Lonzo Ball's Top-Notch Defense, Free Agent Centers, Players Want to Come to Chicago, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Lonzo Ball’s Top-Notch Defense, Free Agent Centers, Players Want to Come to Chicago, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

I hate injuries SO darn much.

The Basketball Index projected All-Defensive teams based on their algorithm, and guess who they put among the top-5 best defenders in the NBA?. Yup, Lonzo Ball made the First Team cut alongside Matisse Thybulle, Jarren Jackson Jr., Evan Mobley, and Rudy Gobert.

https://twitter.com/The_BBall_Index/status/1520734782803513346?s=20&t=I-lpsjaFqloh63WmFR1L0w

•   Of course – held to just 35 games this season – Ball isn’t expected to land on many actual ballots this season. But there is no question he was one of the league’s top perimeter defenders this season while healthy. Always a remarkably strong help defender who could disrupt passing lanes, he seemed to take an even greater step forward with his on-ball defense this season. Indeed, his ability to guard multiple positions with his elite positional size was an irreplaceable skill set for this starting lineup. Dunks and Threes ended up handing him a +2.5 estimated defensive plus-minus, which ranks in the NBA’s 97th percentile. Before he went down in mid-January, he also sat 5th in the NBA in total steals and was on his way toward a career-high in blocked shot attempts. Once again … I HATE INJURIES!

•   I think we can’t underestimate just how much a healthy Lonzo Ball and healthy Patrick Williams could benefit this team next season. Two of the more naturally gifted and sizable defenders on this roster, it’s not hard to understand why Arturas Karnisovas and Billy Donovan sounded like they prefer to keep the starting lineup intact moving forward. They understand these are two players who can work together to anchor a solid backcourt-frontcourt defense as long as they stay on the floor. With that said, though, the Bulls must improve their depth so that the absence of either one of these players does not drastically impact the team’s two-way efficiency.

•   Part of improving that depth will likely be adding a more formidable rim-protecting center. Bleacher Report ranked the top-10 centers in the open market this summer, and I think it’s a list worth looking at. Nicolas Claxton, Hassan Whiteside, and Mo Bamba all feel like relatively inexpensive back-ups to pursue. Claxton and Bamba, though, could draw more interest for starting gigs around the league (depending on the team) after their career years.

•   I’ve seen a lot of Bulls fans also mention Mitchell Robinson as a guy the Bulls should pursue – and we do have reason to believe they would be interested in that thanks to prior rumors. However, I expect Robinson will be viewed above the team’s paygrade this offseason, and I also expect another team to offer him more consistent playing time. Robinson – as talented as he is – isn’t the kind of player you sign to replace Nikola Vucevic. He’s been incredibly injury-prone over his four seasons in the NBA, and Vucevic is simply the more skillful player. The only way I could see the Bulls justifying a Vucevic departure would be if they could land a big fish like Deandre Ayton or Rudy Gobert. Without an All-Star-caliber replacement, I expect Vucevic to stay put.

•   Arturas Karnisovas said something I found pretty important during his end-of-season press conference:

•   Could he simply be saying this as a smart businessman? For sure. But I do tend to believe him, especially after we saw guys like DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso join the mix. Chicago is one of the largest markets in the NBA with a top-notch fan base and a ton of history. The previous front office repeatedly failed to pitch that adequately to free agents, and they also didn’t build the type of environment behind the scenes that players prefer. In other words, they didn’t show the league that they were aggressive enough in building a winning product and on-court identity. Karnisovas and Marc Eversley made that a priority from the moment they arrived, and there is no question it was immediately noticed. Moving forward, I expect plenty of more success when it comes to attracting proven and highly-coveted players.

•   ESPN shared the best outfits from the first round of the playoffs and DeMar DeStylin’ made the cut.

•   To be honest, it is kind of surprising one of the best perimeter defenders of all time never earned a DPOY.

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1520776292425248768?s=20&t=TjDERC-Ojj7TVSfN3rkCSg

•   One of the best first-round battles ever played (the only thing that would have made it better was a Bulls win).

•   Let’s hope someone works out.


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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.