Bulls Urged to Try Something Different with Rising Star Next Season

Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls watches his team

The Chicago Bulls could be better equipped for the small-ball era than some think. Their offseason has been quite polarizing in the court of public opinion. Some feel they truly missed the boat on making a trade to push them over the top.

Others, namely Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas, understand that this was always their plan – even if a few names changed along the way – and now they will evaluate.

Karnisovas’ opinion is ultimately the only one that matters.

He has faith in what he’s built which could be a team primed for the small-ball era. Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey writes that small-ball “won’t end anytime soon”. This despite recent moves like the Minnesota Timberwolves made to trade for Rudy Gobert.

Talent, Fit, Versatility, and Size

Buckley’s piece attempts to identify the best small-ball unit for all 30 NBA teams. For the Bulls, that group includes Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso in the backcourt. DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine would play the forwards spots which both have plenty of experience in.

The secret to unlocking it all could be Patrick Williams. Buckley would like to see him playing center in the Bulls’ small-ball looks next season.

In their chase for continuity, the Bulls have opened the door for their “Death Lineup.”

“The Bulls did play Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Zach LaVine, and DeMar DeRozan together before injuries piled up, and they were plus-16.3 points per 100 possessions with that quartet on the floor. But those groups typically featured a traditional 5 like Nikola Vucevic or Tony Bradley.”

Andre Drummond figures to soak up all of the minutes that were occupied by Tony Bradley early on and then Tristan Thompson later. Drummond should certainly be an improvement over both. He has been described as everything from “burnt toast” to an “outright steal“.

Either way, there is very little about the 6-foot-10, 279-pound Drummond that screams “small-ball” or “switchable”.

“If they want a full-fledged, switch-everything defense next season, they should give that foursome a little more time with Patrick Williams at the 5. They probably can’t do that for long stretches, but the combination of defensive versatility, outside shooting, and playmaking in this lineup is intriguing.”

Williams would replace Derrick Jones Jr. who filled the role last season and is back for 2023.

Small Sample Size

Not only did those lineups not see enough time together thanks to injuries to Ball and Caruso. But that also kept the Bulls from getting a glimpse at what they could do with Williams really at all as he played just five games before suffering a wrist injury. That incredibly small sample size was not very encouraging.

“The Chicago Bulls are one of the few teams that basically decided to run it back this offseason, so they had the opportunity to play this lineup in 2021-22. Unfortunately, injuries (and perhaps coach Billy Donovan‘s hesitance) limited it to just three possessions.”

One additional concern could be taking Vucevic off of the floor for the inconsistent Williams.

Vucevic was still one of just six players to average at least 17.0 points and 11.0 rebounds this past season. He was one of just three to do that while also making at least 70 appearances in 2022.

But the Bulls should still have plenty of offensive firepower off of the dribble as well as 3-and-D help on the perimeter.

“With DeRozan and LaVine leading the offense, points shouldn’t be terribly difficult to come by. On the other end, you have two of the game’s top perimeter defenders in Ball and Caruso, and a potential utility man in Williams.”

The Bulls ask a lot of Williams defensively.

Asking him to play center for an extended period and be the last line of defense would be even more taxing.

Bulls Hoping for Better Health

The Bulls got 92 games out of Ball, Caruso, and Williams combined. Last season, they were woefully thin on players capable of filling in for one of those players let alone all three as was the case from January 15 through March 11.

They are hoping for a better run of health this coming season. In fact, “hope” has been the operative word whenever they have discussed Ball in particular publicly.

Backup guard Ayo Dosunmu should be more prepared for a large role in his second season.

And the Bulls hedged even further by drafting Dalen Terry with the 18th-overall pick and, to a lesser extent, re-signing Jones.

Throw in the additions of Goran Dragic and Andre Drummond, as well as Coby White’s continued presence, and the Bulls do appear to be better equipped to withstand some injuries to their top guys.

But another season of lengthy absences could still sink their plans.

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