Anyone who spent 88 games since the start of the 2016-17 NBA season watching the Chicago Bulls deserves a medal.
The Bulls' atrocious season came to a merciful end on Friday night, as the Boston Celtics came back from an 0-2 series deficit to advance to the second round of the 2017 NBA playoffs.
The Celtics are a story for another day. For now, we must bury the Bulls.
We knew back in June this team needed to blow it up and start a rebuild. There was no reason to try to compete, other than ownership's pride (and wallet). The Bulls had other ideas, though: They looked at a roster that had little more than Jimmy Butler and decided this was their moment.
This was the season to add Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. This was the season to try to compete with LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers. This was the season to trade Derrick Rose for Robin Lopez and make a playoff push after missing the postseason in 2015-16.
Or so the thinking went in Chicago.
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Granted, that Lopez deal worked out, which was nice for the Bulls — because the rest of this season was a complete waste of time. While other teams lost more games or faced stiffer disappointment, no NBA franchise had a worse 2016-17 campaign than Chicago.
The notion a team needs to compete for a championship or sink to the bottom is overstated in today's basketball environment. There is still value in playing entertaining basketball that thrills your fans and leads to a playoff series or two.
The Bulls, though, managed to find a third option. They never had a chance to compete at the highest level this season. At the same time, they made every game an absolute chore. Chicago looked like a bunch of ragged veterans trying to teach a college team how to play in the NBA — because that's basically what this team was.
Start with Wade, who had the worst season of his career since he was a rookie. He's never shot worse from the field than he did in 2016-17, and he had his second-lowest scoring average and assist rates to boot.
Yet all that would have been fine ... had Wade accomplished what the Bulls expected out of him. They didn't need the alpha-dog version of Wade we saw in Miami a decade ago. They wanted someone to share the burden with Butler and put butts in the seats.
Unfortunately, the Bulls drew 200 fewer fans per game this season than they did last year. So what exactly did adding Wade do to help Chicago?
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But there's no doubt Rondo made the Bulls better. He also turned the team into a soap opera in the middle of the season, and his presence as the starting point guard blocked Chicago from developing anyone for the future.
That's an egregious sin committed by the Bulls in 2016-17. While teams like the Celtics simultaneously vie for the conference finals and give their young players exposure to the pressure-cooker of the playoffs, Chicago only gave its prospects a shot when there was no other option. As a result, they're behind the eight-ball for 2017-18 before the next season begins.
On and on it will go until the Bulls realize they need to hit rock bottom. By then, it will be too late. The Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic and the rest of the NBA's dregs are light-years ahead of Chicago in turning the corner toward a brighter future.
Those are teams who can take a leap over the next three or five years, while the Bulls are left trying to figure out how they went so wrong.
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Which brings us to Butler.
Chicago's 27-year-old leader will be in his prime over the next two seasons — a prime the Bulls will spend trying to find their way. Such a flagrant waste of talent makes makes one's head spin.
With the right complement of players around him, Butler could have led Chicago to a title. In this reality, though, the only way he'll be the best player for a champion is demanding a trade elsewhere.
And no one in the world could blame him if he did. The Bulls did this to him and themselves when they refused to see the writing on the wall.
So good riddance to the Bulls. Instead of a rational year of building for tomorrow, Chicago's entire 2016-17 season was the biggest waste of time in the entire NBA.