I feel like I dropped a dumbbell on my foot before falling into a pile of fluffy fall leaves.
The Chicago Bulls season was a constant mix of emotions. From a nine-game winning streak, sitting at the top of the Eastern Conference, and making a playoff appearance for the first time in five years to repeatedly failing to beat top teams, going 8-15 after the All-Star break, and losing Round 1 in five games … there is a lot to process about the 2021-22 campaign.
Fortunately, we have plenty of time to do just that over the next handful of months. I look forward to devouring the film and stats to see exactly what went wrong and where this team can improve. I look even more forward to seeing how this front office chooses to tackle the 2022 NBA Draft and free agency. Indeed, while the season is over, we all know the NBA has become a 12-month sport. There will be no lack of storylines for us to address, and I can’t wait to do just that.
Speaking of which, I want to take a quick moment to thank all of you folks for stopping by BN Bulls. Whether you read just one article or almost all of them (what’s wrong with you?), you should know it’s greatly appreciated. I’m not able to do this for a living without people reading my work and engaging with the content. And, of course, I’m also not able to do this without the steady support and guidance of everyone else here at Bleacher Nation.
I hope I can continue to make BN Bulls a worthwhile stop for Chicago sports fans moving forward. My goal is always to grow as a writer, content creator, and professional, so I promise only better work rests ahead.
• Three-straight blowouts to end the season is a meatloaf-sized pill to swallow. I would have preferred to watch the Bulls go out with a closely-contested fight, but it wasn’t due to a lack of trying. While the effort shown in Game 3 was reprehensible, I thought the Bulls came out swinging in the next two contests. The only problem was the opposing team had the best player in the world and a 2021 championship banner hanging in the rafters. Not only did Chicago lack the health to give the Bucks a real run for their money, but they lacked the collective experience. And I think that’s what this series ended up exposing the most.
• Only three players remain on the Bulls’ roster from before last season’s trade deadline: Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, and Coby White. The front office made a ton of changes to form an incredibly new and competitive roster. More changes must come to put the franchise in an even better position moving forward, but I also believe gaining these battle scars are so important to becoming a better team. At the end of the day, a playoff appearance means the players on the court and the managers upstairs learned things they wouldn’t have learned otherwise. This is why I believe the Bulls clinched a successful season when they clinched a top-6 seed. As frustrating as the ending might have been, building a contending basketball team is a process, and I think this is one of the first steps in that process.
“For us, it was our first time as a team in the playoffs, so obviously there is a lot of things we could have done better, but it’s a good learning experience for us. Hopefully, we can learn from it and use it to get better,” Vucevic told reporters after the game.
• Now, the hard part is ensuring this process continues in good faith. Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley can’t be content with anything we just saw – even if we can consider it a step in the right direction. Adjustments have to be made around the margins on this team, and the Bucks held our eyes open with clothespins to ensure we saw just that. The Bulls lack formidable size in the frontcourt, and they arguably lack reliable two-way role players more. With that being the case, taking Chicago out of last night’s game was far easier than it should have ever been. All the Bucks did was bumrush DeMar DeRozan practically every time he passed halfcourt. They dared the Bulls to make anyone else beat them, and the Bulls failed to the tune of a 15-52 shooting performance from behind the arc (a franchise high in attempts, by the way, per K.C. Johnson).
DeRozan only gets one shot up during his first 12 minutes
Hard to get going when you're being double or triple teamed every time down pic.twitter.com/MHSqws32iB
— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) April 28, 2022
• As for the lack of more reliable size and rim protection, I think this stat sums it up well:
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 23 points in the 1st half, the most in a 1st half in his playoff career.
16 of Antetokounmpo's 23 points came in the paint. The Bulls as a team had 16 points in the paint. pic.twitter.com/Jdiy9xTbwW
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 28, 2022
• We also can’t forget that, even as this team tries to improve around the margins, there is now an entire season of film centered around this team’s “Big 3.” While we can’t rule out the possibility that the Bulls front office shakes up this trio, my best guess is that all of them return next season for an identical starting lineup. This means the chemistry is only going to have to get better and the execution is only going to have to get crisper to expand on this season. Fortunately, head coach Billy Donovan didn’t wait to mention just that:
“We’ll actually have to work harder going into this offseason and next year to even get back to this point,” Donovan said after Wednesday’s loss. “I think a lot of people were uncertain what our team would look like, and I think as they started to go through the year, they earned and gained more and more respect around the league.”
• What if he’s offered by the Bulls?
Nikola Jokic says he intends to sign the supermax this summer if it's offered by the #Nuggets.
"I think we have something that we are building."https://t.co/a7wlYVhoNm
— Mike Singer (@msinger) April 28, 2022
• The Milwaukee Bucks looked just fine without Khris Middleton over the last three games of this series, but it could be a very different story against arguably the best defense in the league in Round 2.
The left MCL injury of Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton is a Grade 2 sprain and he is expected to miss the entire second-round series vs. Celtics, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. The recovery of Grade 2 MCL places a potential Conference Finals in jeopardy for him as well.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 28, 2022
• IT’S DRAFT DAY, FOLKS!
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) April 28, 2022
• Cool … but what about the rest of the roster?
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) April 28, 2022