Between Lonzo Ball‘s lingering knee problems and some awkardly-fitting core pieces looking, well, awkward together on the court, the Chicago Bulls‘ season hasn’t come close to playing out as fans had hoped. More recently, though, there has been a whole lot less for them to complain about.
Since adding Patrick Beverley to the fold in the aftermath of the NBA trade deadline, Chicago has posted a 10-6 record and gotten itself back into the play-in range of the Eastern Conference standings. And over that stretch, the club ranks sixth league-wide in defensive rating (111.5) and 10th in offensive rating (117.2).
Nevertheless, simply running it back for a second time in 2023-24 probably shouldn’t be on the table for the Bulls’ front office. Chief decision-maker Arturas Karnisovas doesn’t have to blow everything up now but a concerted effort to fix the mix — one way or the other — should probably begin this summer.
At least, that’s the opinion of Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley who, in a piece seeking to identify the “untouchable” players on each of the Association’s teams, ultimately landed on no one for the Bulls.
B/R: Bulls Need to Make Serious Changes If They’re to Hop Off the Treadmill of Mediocrity
Buckley’s premise was a simple one — as currently constituted (sans Ball, anyway), the Bulls are a textbook middle-of-the-road team. So, if winning a championship is the actual goal here, Karnisovas and Co. either need to strip things down to the bones or make several big-time roster upgrades.
In either case, it would mean parting with players who the Windy City faithful hold near and dear:
In May 2021, Chicago Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnisovas declared, “We will not settle for mediocrity here.”
While Chicago won 46 games last season, it stumbled after losing Lonzo Ball to a torn meniscus in mid-January and was bounced out of the first round in only five games. This season, with Ball sadly still nowhere in sight, the Bulls will need to escape the play-in tournament to reprise their role as first-round fodder.
Something’s gotta give. If Chicago wants to chase maximum competitiveness, then no youngster (not even Patrick Williams) must be spared in a search for instant upgrades. If the Bulls hit the rebuilding road instead, then all veterans (including Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso) should be heavily shopped for long-term assets.
The Summer of 2024 Is the Time for the Bulls’ Front Office to Shine
Regardless of which direction the Bulls decide to go in, their hands will be somewhat tied this coming offseason. While Nikola Vucevic’s deal comes off the books, the team is destined to operate above the salary cap next season, so they won’t fully recoup that salary slot if he leaves. It’s basically a “re-sign him or lose out” scenario.
Moreover, that cap crunch hinders their ability to add meaningful free agents and the draft is out, too, thanks to the trade that brought Vucevic to the Windy City two years ago.
The summer of 2024 figures to be a different matter entirely, though. As of this writing, the Bulls will only have around $80 million in committed salary, even if Ball exercises his player option and Dalen Terry is retained (Williams’ qualifying offer pushes the total to $93 million).
That number could make the club a big-time player in free agency while also making it easier for them to complete trades.