The Bulls have yet to make the playoffs since the 2017 season when the team’s stars were Jimmy Butler, Dwayne Wade, Rajon Rondo, and Nikola Mirotić. They were the eight seed. After that season, Wade and Rondo parted from the organization, and the Bulls traded away Jimmy Butler that summer for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Lauri Markkanen; however, Dunn and Markkanen no longer remain on the team.
For a while, the Bulls have been under sub-par management. At times, the team had the worst coaching in the NBA. However, a few promising stars have surfaced, such as Zach LaVine, from the Jimmy Butler trade and Coby White with the seventh pick in the 2019 NBA draft. Both have exceeded initial expectations, but not much more came from the former, disappointing front office.
Last offseason, the Bulls hired new management and coaching. Arturas Karnisovas came over from the Denver Nuggets to be the Head of Basketball Operations, and Marc Eversley, from the Philadelphia 76ers, to be our new General Manager. This duo, known as AKME, started creating positive changes to the Bulls. Their first move was the hiring of Billy Donovan as the head coach. Donovan came off massive success with the Thunder and is arguably a top 10 head coach in the league. In the 2020 draft, the Bulls selected Patrick Williams. Williams had a great season and was selected to the All-rookie second team.
Even with the rising potential of the young core forming, AKME felt as if the Bulls needed more talent and elected to progress towards winning now. So that’s what they did. They traded for All-star center Nikola Vucevic during the 2021 trade deadline. Additionally, during the off-season, the Bulls signed star facilitator Lonzo Ball and former All-star DeMar Derozan. Following, the Bulls acquired quality role players such as Alex Caruso, Tony Bradley, Stanley Johnson, Alize Johnson, and Derrick Jones Jr. They also drafted Illinois superstar Ayo Dosunmu and brought in Marko Simonović from overseas via the 2020 draft. In just one season, AKME turned a Chicago Bulls team that didn’t have an All-star or a playoff appearance in 4 years into a competent, playoff team containing three All-stars, young pieces, and a deep bench.
Despite the Bulls’ incredible offseason, many people aren’t high on them just yet. Vegas has the Bulls Over/Under for wins as just 42.5. To put that into perspective, that many wins would place the Bulls 16th out of the 30 NBA teams last season. That’s where many analysts predict them to finish. ESPN predicts them to be around the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Although being an optimistic fan, I find it impossible to believe that the Bulls don’t make a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference.
A major problem the Bulls had last season is their defense. The Bulls had poor defenders and a poor defense as a whole. However, the Bulls will drastically improve their defense this year. Lonzo Ball is one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, and his 6’6” stature allows him to defend almost any player. In addition, the Bulls hope Patrick Williams to make a big step in his game, especially defensively. Williams was viewed as the best defender in last year’s draft. Often, Coach Donovan had Williams guard the best player on opposing teams such as Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kawhi Leonard, to name a few. LaVine also looks to take a step in his game defensively. LaVine has stated numerous times that defense is one thing he wants to improve. He is one of the most athletic players in the game, and he looks to become an above-average defender this year. Lavine’s defensive potential was displayed throughout the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he would be called on the court if the team needed a defensive spark. Lavine can become a top two-way player in the game. The Bulls bench will also provide help defensively. Alex Caruso and Troy Brown Jr. are hard-working defenders that can play some quality minutes.
The Bulls were also in need of a true facilitator. They were the only team in the NBA to have no players average above five assists per game. Lonzo Ball will probably start for the Bulls at point guard this season. What is helpful is that he is known as an amazing passer. Ball averaged 5.7 assists per game during the previous season on the New Orleans Pelicans. It is likely that statistic increases due to Ball switching to a much stronger Bulls team. Though Ball not only helps as a facilitator, he also helps space the floor. Additionally, Ball ranked 10th last season in Real Plus-Minus; A stat that measures the impact of a player when on the floor. Every player who ranked one through nine made the All-star team. Ball will provide the true point guard role that the Bulls have been looking for.
Finally, Zach LaVine and DeMar Derozan are players that work well in isolation basketball. Lavine and Derozan are both known to score at will, providing the offensive firepower the Bulls need for this upcoming season.
My prediction for the Bulls is 49-33, finishing as the fourth seed. Look for the Bulls to make some serious noise this season. Go Bulls!