Embattled Bulls Big Man Gets Strong Vote of Confidence

Tony Bradley

Getty Tony Bradley #13 of the Chicago Bulls rebounds

Could the Chicago Bulls get a bounceback performance from one of their big men? This offseason has been all about continuity. Baked into that is improved health and much-needed internal development.

The former is largely out of their control, though that has not stopped some players like Lonzo Ball from being called out for it.

But the latter is fully within the control of the players and, to a lesser extent, the coaching staff.

To that end, is it possible that we see fifth-year center Tony Bradley have a resurgence after a largely unspectacular opening salvo with the Bulls? The embattled pivot is getting a strong vote of confidence in the form of a reminder.

Tony Bradley Before the Bulls

The Bulls signed Bradley to a two-year contract last offseason after three years spent with the Utah Jazz as well as a season split between the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder in 2022.

That deal included a player option for this coming season worth $2 million that he exercised this summer with some expecting that he could be waived at any moment.

He is still on this roster and could offer more in Year 2, suggests Forbes’ Morten Jensen.

Bradley averaged 3.0 points and 3.4 rebounds with the Bulls last season. Both figures are the lowest since his rookie year when he saw the floor in all of nine games. He also struggled to finish, shooting just 58.5% of his looks which mostly came at the rim.

He also posted the highest defensive rating of his career at 110, per Basketball-Reference.com.

But Bradley finished in the 72nd percentile or better in both offensive and defensive rating as well as efficiency differential on both ends, per Cleaning the Glass, which removes garbage time.

Bradley may make good on his $2 million pact.

Vooch, Drummond, Then Bradley

Bradley’s defensive rating at 105 for last season, per NBA.com. That shows the variance in metrics from site to site. But, more importantly, it shows a significant drop (to 99.1) after Tristan Thompson was added and Bradley was shifted to a more suitable third-option role off of the bench.

Naturally, that meant a drop from 10. minutes per game to fewer than 5.0 per game. And, health permitting, that should be the case from the outset this coming season.

Two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic remains in place as the starter after drawing praise from Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas and head coach Billy Donovan for his durability last season.

The Bulls upgraded from Thomspon to another two-time former All-Star in Andre Drummond.

His signing has been discussed ad nauseam. But he will certainly help them on the boards and is a big body in the paint. He also says that he plans to play for a while giving the Bulls some long-term options despite whatever may happen.

Drummond has also been mostly durable in his career coming off of a 73-appearance season and seven straight from his rookie season in 2013 up to 2019.

Bradley Properly Cast as Reserve

As the NBA has shifted to the perimeter, Drummond is almost an overqualified role player. But his best ability in regards to Bradley as far as the Bulls are concerned will be in keeping the latter in a more appropriate, and the Bulls hope productive role this coming season.

We know what to expect from Vucevic, even in a down season.

Bradley’s not going to be relied upon. But he doesn’t have to in order to be impactful which is far more likely in a proper role and when he’s not tasked with being any sort of enforcer.

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