The more I think about the Chicago Bulls, the more I think they’ll be just fine.
They’ll compete for a first-round playoff series and play enough competitive basketball to keep fans interested. Are they likely closer to a 7 or 8 seed in the Play-In Tournament than a top-4 spot? Sure. But being in the playoff mix is what matters most. Then, once you’re in, you worry about making some noise.
- I know that isn’t the most exciting mentality to have heading into this year, but I think it’s one of the most realistic. I refuse to be excessively high on this group due to the improvements of several East competitors and the concerns we saw arise in the second half of last year. At the same time, I refuse to be excessively low on this team due to the growing pains that could come for those new-look teams and the success we saw in the first half of last season.
- Not to mention, the floor for this roster just feels at least first-round-series high. Rarely do teams with three All-Star-caliber players crumble in epic fashion (the 2021-22 Lakers were an exception), especially when those three appear to be on the same page. As long as they can stay healthy, I trust that the trio of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic is talented enough to avoid the kind of catastrophic tumble some analysts project. I also believe that this front office isn’t going to let some kind of massive drop-off ensue. As limited as their assets might be at the moment, we’ve seen them be aggressive and get creative about adding talent in the past. Karnisovas even said himself that he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to put this team in a better position this season. We’ll see if he is a man of his word.
- If you turn the conversation toward the long-term trajectory of this organization, I have more questions. Both the 2023 and 2025 first-round picks are gone, Lonzo Ball’s health remains up in the air, a ton of money is tied up into Zach LaVine (which, to be clear, he does deserve), and the team’s young core isn’t the most critically acclaimed. Indeed, The Ringer’s Zach Kram and J. Kyle Mann recently ranked each team’s under-25 talent, and the Bulls currently sit a somewhat concerning 24th.
- Patrick Williams can single-handedly vault them up this leaderboard by reaching his potential, but if or when he can do just that is still frustratingly unclear. Also, for as good as players like Ayo Dosunmu and Dalen Terry look like they can be, we just don’t know if they will be good enough to help bridge one era of competitive Bulls basketball to the next. Again, I want to stress that I very much like the Bulls’ young talent (and I think Dosunmu, Williams, Terry, and even White project to have long NBA careers), but we don’t yet know if any of them can be the next star the Bulls will need.
- I’ve suggested this before, but we should see an uptick in DeMar DeRozan’s assist totals this season. Last year’s average of 4.9 dimes per game was his fewest of the previous four seasons. As long as his teammates can stay healthy this year, then I would expect to see him take on a little more of the facilitating role that he handled well in San Antonio, especially with Lonzo Ball still injured. He reminded us of his ability to create for others in the team’s preseason battle with the Raptors. DeRozan dished 8 assists in just 26 minutes of play, as he found Vucevic in the post multiple times and hit sprinting teammates in transition. The fact of the matter is that he will garner a ton of defensive pressure (particularly after an All-NBA campaign), and he should be able to pass out of that pressure more often this year.
- The Bulls look like they will add both Ethan Thompson and Henri Drell back to their Windy City rosters:
- If I were the Bulls, I’d bring both of these players into the last week of training camp. Isaiah Joe is a 23-year-old 3-point marksman while Charles Bassey is a former big man prospect who I originally wanted the Bulls to consider in 2021. A case could be made that both would be better two-way contract signings than anyone currently competing for the position.
- My podcast is back up and running for the start of the NBA season! If you’re interested in some more thoughts on the Bulls’ preseason performance, make sure to listen and subscribe below!
- In a season like this, I’ll take the small victories.
- ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!?