Would it be considered a step back for the Chicago Bulls if they finished next season in the same place they did this past season? A sixth seed would have been the dream going into the 2022 campaign.
But the Bulls’ torrid start had them sitting atop the East and fans dreaming big.
Both the team and fans’ hopes came tumbling down well before the Bulls drew the Milwaukee Bucks in the postseason.
The team’s hope is that improved health along with some additions on the margins will pay off in a big way this coming season. But have they done enough to be any better and will it even matter?
Treading in Shallow Waters
Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas said at the end of the season that he wanted to give this group more time to jell before making another drastic move. He is set to accomplish that goal after the summer saw Goran Dragic and Andre Drummond as the biggest outside additions.
Dragic gives them insurance in case Lonzo Ball fails to make a full recovery in time to start the season. Drummond should help with rebounding, which was an issue last season.
Still, an Eastern Conference general manager told Heavy’s Sean Deveney that the Bulls are heading for disappointment.
“They were sixth in the East last year. They’re sixth now unless someone has a big injury. Miami, Boston, Milwaukee, Philly, Toronto, they’re all better. They’re on a level with the Hawks and maybe Cleveland, and we’ll see what happens with the Nets.”
This might not be a one-year issue, either, as the East is loaded.
Stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid both of whom are in their prime and 27 and 28 years old, respectively.
“It’s hard to see a way for them to get to the FInals or even conference finals with what they’ve got. They’re not deep enough and not good enough defensively in the middle.”
Sensing a Theme
The executive is not the only one to have the Bulls pegged for the six seed. But there are some who have them ranked even lower. To the point where they think the Bulls could wind up out of the postseason altogether.
“Getting outside of the obvious picks, I’m kind of stunning myself by saying this. The team that I was highest on, maybe relative to everybody else last year, is the Bulls. But I think they look like a team that, if they replicate some of what happened last year—they were actually at a little bit of a risk of being in the play-in despite having been in first place for two-thirds of the season last year—I would be a little bit worried about.”
The Bulls sat in first place in the East on February 24 only to finish as the sixth seed.
Herring continued with some all-too-real scenarios that could leave the Bulls on the outside looking in when all is said and done.
“If you get another Lonzo injury. Or if he’s not right to start the season. Their defensive stuff just matters too much. You know, [Zach] LaVine was not fully healthy last year, either. But I could see a situation in which they don’t make the playoffs”
Bulls Planning Ahead
The uncertainty around Ball’s balky knee led the Bulls to bring in Dragic and hold onto White. It also played a part in the selection of rookie Dalen Terry. But the result, the Bulls hope, is that they are better equipped to withstand Ball’s potential absence.
His impact was almost clearer after he was out than when he was on the floor. The Bulls certainly missed his playmaking and shot-making abilities.
Have they done enough to make up for all that Ball brings at least to start the season?
If not, they could find themselves back in the all-too-familiar position of the outside looking in on the postseason.