While we’re still over a month away from opening night, the NBA season will really kick into high gear in just a couple of short weeks. With that in mind, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to go over some of the most important dates and deadlines for this season.
Take out your calendars!
Oct. 2 – Media Day
The Chicago Bulls will officially begin their 2023-24 campaign with Media Day at the United Center. You know, the wonderful day when a lot of words are spoken but nothing is really said!
In all seriousness, this is the front office’s next opportunity to set clear expectations for this upcoming season. We saw Arturas Karnisovas specifically state that the team had to be better going into the 2021-22 season and express confidence in being a playoff team, only for those words to be used against him time and again over the next 8 months. So what does he say now? Does he set the same tone? If so, what does he say the outcome will be if the Bulls throw an egg in his face again?
At the end of the day, I’ll be looking for the front office to put legitimate pressure on this roster and head coach Billy Donovan to bounce back. Knowing that DeMar DeRozan is headed toward unrestricted free agency next summer, the time is now to either prove this group can be truly competitive or head in a new direction.
Oct. 3 – Training Camp
The Chicago Bulls will hold their first-ever out-of-state training camp in Nashville, Tennessee starting on Oct. 3. Hoping to ignite a spark in an almost-identical roster to last season, this will be a crucial period for Billy Donovan and his coaching staff.
While we shouldn’t expect much roster competition, there are specific roles that will have to be ironed out. The starting point guard spot remains up for grabs due to the Lonzo Ball injury. The recently-signed Jevon Carter feels like he could fit well next to the “Big 3” due to his top-tier on-ball defense and above-average 3-point shot. At the same time, Coby White took real steps in the right direction last season and has more experience playing alongside the other starters. Could a good training camp be enough to earn him the nod?
The other big question I have is who starts at power forward? Patrick Williams may feel like the obvious pick, but a solid veteran like Torrey Craig could give him a real run for his money in training camp. Craig does all the little things – cuts hard, attacks the offensive glass, hustles for loose balls – and we know Donovan has a soft spot for those players (i.e. Javonte Green, Derrick Jones Jr.).
Oct. 25 – Opening Night
Look, I know Chicago Bulls fans are about as excited for Bulls opening night as they would be for a colonoscopy. But basketball is basketball! Also, for what it’s worth, I really do think that things have swung too far in a pessimistic direction with this team. Have I aided in some of that? Sure, but I’m not the one out here saying they’re going to miss the Play-In Tournament entirely (*glares at ESPN*)!
Anyway, opening night is always a good time, and I think a matchup with a young OKC Thunder team should also be a good way to start the year.
Dec. 15/Jan. 10 – Guarantee Dates
As of now, Carlik Jones and Terry Taylor remain on the Chicago Bulls roster. The contracts of both cheap bench players have allowed the team to heroically dodge the luxury tax for the millionth year. The contracts also allow them a little bit of flexibility as they enter the season, as they could always look to open up those roster spots to add more impactful talent.
Both Jones ($250,000) and Taylor (350,000) will have a chunk of their deals guaranteed on opening night. Taylor will then have another sum ($700,000) guaranteed on Dec. 15, before both have the entirety of their deals fully guaranteed on Jan. 10.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jones, in particular, shown the door before the season even begins. The Bulls are overflowing with guards on their roster, and they may just want to leave that spot open heading into the year. At the same time, Jones played remarkably well in the G-League last season AND at the FIBA World Cup this summer, so maybe they hope to further evaluate him.
Regardless, these are two roster spots that are all but a sure thing, so keep your eye out.
Dec. 28 – Trade Restriction Lifted
I want to preface this by saying, no, I don’t think Nikola Vucevic will be traded this season. But is there a non-zero chance?
By re-signing with the team this season on a three-year deal, Vucevic can not be thrown into trade talks until Dec. 28, per Spotrac. If the wheels fall completely off this season, and the Bulls look to blow it up like everybody hopes, could somebody come calling about the big man? You just never know what can happen in today’s NBA, and Vucevic’s $20 million AAV isn’t the hardest to add to the payroll, especially if you’re looking to offload a bad expiring deal to a rebuilding Bulls team.
Feb. 8 – Trade Deadline
The trade deadline is important for every team, but this feels particularly true for the Chicago Bulls this year. If the team is underachieving for the second straight year, it’s going to be hard for the organization to justify not taking a step back. DeRozan, as mentioned above, could be headed toward unrestricted free agency at that point. This could be their last opportunity to cash in on his incredible play over the past two seasons.
Likewise, we know how active the Zach LaVine trade rumors have been dating back to last season. I guarantee this will be a massive topic of conversation, yet again, if the Bulls aren’t in the top half of the Eastern Conference come February. Could a desperate contender finally offer the kind of home-run-offer the Chicago Bulls are likely looking for?