Chicago Bulls: Contenders or Pretenders?

Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Chicago Bulls: Contenders or Pretenders?

Basketball

Chicago Bulls: Contenders or Pretenders?

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Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls added a surplus of talent this past offseason in an attempt to surround Zach LaVine with the proper personnel and system to lead a winning group. The additions of Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan were two of the most impactful offseason moves, and they’ve both been crucial pieces to Chicago’s success. Not only that, but adding pieces such as Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, and Derrick Jones Jr have paid dividends, as all have been more than worthy rotation pieces on this new look Bulls squad. Everyone knew Chicago would be a force to be reckoned with, but they’ve even exceeded expectations.

The cohesion and chemistry with Chicago’s core is nearly unmatched by any team in the league, which only becomes more impressive when considering that this team has only played 18 games together. Coach Billy Donovan has done a fantastic job of developing a system and putting a plan in place to make the most out of all his talent, and he’s vastly succeeded at doing so. From lineup construction, to ball movement, to off-ball spacing, Donovan has implemented a system that will give this group a chance to beat any team on any given night.

Looking at Chicago from an overall personnel stand-point, it’s clear that they have one of the most talented teams in basketball. Zach LaVine has continued his development into one of the best players in basketball, using his combination of elite shot-making and creation to be the engine this team needs offensively. DeMar DeRozan has not only met expectations as a Bull, but has vastly exceeded them, as he’s developed into a threat from long-range while having more room to operate as a mid-range scorer, forming the perfect guard-wing tandem for this Chicago group. Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso have been perfect complimentary pieces, both making a run at an All-Defensive team nod and contributing on offense as playmakers. 

Despite having average depth, Chicago’s bench group may be their downfall. Those four players have all been crucial pieces, but they can’t be the only pieces. Nikola Vucevic struggled mightily before going down with COVID-19, and if his slump continues after his return, Chicago may be in trouble. Not only that, but Patrick Williams going down opened up a void at the four, and guys like Dosunmu and Jones Jr aren’t capable of stepping into a bigger role yet. 

Although the defense has exceeded expectations, it’s hard to see Chicago maintaining their top-level defense all season. The main personnel they have defensively comes in the form of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, two guards who are incapable of anchoring a defense for an entire season. Chicago would be smart to go out on the trade market and search for a reliable rim protector to anchor the defense, or else it’s hard to see them maintaining a top defense.

The Bulls, like any other team, have their upsides and downsides. However, it’s safe to say that Chicago is ready to contend. The amount of cohesion this group has had right away is rare for a brand new team, and they’re only going to grow as a team with more reps. The defense is bound to fall off, but Chicago finishing as a league-average defense is far better than them finishing as a bottom tier defense like expected. Overall, Chicago has the makings to contend in the East, and all teams should try to avoid playing them round one.

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