For a brief shining moment in 2021, The Chicago Bulls were the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. A feat they had not achieved since 2011, led by Derrick Rose.
But that point in time has been one of the only bright spots in recent Chicago Bulls history. What followed was a fall from grace during which they managed only one playoff win in 2022, against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, being eliminated in five games.
Apart from horrible injury luck for their point guard and best player Lonzo Ball (who still has major questions around him as to whether he’ll ever play basketball again), the same group that were that number one seed 2 years ago is largely intact.
So, with a 4-7 start to the 2023 NBA season, what gives? Chicago are 12th in the Eastern Conference, and are getting outplayed by teams that are by all accounts worse than they are.
The Bulls might need to capitalise on Zach LaVine’s trade value. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
According to NBA statistics hub ‘Cleaning the Glass’, Chicago are in the bottom 10 teams in every stat category.
They are 23rd in the league for points per 100 possessions, Their effective field goal percentage is 51 per cent, third worst in the league and they are first in turnovers at 17.5 per cent.
In non-stat terms, all those numbers mean they aren’t scoring nearly enough points, they are only making half of their total shot attempts and are the team turning over the ball the most in the league.
For context, the reigning champions Denver Nuggets are scoring 10 more points per 100 possessions, shooting 7 per cent better overall and are 15th overall in terms of turnovers. Denver are 8-2 to start the season.
With this information in mind, we can better understand why NBA insiders such as Brian Windhorst have said, “Every team in the NBA is monitoring the potential downfall of the Chicago Bulls.”
Seems quite cheerful doesn’t it? While I do agree the Bulls need to do something, I’d be reluctant to launch into a full blown rebuild.
The age of Chicago’s “Big Three” should come to an end. All three of their “star” players have negative point differentials and they’re all ageing. DeMar DeRozan is 34 years old, Nikola Vucevic is 33 and Zach LaVine should be in his prime at 28.
All would make good trade assets to contending teams, DeRozan has caught the attention of the Lakers, who could use extra scoring. The 76ers have shown interest in acquire the services of Zach LaVine to create a one-two scoring backcourt alongside Tyrese Maxey.
The Bulls should be targeting young talent, roll in players with affordable contracts and draft capital in order to jumpstart a potential rebuild. They should not trade away Alex Caruso, who’s shaping up to be a solid defensive player of the year contender.
Keeping their young guys in Patrick Williams, Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White should be a priority too – all have upside potential. As long as the front office can get enough draft capital from trades, it won’t matter if the Bulls are bad for the next couple of seasons.
The Bulls need to make some moves, that much is clear. When your entire fanbase is telling you to blow it up and start from scratch, maybe you should listen. The question is, are Chicago brave enough to begin anew?
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