.
The team is built around Rose and Butler being stars for the Bulls to have a chance to overtake Cleveland, as long as LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving don’t get hurt.
James, Love and Irving are three impact players, with Tristan Thompson capable of winning a playoff game of his own with his offensive rebounding, and J.R. Smith capable of doing the same with a hot streak of shooting (although he can give one away, too).
By this count, that’s five potential impact players with your biggest rival, to one and a possible for the Bulls, assuming the two parties actually meet in the conference finals as-is.
And if you’ve played a game of spades, a guarantee of one book doesn’t leave you feeling very confident.
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Which leaves the Bulls in a spot where change is necessary and seems likely to happen, deemed by the contract situations of Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and even Taj Gibson.
Noah will be an unrestricted free agent and Gasol has already told CSNChicago.com a few weeks ago that opting out is likely, even though one would say it’s a near certainty Gasol goes for his last payday approaching at age 36 come July.
Their contracts just so happened to be up at the same time, so it wasn’t some oversight from the front office that the two centers could very well leave Chicago for another city after the season.
And they have acquired a surplus of bigs, particularly with Bobby Portis having earned more minutes with his play—except there aren’t any minutes to have, and one can see him rushing to produce because he knows there’s likely one stint in the game plan for him with things laid out as such.
If they can acquire a decent swingman or at worst a shot creator, maybe Trevor Ariza away from Houston, or even take a chance on the likes of Phoenix's Markieff Morris or even Memphis' Jeff Green, maybe things can tilt a bit toward the Bulls’ favor.
Identifying the need for change is the easy part. Knowing what parts to change is where the curiosity about the remainder of this Bulls season begins.
Winning is fragile, so for all the Bulls’ inconsistencies, there’s a belief the players will get it together and continuity and familiarity will win the day, especially over the course of an 82-game season.
Making personnel changes requires the acknowledgement that the assembled roster isn’t good enough for compete for a title, and that taking a temporary step backward for the greater good is best.
Anybody with a set of eyes can tell this roster isn’t tailor fit to Hoiberg’s preferences, but it likely will be over the next couple of years where the front office brings in players to switch gears of a different kind of roster, and a different kind of philosophy.
The change will likely happen sooner than later, but to what extent?