The Chicago Bulls can strike one piece of significant offseason business from their list.
“For sure,” Bulls big man Andre Drummond said on the ‘Paper Route’ podcast with former Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall on June 6 when asked if he plans on picking up his $3.3 million player option for the 2023-24 season.
“I mean, yeah. As of now, that’s what my plan is – unless something comes up. But I think, where I’m at now today and how I feel, I really love being in Chicago.”
Drummond, 29, averaged career lows with 6.0 points and 6.6 rebounds in 12.7 minutes per game, also a career-worst mark. Already planted behind starter Nikola Vucevic, he was also often the victim of head coach Billy Donovan’s preference for smaller lineups and, potentially, the Bulls’ inability to put the requisite amount of shooting around him to maximize his passing ability.
He averaged his fewest assists per 36 minutes since the 2015-16 season.
Further complicating his future is the uncertainty surrounding Vucevic who is also a free agent this offseason. Both Vucevic and Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas have expressed a desire for the big man to return but nothing is guaranteed.
It’s this exact situation that makes Drummond’s decision a notable one, even if his season did not go as he or the Bulls had hoped statistically.
Andre Drummond Reveals Breaking Point on Mental Health
Drummond also dealt with mental health issues during the season leading him to announce he was taking a hiatus from social media. He noted that his “breaking point” came during the Bulls’ back-to-back games in Los Angeles against the Lakers and Clippers.
“I remember I was sitting in the locker room and I was just numb,” said Drummond. “We were getting ready to run out, and I remember Billy Donovan is talking and it’s muffled – I can’t hear anything. I’m just numb. I’m just in this mode where I just can’t feel anything…I’m talking to myself as he’s talking and I can’t hear him. I just hear my own thoughts.”
Drummond said he knew a breakdown was coming at that point and, once Donovan finished talking, he broke out into tears in the hallway.
The feelings lingered the following night and Drummond would go on to miss the next game.
The former No. 9 overall pick in 2012, and a two-time All-Star, Drummond said he still views himself as a starter despite being behind Vuevic. And, while it may only take the right opportunity to change his current outlook, he is good where he is right now.
“In the grand scheme of things, I’m at a point where I enjoy where I’m at,” Drummond said. “I love playing in Chicago.”
He even thinks they have more room to grow as a group.
Andre Drummond: Bulls ‘Needed More Time’
“The team is great,” Drummond said. “I think we just needed more time to build chemistry. We had a lot of injuries: Lonzo [Ball] being out, Zach [LaVine] still recovering from his knee injury, DeMar [DeRozan] having his bumps and bruises throughout the year. There wasn’t really any consistency with our unit because guys were in and out of the lineup.”
Chicago’s top trio played more minutes together than any other during the regular season.
But to Drummond’s point, Ball has been out since January of the 2021-22 season. He is recovering from ligament replacement surgery on his knee in March – the third procedure he has had on the knee since he joined the Bulls in the summer of 2021.
LaVine, 28, admitted he had to work his way into playing shape after having arthroscopic knee surgery last summer.
He did return to his usual form as a dynamic scorer by season’s end.
DeRozan, 33, dealt with a leg injury down the stretch of the last season that in part cost him eight games after the calendar flipped to 2023.
“I think with a fresh year, I think we’ll be fine,” Drummond said. “I think we’ll be able to figure it out. Because we showed spurts of being a really good team. So, yeah, just looking forward to a new year and a fresh start.”
The Bulls did finish the year on a 14-9 run and had the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat seemingly on the ropes. But close only counts in horseshoes and the Bulls will have to prove all of this belief they have communicated that seems to be based largely on a 23-game sample and a loss in the Play-In Tournament.