Chicago Bulls management went to great lengths to improve the team’s roster heading into the 2021-22 season, yet many are still poo-pooing the team’s chances of finishing in the top half of the playoff standings in the Eastern Conference.
Bulls Will Probably Be a ‘Significant Disappointment,’ Says NBA Analyst
Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes penned a piece revealing every NBA team’s major question that will “haunt” them during the upcoming season.
Let’s just say Hughes does not have high hopes for the 2021 Bulls? Hughes claims the team has a low ceiling based on several issues. He wrote:
The Bulls surrendered multiple first-round draft picks and a lottery-selected center in Wendell Carter Jr. for Nikola Vucevic last season. Vooch is a tremendous offensive force, but his career highlight so far is leading the 2018-19 Orlando Magic to a 42-40 record and an unceremonious first-round playoff dismissal. He and Zach LaVine, a brilliantly skilled offensive weapon who’s seen precisely zero playoff minutes in seven seasons, weren’t enough to prevent the Bulls from finishing 10 games under .500 in 2020-21. Chicago did well to snag Lonzo Ball in a sign-and-trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. That acquisition, combined with an eye-opening $85 million outlay for DeMar DeRozan, when no other team had the cap space or desire to approach that number, concluded a spendthrift summer that effectively locks the Bulls into a roster with wretched defense, glaring holes and a low ceiling. The postseason is a possibility, but significant disappointment is more probable. Superpowers lurk in the East, and Chicago has built a roster—at great cost to its draft equity and future flexibility—that cannot compete with them. The Bulls went all in for a team that optimistically tops out as the East’s No. 6 seed. They’re better than they were, but for a dangerously high price. Will it be worth it?
To call this a glass half-empty take would be a major understatement. While not entirely implausible, the results outlined here would assume the Bulls’ stars and core show no development or improvement on the defensive end, and it is a bit too dismissive of what could be one of the most efficient and high-scoring offenses in the NBA.
Some are a little more positive about the Bulls’ chances to be successful.
NBA Analyst Attacks ‘Overblown Skepticism’ Surrounding the Bulls
Forbes’ Morten Jensen calls much of the negative speak about the Bulls “overblown skepticism.”
While it’s always fair to question any team that hasn’t made the playoffs in four years, context does matter. The Bulls of recent years were playing fringe NBA players such as Denzel Valentine, Chandler Hutchison, Cristiano Felicio and Ryan Arcidiacono as heavily featured rotational players, while hoping for upside players such as Wendell Carter Jr and Lauri Markkanen to take major leaps in development. While Carter Jr did look considerably better after getting traded to the Orlando Magic in the Vučević trade, he nevertheless isn’t on the same level as Vučević quite yet, and likely will take a few years to get there. Meanwhile, Valentine, Felicio and Arcidiacono are currently not in the league, and Hutchison couldn’t muster more than a two-way contract with the Suns. Chicago’s depth chart, which now features Troy Brown Jr, Alex Caruso, Tony Bradley, Derrick Jones Jr, Alize Johnson, Stanley Johnson and long-time Bull Coby White, is one that oozes proper NBA talent, unlike bench variations of the past. This leads us to the starting line-up where Ball is now occupying the point guard position without the Bulls needing to sacrifice White. Instead, they traded Tomas Satoransky, a rotation player who is best suited to come off the bench, in the Ball trade. At the wing spot, the Bulls spent big on DeRozan, and while the contractual value was significant, so is the upgrade. Chicago started rookie Patrick Williams at the slot last season, and is now moving the second-year man up a position to make room for DeRozan. Losing his spot in the starting line-up, and on the team, was Thaddeus Young who got traded to the Spurs in the DeRozan trade. While Young had a career-year for the Bulls last year, DeRozan’s scoring, ball-handling, passing and positional flexibility offers an offensive injection that Young could never have provided the team. In a nutshell, the Bulls upgraded both their starting unit and their depth this summer, and by a not insignificant margin.
If you’re not recognizing the massive improvements made to the Bulls’ roster, I’m questioning your hoops eyesight or your willingness to give credit where it is due. Part of the reason the Bulls’ roster isn’t getting much credit is because the major names with the organization aren’t associated with winning on the NBA level.
LaVine hasn’t even played on a winning team. DeRozan’s Toronto Raptors capped out as a serious challenger in the Eastern Conference, and they won their lone title when the team traded him for Kawhi Leonard.
Vucevic has been on one winning team. Ball hasn’t been in the league for a long time, but he has also missed the postseason at high rate since making the jump to the NBA. Also, head coach Billy Donovan has coached competitive teams, but he’s never been to the NBA Finals, much less won one.
Because of this reality, the Bulls are a team and organization of solid players and coach, but until they break through, most won’t give them any respect.
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