The Chicago Bulls just put together their most promising season in over half a decade.
A 46-36 record was the franchise’s best since the 2014-15 season, and their first-round matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks was their first since the “Three Alphas” faced the Boston Celtics in 2016-17. DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine instantly looked like one of the league’s most dynamic scoring duos, while Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso anchored an impressive defense when healthy.
Add in a bounce-back campaign from Nikola Vucevic and the continued development of Patrick Williams, and there is reason to believe the Bulls can take another step forward this season. But will that step be big enough to truly compete in the Eastern Conference? Scottie Pippen doubts it.
The Bulls legend – who partnered with Dick’s Sporting Goods earlier this week for a sports equipment donation in Chicago – spoke with NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer on the Bulls Talk Podcast. During that conversation, Pippen gave his thoughts on the organization’s massive roster overhaul. Despite praising the team for their regular season success last year, he still believes the franchise is stuck in a similar spot when it comes to playoff potential.
“I thought last season they definitely made some acquisitions that made them better. Throughout the regular season they definitely looked a lot better,” Pippen said. “I think that DeRozan brought them some firepower they needed from an offensive standpoints. But I think postseason they sort of fell back into the slot they’ve been in for the last 10-15 years. They’re just not a team built for the postseason.
Other teams out there are continuing to improve. Milwaukee is still going to be strong. Miami. So even the improvement that they’re making is drastic improvement, other teams are making moves too. So they’re really not giving them a chance the close the gap.”
Right when I start to build up my optimism for Year 2 of this core, one of the greatest players to ever put on a Bulls jersey douses me with ice water! Thanks, Pip!
The most annoying thing too is that – while Pippen has made his share of outlandish comments in recent years – this feels like a perfectly justifiable stance to take.
Indeed, Pippen basically echoed my main concerns about the Bulls’ chosen path. There is no question the team is a lot better, but to what end? Do they have what it takes to take control of the East, especially after an offseason where they made minimal improvements? Building a contender is a process, and I’m willing to see that process through. But the lack of current assets and a true superstar could hinder the speed of that process, especially when arguably the best player in the league is in your conference.
“When I look at the game right now, the Milwaukee Bucks are going to dominate in the East,” Pippen said. “Until you can find an answer for Giannis, I think the Bulls will be a team that will be in the middle of the road because he is the most dominant player in the game right now. And, unfortunately for them, he plays in the East. He’s the target they have to get around.”
Again, as much as I’d love Pippen to just be a Bulls cheerleader … the guy makes some fair points!
There is no question everything in the East will run through Giannis Antetokounmpo for the next handful of years. The conference is also the most competitive it’s been in quite some time, which has paved an even more difficult path for the Bulls to rise up the ranks.
With that said, I do think Pippen can have a little more faith. The road might have its obstacles, but I prefer the organization to be in a position to take multiple bites of the apple. Establishing yourself as a playoff-caliber team means you’re more intriguing to big-name stars and top free agents. Not to mention, it just puts you in a better position to take advantage of the other team’s shortcomings. So, come on, Pip, hop back on the bandwagon! You’re always welcome!