In pretty bad news for Bulls fans, All Star wing Zach LaVine will have to miss time after entering health and safety protocols.

The timing couldn’t be worse for the Bulls. Chicago has lost four games in a row, falling to 10th in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They went all-in at the trade deadline, dealing for another All Star in center Nikola Vucevic, a move that seemed to indicate confidence in the team’s ability to build around their current core. That made some sense at the time; things had clearly trended up for the Bulls thanks to replacing Jim Boylen (abysmal) with Billy Donovan (fine), LaVine’s progress to one of the top scorers in basketball, and general improvement in other parts of the roster.

Making the play-in tournament for seeds 7-10 felt like a very achievable goal, and it wasn’t impossible that with the addition of Vucevic the Bulls could challenge for the 6-seed and avoid the play-in games altogether.

Instead, though, they’re just 4-12 in their last sixteen games, and they sit four games back of the ninth-place Pacers, and just a game up on both the Raptors and Wizards for the final play-in spot in the East. There are only 18 games left in the regular season, but assuming LaVine misses even the minimum amount of time and continues to test negative himself, the Bulls play four games in the next seven days.

If Chicago tumbles out of the postseason completely, the value of the 2021 first round pick the Bulls sent to Orlando in the Vucevic deal increases exponentially. It’s only top-four protected, and the Magic could be looking at a pick in the 8-10 range unless the Bulls found some lottery luck and moved up to the top of the draft. That’s a nightmare scenario for the Bulls front office, and it’s not even really that farfetched at this point depending on LaVine’s return and whether the team can break out of their slump.

About Jay Rigdon

Jay is a writer and editor for The Comeback, and a contributor at Awful Announcing. He is not a strong swimmer.