Bulls Bucks Basketball

Nikola Mirotic, right, returns to the Bulls this season.

Tom Lynn, file, Associated Press

The Blackhawks did it, the Cubs did it, the White Sox are doing it, the Bears are thinking about doing it and the Bulls have finally joined the ranks of taking their lumps early while eyeing the future.

"Rebuilding" is a dirty word in professional sports.

Team owners prefer to avoid it because they lose big money selling an inferior product. Fans loathe it because no one wants to sit through games holding their nose.

Well, they may open windows at the United Center if the Bulls are stinky bad this season, as predicted.

ESPN.com's Basketball Power Rankings rate them as the NBA's worst team entering 2017-18.

Bleacher Report has them finishing 15th, dead last, in the Eastern Conference at 20-62.

In the famous words of football coach Jim Mora: "Are you kidding me? Playoffs?"

Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, general manager Gar Forman, new special adviser Doug Collins and coach Fred Hoiberg have their work cut out, like eating soup with a fork.

Twenty wins might be too kind for a team that went 41-41 a year ago.

Are we rushing this a bit? No way. Monday is Bulls Media Day at the Advocate Center.

Three of their projected starters — Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Paul Zipser — have totaled 2,177 career minutes between them. Eighty-one players in the league logged more than that in 2016-17 alone.

Of the 17 players on the Bulls' preseason roster, 12 are listed as guards.

Zipser, Justin Holiday and Denzel Valentine are the closest thing to a small-forward rotation.

Fading star Dwyane Wade, 35, is a $24-million buyout waiting to happen and was barely tolerated by his younger teammates last season.

He plays no defense and is limited in minutes.

Reaching an agreement with restricted free agent Nikola Mirotic might tack on a few extra wins if he's not pigeonholed at small forward.

The Bulls were 29th in 3-point attempts, 28th in 3-pointers made, and 24th in 3-point accuracy last season.

Mirotic is supposed to be a 3-point threat but to earn the big money he wants, must improve on his 34.2 percent shooting and play serious defense.

Averaging 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game in 24 minutes of play doesn't scream out "superstar — pay the man!"

The Bulls' 104.6 points per game was 21st in the league and that was with Jimmy Butler, who took most of the shots.

Who's the go-to man now?

Zach LaVine could be the guy but is still recovering from knee surgery. Robin Lopez is solid at center but not the scorer brother Brook is. Maybe it's Bobby Portis, who was spectacular at times in 2016-17.

We'll get some answers at media day and let you know.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

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