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So Why Can’t the Bulls be the Best Team in the League? (and Other Bulls Bullets)

Chicago Bulls

Can someone tell me why I wait so long in between haircuts?

I have an appointment scheduled for later this afternoon, and I already know it’s going to look like a Muppet was murdered under my chair once the stylist is done. I could avoid this crime scene – as well as the endless hassle of my hair tickling my ears and falling in my face – if I simply have a more routine visit. So perhaps me writing about it to all you folks who don’t care will remind me to do that.

Probably not … but worth a shot!

•   To take some inspiration from a 2010 Derrick Rose: “Why not? Why can’t the Chicago Bulls be the best team in the league? I don’t see why. Why? Why can’t they do that?” Sitting at 14-8 and 2nd in the Eastern Conference, it’s a borderline fair question to ask. The team has gotten off to a better start than even the most optimistic Bulls fan could have expected, especially when we consider arguably their hardest stretch of the season (a 13-game gauntlet with 12 matchups against 2020-21 playoff teams and one against the now 18-3 Golden State Warriors) is already behind them. I know talking championship aspirations a quarter way through the season is silly, particularly when a simple playoff berth should be the main goal, but isn’t that what every team is hunting for at the end of the day? And shouldn’t the status of achieving that goal be something we are constantly evaluating?

•   SBNation’s Ricky O’Donnell recently weighed in one where he believes each team’s championship chances stand. While the Bulls were not as high as their 3rd-overall seed suggests, he still handed the organization the 8th slot. All things considered, I think this is the perfect spot. We simply can’t throw a team that has been outside the playoffs for the past four seasons over more proven squads like the Lakers, Jazz, Heat, Bucks, Nets, Suns, and Warriors. What we can do, however, is consider the veteran talent they added (Caruso, Vucevic, DeRozan) and place them among teams like the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Atlanta Hawks. They have proven early on they have a recipe for regular-season success with a 4th-overall Net Rating, and I think it’s hard to deny their high-level mid-range game and strong defensive backcourt bode well for a possibly smooth playoff basketball transition. As O’Donnell notes in his own write-up, if teams like the Miami Heat or Phoenix Suns can all of a sudden find themselves in the NBA Finals … why can’t the Bulls?

•   Aside from lack of experience (which might be the biggest concern), I have a couple of quick reasons why the 2021-22 Bulls can fizzle out when the postseason hits. First, this team still needs better rim protection. While they do hold opposing teams to the 8th-fewest points in the paint per game, the Bulls do not have the big bodies to throw at teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. Sure, Vucevic can be in the right spot at the right time and help even the battle on the boards, but he doesn’t have the verticality or athleticism to be a true defensive threat on this side of the floor. Secondly, the Bulls need to show they can hit more 3’s. This is an area where Coby White can hopefully provide increasing help as the season progresses, but it’s rare for a championship-level squad to rank 29th in 3-point attempts per game.

•   The last thing I’ll say for now is they need Zach LaVine to take another jump. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as buckled into the LaVine bandwagon as one could be. I’m more than ready for the Bulls to hand him a max contract and continue to build around his special scoring ability. However, superstars win championships, and the fact of the matter is LaVine has not yet reached that point. Rather than explain it all myself, The Ringer’s Zach Kram wrote a great piece about the next steps LaVine has to take to make this Bulls team a legitimate contender.

•   We should also keep in mind that the process of building a championship-level team never stops! What the roster looks like now might not be what it looks like at the end of the regular season, as Arturas Karnisovas has already shown everyone he isn’t afraid to be aggressive when an opportunity presents itself. And plenty of opportunities could arise in a little over a week. On December 15th, most players who signed contracts this past offseason will officially become trade-eligible. This deadline is often viewed as the “unofficial” start of the trade season, and ESPN put a giant list together of all the talent that will be available. I’m sure the Bulls front office has already taken a look.

•   I probably should be used to this now, but I’m not. It’s still crazy to think about just how much turnover this roster experienced this summer, and just how successful that turnover has already been.

•   The Miami Heat played their first game after the news of Bam Adebayo’s thumb injury … and things didn’t go too well. The Cleveland Cavaliers dominated with a 111-85 victory in Miami.

•   The Bulls have a chance to knock the Knicks out of the .500 club tonight in their third battle of the season.

•   You love to see it!



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.