It is admittedly difficult to be a critic of your favorite team. Everyone wants to believe their team is headed in the right direction, which often blinds us, the fans, to the cruel reality that there’s only room for a handful of teams to become real contenders each summer. . That’s why I tried to be so honest and objective in my assessment of the Chicago Bulls this offseason, probably almost wrongly.
Working on a promising draft prospect (like I did with Tari Eason) or an available free agent (looking at you, Jalen Smith) can be frustrating when you inevitably watch the Bulls go in a different direction. This manifested in my harsh reaction to the signing of Goran Dragic, which was more geared towards the opportunity cost of not signing another striker, rather than an indictment of Dragic himself.
Still, I think Chicago’s front office wasn’t blind in their decision-making and are clearly trying to keep this team in contention, as evidenced by Zach LaVine’s whopping $215 million max contract extension. While it’s worth noting that it’s been odd to see pony ownership pay Zach, just to start pinching pennies at the last moment by not using their Mid-Level Exception (MLE) in free agency.
It has left many fans anxiously awaiting news of a trade, largely because the reality of the Bulls adding coins is a little hard to accept. I think Chicago going into next season as it’s currently built is the most likely scenario at the moment, but there’s always the possibility that they use the soon-to-expire trade exception or waive someone to open a place on the list.
Although the Chicago Bulls made several high-profile moves last summer, they confused fans with the quiet nature of their 2022 offseason plans.
If we’re to assume the Bulls are done making moves for now, let’s review the additions they’ve actually made so far:
- Drafted Dalen Terry with the 18th pick
- Undrafted rookie signed Justin Lewis
- Re-signed Zach LaVine
- Re-signed Derrick Jones Jr.
- Signed André Drummond
- Signed Goran Dragic
On the surface, this doesn’t look like drastic franchise changes. Drummond appears to be the only player who will clearly take on a backup role, as Terry and Dragic will be competing for their places in the rotation. But I would like to take this opportunity to put it all into perspective.
First, the Bulls added a lot of depth to a roster that struggled with injuries and a COVID-19 outbreak last season. Chicago was exposed during this period and it ultimately encouraged a lot of iso-heavy plays that were just never going to work in the playoffs. If the Bulls make a big, hard-hitting trade now, they should still have a quality bench even if they give up some valuable plays. It’s also worth noting that since they haven’t used their full MLE, the Bulls could be a prime destination for free agents during the midseason buyout market.
Now we have to look at who Chicago’s new additions are actually bumping into the rotation. Drummond looks like a big improvement over Tristan Thompson, Terry will almost certainly be more effective than Troy Brown Jr. from day one, and despite his many flaws, Dragic has far more redeeming qualities than Matt Thomas.
Thompson, Brown Jr. and Thomas combined for an average of 43.8 mins played per game last season; it’s now 43.8 minutes per game that the Bulls have clearly improved. By adding experienced talent to the back of the roster, Chicago can also hopefully avoid the clear signs of burnout that plagued DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic and Ayo Dosunmu’s games as the season drew to a close.
We shouldn’t ignore the natural development of Patrick Williams, Dosunmu and Marko Simonovic either, as the team could be better next season. This is especially true for Williams, who spent the summer training with DeRozan and clearly putting in the effort to take his game to the next level.
The Bulls will have to see that young core growth like DeRozan and Vucevic near the end of their sports bonuses. With a fuller roster and a few players managing to develop their games more, I think the sky’s the limit for these Chicago Bulls.
So to answer the question posed: yes, the Chicago Bulls have improved. But the same goes for the rest of the Eastern Conference, so better might not be good enough. Since they’ve kept their options open and remained flexible, our best bet now may just be to see how this group plays together next year and then implement any necessary changes as the season progresses. advance.