Analyst Rips Bulls Star’s Contract: ‘Reckless Pursuit’ of a ’45-Win Ceiling’

Getty DeMar DeRozan

Will the savage disrespect of the Chicago Bulls’ rebuilt roster ever stop? Well, the answer to that question is probably no — at least until Zach LaVine and company shut the haters up by shoving Ws down their throats.

Count Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes among the group that is discrediting the Bulls’ new Big 4. Hughes took aim at DeMar DeRozan’s new deal, calling it one of the NBA’s offseason moves with the “most bust potential.”

DeRozan’s New Deal Called ‘a Reckless Pursuit’ of a ’45-Win Ceiling’

Hughes specifically mentioned DeRozan’s three-year, $85 million contract and he wasn’t kind. Hughes called it a “reckless pursuit” of a “45-win ceiling.”

He wrote:

This reckless pursuit of what feels like a 45-win ceiling began with last season’s trade for Nikola Vucevic, which cost them the No. 5 pick in the 2021 draft and will likely result in a 2023 first-rounder (it’s top-four protected) following that one to the Orlando Magic. DeRozan is a big name, and his self-created offense and passing will juice a Bulls offense that also added Lonzo Ball’s playmaking. But Chicago was already fighting an uphill battle building a defense around noted sieves Zach LaVine and Vucevic, and that slope might as well be a straight vertical climb with DeRozan in the mix. The four-time All-Star’s defensive impact has ranged from poor to catastrophic during his career, with the last half-decade skewing toward the uglier end of that spectrum. The Bulls’ “best” lineup will now feature DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic—three players who can fill it up but who give back at least as much as they get on the other end. Maybe the offense will really hum, vaulting into the top five on the strength of three terrific talents. But if the defense isn’t in the bottom 10 of the league, it’ll be a minor miracle. That profile belongs to a middling playoff team, one very likely ticketed for first-round elimination. That’s not a high enough level to justify Chicago’s spending and draft-capital outlay. And if the Bulls don’t reach the very highest end of reasonable projections, LaVine, a free agent after this year, could either angle for a trade or walk away for nothing. Talk about downside risk…

This seems like an overly pessimistic outlook on a strong collection of talent. It neglects a few different details and possibilities.

45 Wins Seems Like a Really Low Ceiling for the Bulls

Is it not possible to see a clear improvement in defensive effort from DeRozan and LaVine? I think we already got a look at that from LaVine while he played essentially a 3-and-D role with Team USA during the Olympics.

DeRozan is less likely to flip the switch as a defender, but almost no team in the league has five or four strong defenders on the floor at all times. Remember, Hughes called the Bulls a 45-win team, at best. Teams that have more consistent defenders throughout their lineup, like the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, figure to be serious title contenders.

Also, let’s remember the Bulls’ second unit is being built as a defense-first group with guys like Alex Caruso, Alize Johnson, Troy Brown Jr. and Tony Bradley expected to bring a defensive mentality to the floor. The balance between that unit’s identity and the high-scoring starters could be gold for Chicago. The Bulls may not compete for a championship, but 52 wins seems like more of a reasonable ceiling.

Will they win that much? We can’t say for sure, but to say this team can’t win more than 45 is selling the squad a little too short.

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