The 2021-22 Chicago Bulls revisited
The Chicago Bulls were one of the success stories during the 2022 regular season, only to fall short in the first round of the playoffs, losing in five games to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Chicago’s star-studded starting lineup, comprised of resurgent five-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, late-rising, high-flying guard and two-time All-Star Zach LaVine, and fellow two-time all-star and one of the more skilled centers in the league, Nikola Vucevic, practically guaranteed a trip to the playoffs, yet in the playoffs, their bench provided little-to-no help.
However, with the impending return of a healthy Lonzo Ball, as well as a few key additions to the bench, Chicago now seems to have one of the premier squads in the Eastern Conference, and this coming season could quietly provide their best chance at winning a title since Michael Jordan’s team capped off its second three-peat.
The band is back together… with new faces
One of the most important additions to Chicago’s rotation is actually a player who was on their roster last season: Alex Caruso.
A fan-favorite willing to do anything for the betterment of the team, including starting at power forward despite being a natural point guard, Caruso will be able to go back to the bench when Ball returns, putting him back in his preferred place. “A.C.” was a key contributor in the second unit during the Los Angeles Lakers’ run to the 2020 title, even earning himself a start in the closeout Game Six, and with him back in his regular spot, he will be able to spend more time creating for his teammates while also playing stifling defense on opposing guards.
Goran Dragic may be haunted by memories of his most infamous encounter with Chicago when Derrick Rose baptized him on a transition jam in 2010, but his insertion into the Bulls’ rotation should also prove extremely valuable. The 36-year-old veteran still has gas in the tank and played important minutes for the Brooklyn Nets in the recent playoffs, averaging 10.5 points on 56.3% shooting in 19.8 minutes per night. “The Dragon” can work off or on the ball and will fit seamlessly with Caruso as an excellent penetrator and catch-and-shoot guy.
On the complete other hand, the Chicago Bulls also rebuffed its center position by signing another form Net, Andre Drummond; the longtime Detroit Piston-turned-journeyman is one of the true brutes in the league and finished last season ranked first in total rebound percentage and 10th in contested rebound win percentage amongst players who participated in at least 50 games.
There is also a glaring disparity looking at Drummond’s per 40-minute stats compared to 2021 backup big man Tristan Thompson— whereas Thompson’s line consists of 13.8 points and 11.6 rebounds, Drummond posted a far more impressive 21.1 points and 18.5 rebounds.
Legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt once said “offense sells tickets, defense wins games, and rebounding wins championships,” and the Bulls just added a four-time rebounding champ to their roster. Not bad.
Increased expectations for Chicago Bulls
As much as the Bulls were a fun group to watch last season, the short-lived affection for the overachiever will have worn off, and teams will view them as a viable threat and treat them as such. This means that they will not be sneaking up on anyone, and the basketball world will expect results.
The front office took a plunge in early July by extending LaVine on a five-year, $215m deal, so his seat is also increasingly hot. The sharp-shooting athlete has thrived since coming to Chicago, but he now needs to take another step and become the second-best player on a championship-contending team.
His counterpart and team star, DeRozan, will also be demanded to perform after making an early MVP case but only finishing on the All-NBA third team due to a poor close to the regular season. His style of mid-range dominance has been called outdated, but it was working for a while. If he can sustain his excellence throughout the campaign, it will go a long way towards getting the Bulls firmly in the mix for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The season is still a few months away, but there is a growing buzz in Chicago— hopefully they back up their bull.
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