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The Chicago Bulls are no disappointment if you expected their 2022-23 season to be similar to the post-Lonzo Ball portion of last season when they went 19-23 with a minus-3.6 net rating after They lost combo guard on Jan. 14. Sitting on the fringes of the play-in mix and often playing the most listless basketball you can find, this year’s team comes with a “yeah, that’s about right” vibe .
The Bulls wanted a lot more than that, however. This team, designed to score in heaps and win short-term, gave up two first-rounders and Wendell Carter Jr. to add Nikola Vucević at the 2021 trade close signed a 32-year-old DeMar DeRozan to a three-year, $81.9 million contract the following offseason and maxed out Zach LaVine last summer. Those moves made Chicago’s intentions crystal clear, even if outside observers couldn’t look at that list and see more than a .500 team.
LaVine herself set the expectations Media Day: “We are a team that maintained a top record in the east until after the AS break, got a place in the playoffs and got wet feet. If we’re not playing for the championship, we’re selling ourselves short.”
Aging, nowhere near contend for a championship and short of the draft picks that would normally provide escape routes for an underdog, the Bulls have one of the bleaker mid-term prospects in the league. That being said, this was easy to spot from the vooch trading moment. If this outcome seemed inevitable to anyone who was paying attention, is it really disappointing?
Los Angeles Lakers
You could cut and paste much of the previous Bulls section, swap Russell Westbrook’s trade for Vucević’s, and end with a similar conclusion: The Los Angeles Lakers had no reason to believe they would compete this season, and so they did it. She hasn’t disappointed anyone who has thought about her prospects.
Even LeBron James and Anthony Davis’ injury woes were relatively easy to see coming. They’ve both missed a lot of time over the past two years and now James will miss at least a couple of critical weeks with a foot injury.
The deal, which jettisoned Westbrook and a lightly protected first-rounder from 2027, brought back three starters that address real shooting, athletics and playmaking needs. It was hard to see LA scare anyone with Dennis Schroeder, Lonnie Walker IV and Troy Brown Jr. flanking James and Davis. D’Angelo Russell (fortunately whose ankle injury isn’t serious), Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, but? These three give the Lakers a puncher chance against most opposing first units.
In a macro sense, the situation in Los Angeles is certainly a bummer. James’ heyday is still ticking off, though it lasts longer than any in history. The sand trickle in the hourglass may be exceedingly slow, but those grains are still falling and the Lakers are unable to make a final title run. But if anything, based on what the 2022-23 roster looked like, this team could exceed expectations. That’s why they don’t have a place alongside the five teams in our current ranking.
Pelicans from New Orleans
The New Orleans Pelicans teased us by storming to the top in the west and clinching a top 3 playoff spot as late as the last week of January, making their dodgy play-in ratings disappointing in comparison. But for a burgeoning team whose season has been marred by poor health, the highs count for more than the lows.
It wasn’t realistic to see the Pelicans as real competitors – not with so much youth on the roster and not in a conference that, despite parity, has many more experienced and cohesive teams. That New Orleans looked like a real threat for nearly three months makes 2022-23 more of a success than a failure.
Zion Williamson’s right thigh injury, which will mean he is likely to miss more than half of the season, is undoubtedly a concern. Add this to previous issues with his right knee and right foot and you have what may be the latest entry in a frightening kinetic chain collapse. From this perspective, the season of the pelicans could well be described as a disappointment. Nothing is as important as Williamson’s health as he has proven that his presence on the floor elevates the team to a level they cannot achieve without him.
From an optimistic perspective, however, there has been more good than bad from New Orleans this season. While the final record won’t be as stellar as it seemed possible if the team was traveling high and healthy, at least we learned that the Pelicans have the talent, coaching, and competitive demeanor to make some noise going forward. .. if health permits.