I love the Chicago Bulls. I’ve been a dedicated fan throughout all their rebuilding years. But I wouldn’t say I drink the Kool-Aid. I have always maintained a realistic opinion about their talent level.
In the 2020-21 NBA season, the Bulls showed signs of potential – especially after trading for big man Nikola Vučević to take some of the scoring pressure off of All Star centerpiece Zach LaVine. But ultimately, they didn’t even make the playoffs.
Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Artūras Karnišovas and General Manager Marc Eversley weren’t satisfied with the underperforming lineup and decided to overhaul the roster during the off season.
Zach and Vučević retained their positions in the starting lineup. Second year player Patrick Williams was named the starting power forward. Lonzo Ball, one of the leagues best defenders and a skilled passer and legitimate 3-point threat was brought to run the offense. And DeMar DeRozan was acquired as a third guard in the starting lineup, replacing the traditional small forward.
Coby White, who had been an occasional starter during his first few years in the league, was moved to the bench. Defensive ace Alex Caruso was lured to the City of Big Shoulders from the Los Angeles Lakers to join White and rookie Ayo Dusunmu coming off the bench.
People around the league questioned the moves. Some said the Bulls overpaid for DeMar, Ball, and Caruso. Once the season started, though, the critics were soon eating their words. Even after Williams went down with a then-believed season ending injury, the Bulls rocked to a 24-10 record.
The Bulls had traded away Thaddeus Young and Daniel Theis in the offseason acquisitions of Ball and DeRozan, so they had no legitimate backup for Williams. Yet, with DeRozan playing MVP level basketball, and Zach maintaining his presence as a dominant scorer, the Bulls rose to first place in the Eastern Conference. The defense of Ball and Caruso also elevated the Bulls’ play.
Now, though, some fair-weather fans and longtime naysayers are using the Bulls’ recent losing streak as evidence they aren’t a serious title contender. I beg to differ.
Yes, we’ve lost some games. But our two best defenders, Ball and Caruso, have been out with injuries since January. LaVine also missed a number of games with knee soreness.
Yet, despite these losses, the Bulls are still tied for third place with the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference. That’s tied in third place with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. Not bad for a team that didn’t even make the playoffs last year.
Here’s why I’m still confident about the Bulls’ chances in the postseason. Ball and Caruso will be returning to the lineup by the end of March. Just as exciting, Patrick Williams is said to be eyeing a return to the roster this year, in time for the playoffs.
Not to mention, we just signed a rebound machine and low post defensive stopper with a Championship pedigree in Tristan Thompson. I like Thompson, he reminds me of former Bulls center Antonio Davis who wasn’t afraid to get physical and be an enforcer. Once he gets acclimated to the Bulls system, he’ll make a dominant impact.
Further, Dusunmu and White have really improved their games while their comrades have been on the injured list. Dusunmu has evolved into a really good point guard and lock down defender who has shut down some of the league’s best players. White has become a prolific scorer in the vein of Ben Gordon, but with far better ball handling and defensive skills. And don’t forget about the inspired play of Javonte Green in the absence of a power forward.
Odds makers may be underestimating the Chicago Bulls as championship contenders this year. I’m not. I think once all cylinders are firing, the Bulls will be in the hunt for a ring. I’m not issuing any guarantees, but they’ll be in the dance. They have the talent to go all the way. Let’s see if they do. I’ll be rooting for them.
Peace. Love. Trust.
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