Few teams have been the subject of NBA speculation quite as much as the Bulls this offseason. There was some surprise when rumors about Zach LaVine, who will be a free agent on July 1, cropped up, especially after it appeared that the Bulls would have no trouble re-signing him. Since then, there has been an onslaught of speculation about where LaVine might wind up.
To be sure, it’s probably going to be Chicago.
There’s been loads of speculation about other deals, too, whether it is the Bulls shipping out center Nikola Vucevic, third-year forward Patrick Williams or reserve guard Alex Caruso. There’s been chatter, too, about the future of Lonzo Ball, who missed 47 games, mostly with a knee injury, last season.
Again: They’re all probably coming back.
Team president Arturas Karnisovas said back in April, “We’ve always been ready for what comes our way. Hopefully we can keep the core together and work around the margins.”
Longtime Bulls beat writer K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago wrote this week that fans should take that sentiment to heart, noting: “Karnisovas believes those words about core continuity, which is why he said them not only in April but when the February trade deadline passed with no action.”
In other words, as long as things get settled with LaVine, don’t expect Bulls overhaul.
Bulls Core Could Not Stay Healthy in 2021-22
That does make sense, even with the Bulls falling flat down the stretch of the season and in the playoffs. Chicago was 39-21 in late February, No. 1 in the Eastern Conference, but collapsed with a 7-15 record from there to finish with the No. 6 seed. The Bulls were hammered by the Bucks in five games in the playoffs.
But the team was never fully healthy. The starting five of Ball, LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Williams and Vucevic, with Caruso off the bench, played together for just five games, and went 4-1 in those games. Williams got injured first, tearing ligaments in his wrist, but by the time he returned, Ball was out.
Caruso missed 41 games, too, with injuries to his wrist and foot, as well as a stretch on the COVID-19 protocols list.
According to the website Mangameslost.com, which tracks injuries in sports, the Bulls lost about 14 wins because of injuries, sixth-most in the NBA.
And, as Karnisovas has said, it is a group that had not played together at all before this season. Vucevic was only acquired at last year’s trade deadline, and played limited games alongside LaVine before the start of the season. But Caruso, Ball and DeRozan were all offseason acquisitions.
Draft Pick, Coby White, MLE Offer Spots for Change
Still, expect some changes with the Bulls this offseason. They hold the No. 18 pick in the NBA draft, which could be used as a trade chip or to add a young player to the bench. They have guard Coby White, too, who is expected to be on the trade block.
The Bulls figure to retool their bench around Caruso and guard Ayo Dosunmu, who had an impressive rookie campaign. They’re said to have registered interest in Philadelphia wing Matisse Thybulle, who could be on the trade block, too.
The Bulls also can use their mid-level exception to address their issue at backup center, unless that is handled via trade.