The word “continuity” is boring in the fast-paced sports world where blockbuster trades happen, seemingly, out of nowhere. But the Chicago Bulls leaned into stability this offseason with only three minor additions leading to an “underrated” move.
All of their additions should contribute, sure.
But all of them are also best utilized as bench pieces for a healthy Bulls team which is, admittedly, far from a given at this point.
They will make an impact this coming season even if it’s just solidifying the back end of the bench. But none of them are being called “underrated”. They have ranged from smart to slightly missing the mark with the “underrated” label popping up for another prominent Bulls’ offseason decision.
Don’t Forget About Zach LaVine
Technically, the Bulls “retained” Zach LaVine with a five-year, $215 million contract this offseason that made him the highest-paid player in franchise history. Some considered the move to be a foregone conclusion.
That was not always the case, though with rumors of LaVine eyeing the Lakers floating around even after the two-time All-Star put pen to paper on his new deal.
“I think some people are forgetting the one item of business that they accomplished was that they re-signed Zach LaVine,” NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson said during ‘Unfiltered‘. “Okay, yes, they paid him a max salary. And, yes, they were able to pay him more than any other team. But still, they retained a two-time All-Star who is entering his prime. So, when people say they didn’t do a lot, they did a lot. They re-signed Zach LaVine.”
Johnson’s comments bring the Jimmy Butler trade to mind and how that went down because, per Bulter’s agent, the Bulls did not want to commit to him as the franchise cornerstone he has proven to be with the Miami Heat.
It took Butler a couple of stops in between the Bulls and Heat to get where he is in that sense. But this regime is not willing to take the same risk as the previous one.
Bulls Front Office Keeps Word
The anticipation of a surprise move from the Bulls was built largely on the strength of their prior aggressiveness. Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan were both surprising acquisitions and stand as arguably the biggest moves of Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas’ tenure.
And Karnisovas has been adamant about seeing what this group could do when fully healthy for more than five games.
That, Johnson says, should have telegraphed this relatively quiet offseason for the Bulls.
“They told us they were going to be working the margins. And that’s what they did with adding Andre Drummond, Goran Dragic. Whether it’s right or wrong, we’re going to see how it plays out this season. But management’s been hammering this theme of continuity, letting the core build together since they stood pat at the trade deadline.”
The Bulls are a team that could have a wide range of potential outcomes next season based on who you ask. Their rivals, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have improved by landing Donovan Mitchell. But he is still another small guard in that backcourt, a position at which the Bulls boast size.
Continuity is King in the NBA
Perhaps the word “continuity” shouldn’t be viewed as such a negative word even in sports. Players invariably prefer to stay together and build chemistry. Especially if they feel they have been slighted or dealt a bad hand as one could argue the Bulls were with injuries last season.
“If they get improved health and a rejuvenated Zach LaVine off that scope,” Johnson argues, “they have a chance to do some damage in the East.”
“Since 2000,” writes Damian Burchardt for The Ringer, “only one NBA team has claimed the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy with newly-acquired players taking up more than 50 percent of the total rotation minutes in the regular season—the Dwyane Wade–led Miami Heat in 2006. Just three others have made the NBA Finals.”
The Bulls ranked 27th in roster continuity after their flurry of moves last summer, per Basketball-Reference. Factor in that their struggles largely came against those teams who boasted continuity.
That they were able to have as much success as they did amid so much turnover is encouraging.