Bulls Big Man Makes Bold Claim on Role With Team

Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls gives instructions to his team.

The Chicago Bulls don’t have many roster questions. There is the obvious issue of Lonzo Ball’s knee, though there is optimism he will be able to return sometime this season in 2023. The Bulls’ other major question has been whether or not Patrick Williams is ready to take the next step or not in his third season.

Other anticipated storylines include Ayo Dosunmu’s encore, rebuilding Coby White’s trade value, and a potential Nikola Vucevic contract extension.

That last one came into focus following a recent practice and not just because Vucevic was asked about how it could affect him this season. He also dealt with trade rumors this summer. Reporters asked free agent signee, Andre Drummond, about his take on the Bulls’ big man situation too.

Drummond, who is no stranger to bold claims, did not disappoint this time either.

Drummond: ‘I’m Still a Starter’

“He’s been an unbelievable rebounder and rim protector for the majority of his career,” proclaimed Bulls head coach Billy Donovan (h/t Julia Poe/Chicago Tribune). Drummond himself said he believes he will end his career as the game’s greatest rebounder if he is not already that. That started conversations invoking the names of Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell.

But Drummond turned heads when he offered that he still views himself in a light befitting of the two-time All-Star that he is.

“I’m still, in my mindset, a player that’s a starter.”

That might not seem like that bold of a statement. But Drummond is a true center who doesn’t shoot threes (despite what training camp videos might show) and has not been a rim protector in a traditional sense, though he still averages 1.5 blocks in his career.

Drummond isn’t trying to cause any waves. He deflected questions on whether he is pushing to start here saying that he can “adjust and adapt to any situation” he comes across.

“If my services are needed to be a starter I can do that. If my services are needed to come in and be a spark off the bench that is what I’m here to do. My ego is not something that is driven in this game. I play the game because I love it and not to do anything else but be an asset to this team.”

Drummond signed to a two-year, $6.5 million deal with a player option in 2023.

He spent last season with the Philadelphia 76ers before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets — both title contenders – and said he joined the Bulls because they are a young team on the verge of “something special”.

“My job here is to be the best teammate possible. Whatever role that may be, I have to accept it. Obviously, I’m here for one reason and that’s just to be a good basketball player and help this team. If it’s start or come off the bench, I’m accepting either or.” (h/t Darnell Mayberry/The Athletic)

How big of a role he plays in that remains to be seen, though this could be a chance for Donovan to get creative.

Potential Drummond-Vucevic Pairing

All three of Donovan, Drummond, and Vucevic were at least open to the idea of Drummond and Vucevic sharing the floor together. Vucevic said that, given his versatility, it would only help. It should be noted that Donovan said it’s probably not something that he would look to do, at least not early on.

An even more drastic suggestion came from NBA.com’s Sam Smith who said the Bulls could consider benching Vucevic in favor of Drummond to make the best use of both players and those around them.

For what it’s worth, Drummond’s contract technically runs longer than Vucevic’s which is in the final year at $22 million.

There has been speculation that the Bulls could be ripe for a big mid-season trade.

If the right deal comes along with several other factors in play – including Vucevic struggling even worse than last season – perhaps there is a path to Drummond starting.

A more likely scenario would be where Vucevic gets the start but subs out early enough to get Drummond alongside one of the other two stars – most likely Zach LaVine. That could create a second group of DeRozan and Vucevic with the other role players who are mostly better defenders sprinkled in.

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