Bulls end season with loss, ready to resume the process of winning
The Bulls were able to check off one historic milestone Wednesday without it getting in the way of the team's goals.
Lauri Markkanen set the franchise record for most 3-point baskets by a rookie and the Bulls didn't lose any ground in the race for draft position by losing 119-87 to Detroit in the season finale at the United Center.
Markkanen knocked down his third 3-pointer of the night early in the third quarter to give him 145 on the season, one more than Kirk Hinrich collected in 2003-04.
Markkanen moved into a tie for 12th place among all rookies in NBA history with Brandon Jennings and O.J. Mayo. Two current rookies have knocked down more 3-pointers than Markkanen -- Utah's Donovan Mitchell and the Lakers' Kyle Kuzma.
The Bulls didn't want to risk Markkanen moving any higher on the list. After the Bulls trimmed Detroit's 16-point halftime lead to 8, Markkanen took a seat for the rest of the night. He finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds in 22 minutes of action.
With the loss, the Bulls should reach another important milestone. With a young nucleus in place and two first-round draft picks on the way, they should get back to trying to win, starting tomorrow.
"We put that work in, we get the chemistry, there's no reason why we can't make that jump," Zach LaVine said in the locker room. "I'm not saying we should be competing for championships next year or anything like that, but no reason we shouldn't be at this time next year in that playoff hunt."
Obviously, draft position was at stake Wednesday. By losing to the Pistons, the Bulls (27-55) assured themselves of no worse than the league's seventh-worst record. If Sacramento beat Houston in a late game, the Bulls would move into a tie with the Kings for the sixth-worst record.
In the case of a tie, the two teams will split lottery chances equally and a random drawing would determine which team gets the higher pick if neither moves into the top three. The draft lottery will be held in Chicago this year on May 15.
The pick the Bulls received from New Orleans in the Nikola Mirotic trade could be anywhere from 20-23, since the Pelicans will finish in a four-way tie at 48-34 with the Pacers, Thunder and the Jazz-Blazers loser.
So, what did the Bulls accomplish this season besides landing a probable top-10 draft pick?
It's fair to say this was a good season for player development. The most promising performance was by Kris Dunn, who went from possible bust as a rookie in Minnesota to an apparent difference-maker during the Bulls' 14-7 surge in December and January.
Markkanen has some unique talents and had a chance to be very good. LaVine had some good moments after returning from ACL surgery. Two recent first-rounders, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine, made significant improvement this season.
"I think we could have three potential all-stars here," LaVine said. "Lauri's talent is going to be crazy. That kid's good."
Coach Fred Hoiberg mentioned a couple times on Wednesday he expects plenty of continuity with next year's roster. He was asked before the game if he's on the same page as management regarding the state of the rebuild.
"We've had conversations all throughout the year," Hoiberg said. "It's been great with John (Paxson) being on the road with us a lot this year. We've had meetings a lot as a staff and talked about what we've liked and what we haven't and how to improve on those things. The communication has really been good this year as far as what we're trying to accomplish and the goals moving forward."