The Chicago Bulls blindsided the NBA world this summer with one of the most active free agency periods in franchise history. After a trade deadline where the new front office acquired Nikola Vučević and sent out five roster members, the organization continued a massive retooling with the additions of Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso, Derrick Jones Jr., Tony Bradley, and several others.
Considering the franchise has gone four straight seasons without a playoff appearance (the longest such drought since a six-season hiatus from 1998-99 to 2003-04), a drastic change was needed, and it’s clear that drastic change has left an impact on the rest of the NBA. In the latest NBA GM Survey, the Chicago Bulls got plenty of recognition for their offseason moves, even earning “most improved” honors.
Let’s take a closer look at each spot where Artūras Karnišovas’ crew made the list. All questions and results come via the complete survey, which you can find here.
Which team will be most improved in 2021-22?
1. Chicago Bulls (27%)
2. Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers (13%)
3. Charlotte Hornets (10%)
4. New Orleans Pelicans, Toronto Raptors (7%)
Receiving votes: Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards
Thoughts: Artūras Karnišovas and Marc Eversley do not seem like two people who need validation, but I found some. If the goal was to change this organization’s perception and make this roster immediately more competitive, it appears those in league circles believe the Chicago Bulls accomplished just that. And how could they not? A full season of Vučević to pair with summer signings of Ball, DeRozan, and Caruso help give Chicago easily its most talented roster since the early part of the last decade. Sure, there are fair concerns to raise on both sides of the ball, but if we are looking for sheer improvement, it’s hard not to believe this team has the potential to be significantly better than the 11th-place finish they suffered last season.
Which team made the best overall moves this offseason?
1. Miami Heat (47%)
2. Los Angeles Lakers (17%)
3. Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards (7%)
Receiving votes: Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers
Thoughts: One would think the “most improved” team would also rank top-3 in “best overall moves,” but here we are. Clearly, despite some expected immediate improvement this season, there is still skepticism around how high this team can fly. My guess is that the sign-and-trade logistics from the DeRozan trade and the team’s general aggressive push to build without a superstar dropped the Bulls down several notches. I also have to imagine the team’s lack of proven depth has some worried. Teams like the Heat, Lakers, Nets, and Wizards all added bench players with a far more proven track record. Chicago, on the other hand, is experimenting with several young, high-upside reserves like Jones Jr., Brown Jr., Bradley, and Johnson.
What was the most surprising move of the offseason?
1. Russell Westbrook to the Lakers (50%)
2. DeMar DeRozan to Chicago (22%)
3. Lonzo Ball to Chicago (5%)
Receiving votes: Danny Ainge stepping down in Boston; Zach Collins to San Antonio; Devonte’ Graham to New Orleans; Mason Plumlee to Charlotte; Ben Simmons not reporting to training camp; P.J. Tucker to Miami; Kemba Walker buyout
Thoughts: The DeRozan deal caught all of us off guard. In fact, I’m a tad surprised it did not find itself with an even higher percentage of votes. I’m equally as surprised to see Ball finish third in this category. Perhaps the league is simply shocked the Bulls were able to pull off legitimately impactful free agent signings, but the Ball news did feel like it was on the horizon for months. Still, I guess the Bulls ranking second and third in this section confirms that this upgraded front office knows how to keep things close to the vest. The less others know about their plans the better, in my opinion.
Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2020-21?
1. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis (17%)
2. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota (13%)
3. Michael Porter Jr., Denver (10%)
4. Darius Garland, Cleveland (7%)
Keldon Johnson, San Antonio
Ja Morant, Memphis
Kevin Porter Jr., Houston
Receiving votes: Deandre Ayton, Phoenix; LaMelo Ball, Charlotte; Lonzo Ball, Chicago; Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City; De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta; Caris LeVert, Indiana; Terance Mann, LA Clippers; Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota; Devin Vassell, San Antonio; Zion Williamson, New Orleans
Thoughts: At first glance, I wanted Ball to be higher. He is a 23-year-old who averaged a career-high 14.6 points last season on career-high shooting marks from both the field and behind the arc. The situation in New Orleans grew more confusing by the day, and a fresh start in Chicago next to three offensive-minded All-Stars feels like the perfect opportunity for a point guard’s breakout campaign.
However, after I thought about this a few seconds longer, I actually completely understood why he ranked where he did on this list. As perfect of a situation as this is for Ball on paper, it’s hard to say whether or not the opportunity for a full-blown breakout is there. He will be the fourth option on the offensive end, and there is no question he will lose playmaking possessions at times in halfcourt situations to DeRozan and even Vučević. Perhaps he can take an even bigger step forward on the opposite end of the court as an on-ball defender (the Bulls will need it), but a a major “breakout” would likely have to come with an even greater offensive role than Ball seems in line for.
Which player is the most athletic?
1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans (27%)
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee (20%)
3. Anthony Edwards, Minnesota (17%)
4. Zach LaVine, Chicago (13%)
5. Ja Morant, Memphis (10%)
> Also receiving votes: Hamidou Diallo, Detroit; LeBron James, L.A. Lakers; Derrick Jones Jr., Chicago; Ben Simmons, Philadelphia
Thoughts: I don’t have much to say here. We all know Zach LaVine is easily one of the most athletically gifted players in the league. I tend to believe that will be even more evident this season as he catches Lonzo lobs and provides newfound energy for the defensive side of the ball.