Following his first NBA trade deadline as a lead executive, Arturas Karnišovas pondered a question about the short- and long-term impact of his significant changes to the Bulls.
“We’re serious here about winning,” Karnišovas said on March 25 after adding five new players headlined by All-Star center Nikola Vučević. “We’re serious about the culture of being very competitive. And any opportunity we get to make this team better, we will.”
Ten games don’t define a day that was as much about what other changes are coming this offseason as it was to try to improve the Bulls’ playoff positioning this season. But 10-game segments matter. Coaches and executives often use them to look for trends, analyze analytics and take stock of teams.
Following the Bulls’ third straight loss, a 101-90 fourth-quarter fade to the Grizzlies in Memphis, the Bulls are 3-7 since Karnišovas’ active day.
Nine of the 10 games have been on the road. Seven of the 10 came against opponents either in playoff positioning or just outside it and, like the Bulls, in play-in contention. That included games against conference leaders in the Jazz and Nets, the latter representing one of the victories.
Zach LaVine missed one game. Daniel Theis missed two. Practice time has been scarce.
Head coach Billy Donovan has consistently talked about the almost complete offensive overhaul in terms of style of play, while citing season-long issues of turnover and fouling at the defensive end.
It’s a lot.
But the record still raises questions about what has plagued the new-look Bulls over their first 10 games together -- and where the frustration level is. After all, following a night the Bulls uncharacteristically missed 26 of 31 3-pointers, they now sit five games behind the eighth-place Knicks, 3.5 behind the ninth-place Pacers and just 1.5 ahead of the 11th-place Raptors.
That sixth seed Thad Young talked about in the wake of the trade? That’s 5.5 games away.
“It’s just upsetting,” LaVine said. “We know we’re a better team now, and we just got to start figuring it out.”
Donovan cited a lack of consistency.
“We were really good defensively (Monday night.) But you know we weren’t really good less than 24 hours ago (vs. the Timberwolves),” he said. “The one thing I’d say about the group is anytime you try to put things in front of them they have to do, I think they really work hard and they try to do it. But our consistency has been a challenge in terms of having those levels of habits.”
Theis, who has played on playoff teams in Boston, agreed.
"Every night we have one category I would say we don't perform well,” the veteran big man said. “One night it's turnovers that cost us a game. [Sunday], we didn't get to the line a lot. [Monday] we didn't shoot the ball well from 3. Now we got to put together a complete game. If we play defense like [Monday] and we make our shots, we're gonna win games.”
In the 10 games since the trades, LaVine is averaging 24.4 points on 44.1 percent shooting with 5.8 assists. Vučević is at 21.8 points on 50.3 percent shooting with 9.7 rebounds.
Thad Young and Coby White also have averaged in double figures since the trade deadline. But Lauri Markkanen is averaging just 9.8 points on 50.7 percent shooting -- yet just 7.1 shots per game -- in his new reserve role. That included his first scoreless game of his career Monday night on a career-low three shots.
Team-wise, the Bulls rank 20th in offensive rating at 110.5, 22nd in defensive rating at 114.5 and 22nd in net rating. In short, they have a lot to clean up at both ends.
“Nothing is really easy. You got to figure it out. No one is going to care or feel bad for you,” LaVine said. “Good teams figure out how to win. We’re just not there yet.”