The Chicago Bulls ended a four-year playoff drought, found success in the duo of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, and at one point were at the top of the Eastern Conference after a hot start to the season. However, injuries to LaVine, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams derailed a once-promising season. On the plus side, three of those four guys are now fully fit to start the season, but the flip side is that the Bulls willafter second knee surgery this year.
Sobering news of Ball’s status aside, the Bulls are still featured in the playoffs this season. But the team will have to figure out how to get through the year without their starting point guard, especially when just about everyone else in the East has improved.
Leading up to the 2022-2023 season, here’s a recap of the Chicago offseason and a preview of some of the key storylines to look out for when the season ends in a few weeks.
- Signed free agent Goran Dragic
- Signed free agent Andre Drummond
- Drafted Dalene Terry with the 18th overall pick.
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Derrick Jones Jr.
The main thing: to stay afloat without the ball
Without a doubt, the biggest storyline revolving around the Bulls is Lonzo Ball’s status and how the team will fare without him for now. Ball recently had a second knee operation after a torn meniscus in January and has had several setbacks in his rehab over the past nine months. He is expected to be revalued in 4-6 weeks, but the Bulls have not yet specified when to expect him to return to the floor. With Ball suspended for the foreseeable future, Chicago must figure out who will fill his role in the meantime.
On press day, head coach Billy Donovan said he’s looking forward to training camp to see who fills the starting point guard void while listing all the good qualities that Goran Dragic, Ayo Dosunmu, Alex Caruso and Kobe White bring. team. These will be the four guys that Donovan has to choose from to play Ball, and while having options is a good thing, it doesn’t make the decision any easier. If defense is a priority, which should probably be given how porous Chicago was at the end of this floor last season, then Caruso should be the obvious choice. Last season, the Bulls scored 8.5 points less when Caruso was on the floor, which is the league’s 96th percentile according to Glass Cleaning. Putting Caruso in Ball’s place guarantees minimal defensive drop, but his weak shooting record compared to the previous season is worrying. The Bulls need Caruso to take down 3s on offense if he’s going to start, otherwise it will cause spacing problems between DeRozan and LaVine.
If Donovan wants more offensive punch, then Dragic might be the better choice. The 36-year-old defender was a valuable Chicago free agent, and while he may have long past his prime, his EuroBasket performance for Slovenia proved that the Dragon still had enough left to go down and get to their middle positions. However, Dragic’s launch would hurt the Bulls defensively. The same goes for White, who was great at hitting threes a season ago but is a liability on the other end of the floor.
Dosunmu provides a good balance on both ends of the floor for Chicago. He’s nowhere near as good a defender as Caruso and he’s not going to control the offensive game that Dragic is capable of. However, the sophomore quarterback has proven in his rookie season that he can take on that starting role when needed. He was efficient enough on offense to keep the defense fair, and his high energy and hard work were good enough not to interfere with the defense. This happy environment that Dosunmu provides may end up winning for the Bulls as they await Ball’s return whenever that may be.
Next: High hopes for Williams
Based on quotes from the media day, the Bulls have high hopes that Williams will make that oft-cited jump in his third year. At least that’s what they hope. During exit interviews last season, Williams said his goal for year three is to become more aggressive, but what exactly does that entail? Well, according to Donovan, it’s widespread.
“I think the hardest thing for a young player when you play with guys like Vuch, Zach and DeMar and experienced players is when do I quit? When do I give? When do I drive? aggressive? When can I be aggressive? I think now he is starting to understand where his points are, and then in his points he should be in position when he attacks and behaves aggressively, ”Donovan said at a media day. “It can be running on the floor, hitting the attacking glass, getting out of the screen, catching the ball in the pocket. Just have the mentality of trying to create an advantage in the next hand. And I think he can do it, he gave signals to do it, but we have to keep pushing him in this situation.”
Donovan wasn’t the only one who was optimistic about Williams at the media day. LaVine noted how the third-year forward has worked quite a bit with his personal trainer Drew Hanlen this summer, and that the team trusts him with “everything in the world.” DeRozan shared how he took Williams under his wing during the off-season, putting him through tough workouts and saying he has “high” hopes for the up-and-coming forward.
We’ve seen Williams showcase glimpses of a solid two-way player, but the Bulls need him to be consistent enough to make an impact every night. Given that Chicago was persistent To include Williams in a potential deal to get Jerami Grant by last season’s deadline, it makes sense that the Bulls are betting that he will develop into a quality player. But unlike other prospects that may need more time to develop on lottery-bound teams, Williams is on a winning team that needs him to make that leap if the Bulls want to move from a playoff team to a serious one. threat in the Eastern Conference. .
And more: DeRozan-LaVine 2.0
At a media day, DeRozan was asked what it would be like to have a “healthy Zach” this season after the All-Star quarterback was troubled by a post-break knee injury. “A healthy Zach makes our lives much easier,” he said.
“A lot of my frustrations last year was that Zach was away and we were always talking about making life easier for each other and being so flustered and depressed not having each other make life difficult for both of us. So having a healthy Zach, a Healthy Me, goes into that, it just makes our job and everyone else’s job a lot easier.”
DeRozan also alerted the other teams in the league that LaVine was healthy again, and the two developed last season’s chemistry.
“It can be very, very exciting and scary for other people at the same time,” DeRozan said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to him this summer, just checking on him while putting his foot together. I want to be with a healthy Zach. A whole year of this is what I dream about every single night.”
Last season we saw how powerful this duo can be when they are both healthy and sharing the court together. So just imagine how much damage they can do on offense after a full season of playing together and with a healthy LaVine. A terrible sight indeed.
Early on, the Bulls had a fairly hectic schedule, playing the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics in their first five games. That home debut against the Cavaliers will be a huge test for the Bulls to see how they can hold up against a team from Cleveland who got some offensive firepower when they were traded for Donovan Mitchell. This will be the first of four meetings between the two and will give Chicago an idea of what to expect from Cleveland this season. Another game that will be discussed in the first two months is their first meeting with the Milwaukee Bucks. Chicago lost to the 2021 champions in five games in the first round of the playoffs, and now the Bulls will get their first chance at revenge.
The Knicks meeting in mid-December should be interesting considering how tough most of those meetings were a season ago. Then in January, the Bulls will have the opportunity to take on the defending champions and possibly erase what was their worst loss (a 42-point loss) a year ago. It was also the game in which LaVine injured himself and marked the unofficial start of Chicago’s decline. Surely players will circle this game for a number of reasons. Rounding out the schedule is a trip to Paris, where the Bulls will play the Detroit Pistons.
- October 22 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
- November 23 at the Milwaukee Bucks
- December 14 vs. New York Knicks
- January 15 vs. Golden State Warriors
- January 19 vs. Detroit Pistons (Paris)