Coby White could deliver some mojo again. Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen could continue their progress after returning from injuries. Zach LaVine, well, could be Zach LaVine.
There would certainly be basketball-related benefits if the Bulls wind up one of the teams invited to conclude the NBA’s 2019-20 season in Orlando, Fla.
Having the new management regime watch players in live action and avoiding a nine-month layoff between games should the league begin the 2020-21 season on Christmas Day (as the current scuttlebutt says), represent a few.
But all those positives pale to one significant potential drawback, safety concerns (of which there are many) aside: jeopardizing the Bulls’ draft lottery position.
With the league set for another Board of Governors call on Friday as it nears proposing a suggested return-to-play policy, finalizing the format for the draft lottery is one of many fluid situations. Nothing is yet guaranteed other than — bad joke alert — the Bulls drafting seventh.
Indeed, when COVID-19 shut down the sports world in mid-March, the Bulls ranked seventh in the draft lottery standings. That translates to a 32 percent chance at a top-four pick and a 7.5 percent chance at the No. 1 pick.
And while that doesn’t translate to a 100 percent chance at the seventh pick… Man. That the Bulls currently sit No. 7 — where they have drafted White, Wendell Carter Jr. and acquired the rights to Markkanen over the last three drafts — feels twistedly poetic.
Simply put, weak draft or not, a higher pick is more beneficial to the new front office regime than some fluky playoff run. Sorry, Jim Boylen.
Think about it: Say the league invites the top 24 teams to Orlando and the Bulls, currently 11th in the Eastern Conference, make the trip. The best case scenario? The Bulls get hot, build up a bit of good will and, who knows, maybe even advance a round. But their long-term fates don’t change. And if the NBA eventually models a revised lottery formula for this season in a manner similar to the NHL — which awards lottery odds to teams excluded from their play-in round, and teams that are eliminated in the play-in round, regardless of regular season standing — it could hurt their chances at a higher pick significantly, if not erase them entirely.
To be clear, there is currently no indication of the NBA molding its own lottery formula after the NHL’s. In fact, there is nothing concrete on that front to report at all.
Still, for a team mired in a rebuild that needs to maximize its assets, the above would not be a good development.
And all of that’s without mentioning the flipside of a potential trip to Disney World for the Bulls. What if more than a month of potentially high-risk travel and training to retake the floor results in a quick flameout — or merely a handful of meaningless regular season games? Any evaluation that could be conducted over that period, which would be colored by the unprecedented circumstances at hand, simply isn’t worth the cost.
So be careful what you wish for, Bulls fans. Yes, everybody is starved for basketball. And, yes, the Bulls were supposed to be done tanking a while ago.
But this is one time when not getting invited to the party could be a good thing.