The Bulls had no grand plans to be sitting prominently in Tuesday's NBA draft lottery.
Last year's appearance was expected. In many ways, No. 7 pick Wendell Carter Jr. was viewed as the last piece of the June 2017 Jimmy Butler trade. But this year?
Though publicly they muted expectations and preached patience regarding the rebuild, the Bulls' optimism was palpable entering training camp after an offseason of players buying in. Challenging for a low playoff seed in a LeBron-free Eastern Conference certainly seemed possible.
Instead, Lauri Markkanen suffered a serious right elbow injury on the third day of camp, upending the positive vibes and setting the tone for a disjointed, disappointing season in which management fired coach Fred Hoiberg and the victory total dropped by five to 22.
Tuesday night's lottery is the first featuring the league's reform measures, yet the Bulls, at 12.5 percent, own better odds of landing the No. 1 pick than they did last year (5.3 percent).
The Bulls are downplaying their chances to land the No. 1 or No. 2 pick, for which they own a 12.2 percent chance, in an event that is completely contingent on luck. In a Monday morning interview on the "Mully and Haugh Show" on the team's flagship station, WSCR-AM 670, Bulls President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Reinsdorf noted how there's a 51.9 percent chance "that we'll move back from 4."
At his season-ending news conference last month, executive vice president John Paxson said that "luck and hope are not a strategy or a plan" and that "there's always value" in any draft.
While Paxson's second point is certainly true, even the most casual fan knows how much presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson or presumptive No. 2 pick Ja Morant could create a buzz and possibly accelerate the rebuild.
Williamson, the Duke big man, is a generational athlete who would sell tickets with his freak athleticism and highlight-reel dunks and blocks. Murray State's Morant is another dazzling athlete who seems tailor-made to cure the point guard ailments the Bulls have suffered since Derrick Rose descended from his great heights.
In the first year of draft lottery reform, the Knicks, Cavaliers and Suns each have a 14 percent chance for the No. 1 pick, a 13.4 percent chance for No. 2, 12.7 percent for No. 3 and 11.9 percent for the fourth pick. By virtue of having the league's worst record, the Knicks can't drop below fifth.
The Bulls can drop as low as No. 8 and have a combined 44.7 percent chance to draft between sixth and eighth.
Last year the Suns cashed in their 25 percent chance to win the No. 1 pick and selected Deandre Ayton. The Grizzlies, who had a 19.9 percent chance at No. 1, dropped from second to fourth and drafted Jaren Jackson Jr.
The Mavericks, who owned the third-best odds for No. 1 at 13.8 percent, dropped two slots to No. 5. The Hawks, who had a 13.7 percent chance at No. 1, moved up one slot to No. 3. Those teams consummated a draft-day trade involving the rights to Trae Young and Luka Doncic.
The Kings proved the big winners in last year's lottery, jumping five slots to No. 2 and drafting Marvin Bagley III.
Coincidentally, a random drawing had broken the draft-order tie between the Bulls and Kings, who finished with identical 27-55 records in 2017-18. The Bulls won that drawing but then dropped one slot in the lottery and watched the Kings' lucky Ping-Pong ball-combination hit.
The Bulls drafted Duke big man Carter at No. 7 and remain enamored with his potential.
With draft lottery reform in place, Tuesday's results likely won't fall according to record. Some team could make a jump. The Bulls would love to add another Duke big man if they do.