When the Chicago Bulls traded for Nikola Vučević, the move was made for both immediate and future success. Adding Vučević to the team to pair alongside their All-Star in Zach LaVine was supposed to help the Bulls with the push for the playoffs.
But Chicago came up short, not only missing the playoffs but failing to even qualify for the play-in tournament. It marked the fourth-straight season that the Bulls missed out on postseason play.
LaVine did miss 11-straight games due to COVID-19, starting in April and lasting till early May. Despite that, the Bulls still had their chances. They just ultimately fell short of their postseason goal.
According to Zach LaVine, talent — or lack thereof rather — is not the reason for the Bulls’ shortcomings this past season.
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LaVine Believes Bulls Were a Playoff Team
Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic spoke with several Bulls players about how the team can improve for next season. When speaking with LaVine, he reflected on why the Bulls went another season of not being a playoff team.
“It wasn’t the team or a talent thing with us,” LaVine said. “We’re extremely talented. We were a playoff (caliber) team. We competed with the best teams. But we didn’t do certain things throughout the games to win us the games.”
Aside from LaVine and Vučević, the Bulls relied heavily on Coby White, Lauri Markkanen, Thaddeus Young, Daniel Theis, Patrick Williams, Tomáš Satoranský and Garrett Temple.
While those players all have their flaws, they all had something to offer. The Bulls’ main players worked well enough together for them to have been expected to make it to the playoffs. If not, then the Bulls wouldn’t have been fighting for a playoff spot as the end of the season neared.
But, as LaVine said, “certain things” prevented their success.
Improvements to Be Made
This past season, the Bulls were one of the league’s worst teams at taking care of the ball. All season long, turnovers were a problem, and Chicago never quite took care of the issue. Come the end of the regular season, the Bulls averaged 15.1 turnovers per game, bad enough for No. 27 in the league.
Among the things LaVine mentioned that the Bulls need to improve upon is attention to detail. An improvement in that area could certainly help Chicago become better at taking care of the ball and limiting their turnovers.
LaVine also brought up “lulls throughout the game” as another area that Chicago needs to improve upon.
The Bulls had various instances throughout the season where they got off to slow starts or struggled to close out games. Sometimes, this cost the Bulls games they should have won. Other times, it prevented them from even making it into a competitive game.
In the first quarter, the Bulls averaged 27.2 points, ranking toward the bottom of the league at No. 26. In the fourth quarter, the Bulls averaged 26.8 points, but they would also give up 27.9 points per game — bad enough for No. 25 in the league.
While adding more talent to the roster could help with these areas, simply having time to practice and become better acquainted with one another’s games can help Chicago be better next season. In fact, in the same piece from The Athletic, Temple mentioned that the Bulls had one practice after the Vučević trade — during which LaVine was out with coronavirus.
This doesn’t mean the Bulls don’t need to make upgrades to their roster, but the potential for success will be greater if they put in the work.