The Chicago Bulls are a team straddling two different timelines. But are they really? This summer has seen them spurn more significant changes in favor of roster continuity, which has favored past champions.
But there is already a potentially major hiccup in their plans – the continued complications in Lonzo Ball’s recovery from a bone bruise on his surgically repaired knee.
This development or lack thereof has guided much of their decision-making this summer.
But this offseason’s decisions may also have been based largely on a realization by the front office beyond with respect to the rest of the Eastern Conference. One that could indicate we have viewed this iteration of the Bulls all wrong and, perhaps, have set expectations too high heading into next season.
Bulls Patience Warranted in Tough East
“The fascinating thing to me about the Bulls,” began Ti Windisch during the “NBA Podcast” with Byran Toporek, “is they’re kind of a team stuck in two timelines…I think it’s probably smarter for the Bulls to continue drafting…I don’t want to make it sound like they’re wasting their time competing because they won’t win the East. I think it’s great the Bulls are winning games and trying to win games. But I think you need to be rational and say, you know, we can’t give up all of our young pieces for two seasons of DeRozan/Vucevic…I think that would be short-sighted.
Windisch added that it is best for the Bulls’ youngsters and specifically Williams to learn in a winning environment which he acknowledges the front office has created.
Toporek agreed with Windish, especially in light of the Cleveland Cavaliers trading for Donovan Mitchell which both agree are ahead of the Bulls in the East hierarchy along with up to five other teams.
They argue that there just isn’t a move that gets the Bulls above those teams that seems available which echoes sentiments shared by general manager Marc Eversley on draft night.
But Toporek then asked Windisch if a healthy Bulls team has enough to be a top-tier team in the conference. Windisch remained low on their outlook saying that there were enough teams already “far enough ahead”.
Many believe the Bulls were destined to regress this season after finishing sixth last year.
No Shooting Depth
“It’s kind of a tough spot for the Bulls who…don’t have that many of their future picks. But…could really use some more true wing players and is really going to need a lot from the young players these next couple seasons just so they have enough depth.”
That was another driving factor behind the Bulls’ approach to the offseason. Their injury woes last season exposed just how thin they were in reliable options beyond the stars.
“I’m more worried about their spacing than their defense,” continued Windish, “It can be so hard for [DeMar] DeRozan and [Zach] LaVine, to a lesser extent, if there’s just no space around them. And, you know, Vucevic, I think, is a…good shooter. Some teams will let him shoot, some won’t. But that’s, you know, one player and that’s your center and you’re taking away some rim pressure if he’s not around the basket at all. They just don’t have enough shooting.”
Windisch pointed to the way the Milwaukee Bucks were able to crowd DeRozan by the end of their first-round playoff matchup that saw the Bulls exit in five games. He then said they need Patrick Williams or someone else to step up in the absence of Ball’s floor-stretching ability as he continues to battle this “concerning” injury.
Williams is viewed as the key to the Bulls going from first-round out to something more. But there are questions about what his NBA ceiling is. He has received lofty comparisons to Los Angeles Clipper superstar Kawhi Leonard.
The hosts suggest a more realistic example of Harrison Barnes of the Sacramento Kings.
“They need [Ball] to get right or to find somebody else who can do some of the spacing, defense, and moving the ball a bit as a tertiary option like Lonzo.”
The two also mentioned Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu in Ball’s absence. Both have similar skill sets albeit not quite to the level that Ball operates. And neither is the shooter that the starting point guard is.
Coby White is the shooter. But he lacks most of the other qualities that allowed Ball to unlock the Bulls’ full potential.
Rookie Dalen Terry is the longest shot to make an immediate impact. The team also added Dragic this summer. But Terry’s skill set and body type are the closest matches to Ball on the Bulls’ roster. It would be too much to expect him to fill that role completely. But do not count him out after one NBA executive called him “NBA Ready” back in summer league.