Bulls May Be Making Key Mistake in Their Title Bid: Insider

Billy Donovan Bulls

Getty Chicago Bulls coach Billy Donovan looks over at rival coach Mike Budenholzer of the Milwaukee Bucks during the NBA Playoffs.

Less than five months ago, on February 24, 2022 to be exact, the Chicago Bulls were riding higher than they had in literal years. On that night, DeMar DeRozan scored 37 points and crushed it in the clutch to lead his squad to its sixth straight win — a streak that came hot on the heels of a nine-gamer in December/January — against the Atlanta Hawks.

As a result, the then-No. 1 Bulls improved to 39-21 on the campaign with playoff basketball firmly on the horizon.

In the end, though, Chicago’s championship dreams were dashed when the injury bug bit down hard and the crew that remained was exposed as something less than a title-contending outfit. The Bulls would close out the regular season on a 7-15 slide, after which they were dropped in five games by the Milwaukee Bucks during Round 1 of postseason play.

Flash forward to now and, while Chicago is banking on better health in the year ahead, some are wondering whether the team’s decision-makers are doing enough to get it back to its briefly-held perch atop the conference.

Bulpett: Bulls Look to Be Pinching Pennies

Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney and Steve Bulpett discussed the Bulls situation during their latest NBA Talk on Tuesday (embedded above). When asked whether he believed Chicago was being cheap in terms of spending on the upgrades that so many see as essential, Bulpett answered in the affirmative.

“It certainly looks that way,” he said, while making the following concession: “You don’t know if they are waiting for the other dominoes to fall, as a lot of other teams are.”

Barring that — or a left-field Kevin Durant play — though, it’s difficult to argue with Bulpett’s assessment. Especially when the Bulls have used just a small portion of their $10.5 million midlevel exception and have clearly endeavored to avoid crossing the luxury tax line.

“I wanted to see the Bulls whole. With Caruso out and Ball out, you never got to see them that way when the important games came. It is an interesting team,” Bulpett added. “But when you look at how the top of the East has come together — Boston, Milwaukee and I think with Harden taking less, Philadelphia is going to be interesting there. So my interest in the Bulls, when you look around, has waned a bit.”

That seems to be the feeling around the hoops blogosphere, too.

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An Alternative Path?

This much is certain: finances aside, more moves are needed if the Bulls want to solidify themselves as contenders.

“If they don’t make a couple things happen, they’re not playing for the Eastern Conference championship. They can be a solid, upper-tier seeded team but I don’t think they’re in a position to compete for East championship or a trip to the Finals,” Bulpett opined.

With that being the case, one can’t help but wonder if the Bulls ought to consider doing what the Utah Jazz just did and jumpstart a rebuilding/retooling period, particularly if finances are such a concern for them. It’s a strange concept considering all the team accomplished last season, but if the Bulls aren’t willing to spend…

“You’ve got LaVine, you’ve got DeMar DeRozan. Are you wasting their time? If you are not going to put the right players around them, then move them. If you want to save money, go and get the draft picks and the young players on their rookie-scale players who are going to be playing above the level of their contracts.”


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