Insider Suggests Bulls Have Already Done the ‘Easy Part’

DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

Getty DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls waits for the start of play after a time out

The Chicago Bulls had it easy last season, suggests one NBA insider. While not mentioned directly, the Bulls fit the bill of a team described as doing the “easy part” in becoming a playoff team in 2022.

Some might say that is off-base given all of the injuries they withstood in getting there.

Others might point to their second-half slide, injuries or not, and say that proves they were fortunate to reach the heights they did.

Judging from their rhetoric, it sure sounds as though the Bulls believe they are just getting started with a group that got very little time on the floor together as a whole last season. Now, though, comes the hard part.

Bulls’ Big Leap a Small Feat

The Bulls won all of 22 games in back-to-back seasons (2019 and 2020) before winning 31 games in 2021 and, then, 46 games this past season leading to their first playoff berth in five years. It was their first under vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas who was hired in 2020 and hired head coach Billy Donovan in 2021 to guide the turnaround.

They were doubted going into the season but quickly drew praise when the results began the bear out. A pair of All-Stars in DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine with the former garnering early MVP attention further justified their moves.

But Jake Fischer suggested that their 24-game leap is not the real challenge facing this front office during a recent episode of the “Please Don’ Aggregate This” podcast.

It’s successfully taking the next step.

“It’s pretty easy to turn a 20-win team into a 40-win team,” Fischer said. “Everyone talks about that around the NBA. That it’s very easy to turn a loser into a borderline playoff contender. What’s really hard is to…turn a 40-win team into a 50-win team. Or a 50-win team into a 60-win team.”

Fischer was speaking in regards to Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks possibly getting more credit than what he was able to accomplish with the organization warranted.

He does go on to say he was playing “devil’s advocate” with regards to Marks.

Questions Around Karnisovas’ Plan

Fischer’s message about the difference in difficulty between the challenges and how it applies to what Karnisovas faced when he arrived compared to now cannot be overlooked. Bulls fans have made GarPax – a mashup of former general manager Gar Forman and vice president John Paxson – synonymous with failure.

It is not as though Karnisovas and Donovan were replacing the dynastic regime of the 90s after Michael Jordan left.

However, his most significant piece of business was retaining the services of a 6-foot-something wing player in LaVine. Karnisovas gave LaVine the largest contract in franchise history at $215 million over the next five years.

But many of Karnisovas’ other moves have come under fire.

His decision to only make small tweaks to the roster that was so battered last season. The additions the Bulls did make have also come into question.

The Bulls have preached continuity in light of their injuries last season. That means relying heavily on the improvement of their younger players, namely Ayo Dosunmu, Patrick Williams, and even the likes of Coby White who has been on the trade block. Dalen Terry is expected to contribute some but, as a rookie, whatever he provides is a bonus.

There remain deep pockets of both doubts as well as support for Karnisovas’ approach.

And, in the end, things still have to play out on the court. But there is a chance Karnisovas took his biggest risk in this relatively quiet offseason ahead of the biggest challenge that he has faced at the helm of the Bulls.

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