Arturas Karnisovas found himself at a crossroads in mid-February.
The Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations watched his product walk in the mud, sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference, and felt like he wasn't getting the trade offer he was looking for as the deadline came and went.
So the decision is made.
“We chose a consistent path with the same group,” Karnisovas said last month.
On Tuesday, a heavy toll had to be paid for that decision.
Hoping to fight the odds like they did in the 2008 NBA Draft Lottery, women's luck did not ring twice, as the Bulls emerged in 11th place, handing a top-four protected draft pick to Orlando for the 2021 Nikola Vucevic trade compensation. That left the Bulls without a pick in the 2023 draft.
Given that the Bulls do not have a second round option due to Jabari Parker's deal with the Wizards in 2019, Karnisovas' focus should now be on finding a deal to possibly return to this draft or more likely start preparing on a free agent.
Either way, the question of how the Bulls roster is handled post-All Star is valid.
First, can Karnisovas sell the likes of Vucevic or DeMar DeRozan to capture the draft assets or more importantly allow the Bulls to sink lower in the standings and increase their chances of jumping into the top four?
It's easy to ask now, but according to Karnisovas, “Obviously you need to know what's available, and if there's no agreement to make this team better, that's a decision we've made and are sticking with.
In Karnisovas' mind, it was a numbers game.
Let's say a decision is made to “rest” a key starter for the final 23 games of the regular season, instead of finishing with 11 games.th the Bulls' poor record would be 8-15 rather than 14-9. Chance to land No. 1 is 9%, not 1.8%.
It's not worth it, according to Karnisovas.
But that leaves the Bulls front office still trying to turn the current roster around, and as of now don't have a draft pick this summer to do so.
Considering they also don't have much hat room, it's time to see how creative Karnisovas can be.
“I'm very hard on myself,” Karnisovas said of turning this list upside down. “I know partnering with (coach) Billy (Donovan), we are very hard on ourselves. We blame ourselves after every defeat, and what we could have done better. I think because of the many close games we have lost this year it is frustrating but I prefer this script to last year when we lost a massive amount to a good team.
“The reason we are trying to stay patient with this team around the trade deadline is because this team deserves a chance to find out. … Even though we failed in the end, that was information for me. I'm continuing to learn things about this group so I can make a better decision when the time comes.”
Will that come at the end of this season or will Karnisovas re-run this core with some changes, and then look to overhaul it during or after the 2023-24 campaign?
Two-time Zach LaVine All-Star is very confident in what he wants to see. With DeRozan having another year on his contract, LaVine thinks the duo still hasn't reached his limit.
“When we both perform,” said LaVine. “We were able to take control of the game. But we just need to do a little more and figure out how to make it a little more winning. I think that's the thing that's been a little bit frustrating for both of us, how can we play better against each other.”