After an offseason that saw the Chicago Bulls revamp their roster, they came into this season locked and loaded to make a run at the east. Within the first week of the season, they’ve lived up to and even surpassed expectations, going 4-0 to start the season. In addition to All-Star Zach LaVine, who has been with the franchise ever since the Jimmy Butler trade, the Bulls have lots of other All-Star talent, including All-Star Nikola Vucevic, former All-Star Demar DeRozan, and a borderline All-Star in Lonzo Ball. They also added Alex Caruso for depth off the bench. Many speculated that these moves were to keep LaVine, the team’s only All-Star talent, from leaving the franchise in free agency. Because of this and how the Bulls got these All-Stars, many teams, fans, and analysts speculated that the Bulls were overhyped, and wouldn’t do well this season.
Most of these thoughts came because of the DeRozan deal, in which DeRozan was traded from the San Antonio Spurs to the Bulls in exchange for Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, a protected first-round draft pick, and two future second-round picks. That’s five players for a four-time All-Star who is at the end of his prime and is 32 years old. However, what many ignored was this: DeRozan may be nearing the end of his prime, but it’s not like he’s the age of the Los Angeles Lakers with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. DeRozan is still 32 years old, and is more versatile than ever. Once known for his high-flying athleticism, DeRozan has become a much better playmaker, as last year with San Antonio, DeRozan played power forward, and averaged a career high 6.9 assists. Being able to play three positions (shooting guard, small forward, power forward) is useful for any team, and while the Bulls may have overpaid a little bit for DeRozan, it really doesn’t matter. Young and Aminu were good players, but they had nowhere near the impact on the game that DeRozan is having for the team so far.
Almost everyone agreed that Lonzo Ball and Vucevic (traded at last year’s NBA Trade Deadline) were good fits for the team, but there were some questions about Alex Caruso, who was arrested during the offseason for drug possession. However, Caruso is a lot better than many people know, and impacts the game in multiple ways. He and Ball already have some chemistry from their days of playing on the Lakers together, and like Ball, Caruso is a fabulous passer. He thrives in transition settings, feeding his teammates who are some of the best scorers in the world. Caruso has this one move he does where he is able to freeze his defender in place coming off of a pick and roll, and he’s learned how to manipulate his hips and arms to create one of the deadliest no-look passes in basketball. Caruso has a high Basketball IQ, and always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and while he won’t get a ton of shots due to how incredible his teammates are, he’ll make defenders regret sagging off of him, making him one of the most valuable 6th men in the entire NBA.
Their first game of the season was against the Detroit Pistons. Everyone chipped in, and although the team only played 10 men in total, DeRozan had 17 points, Vucevic had a 15 point-15 rebound double-double, LaVine scored 34, and Ball recorded 12, 6, and four. Second year stud Patrick Williams also proved that the Bulls made the right choice in drafting him with the fourth overall pick last year by playing out of his mind in summer league and chipping in six points in this game as a starter. The Bulls would win 94-88, and two days later, on October 22nd, they would play their second game against the New Orleans Pelicans. While the Pelicans don’t have their franchise star in Zion Williamson on the floor, they still have All-Star Brandon Ingram, and one of the best big men in the NBA in Jonas Valanciunas. In this game, Ingram would have 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists while carrying the Pelicans on his back, but it wasn’t enough. The Bulls looked incredibly cohesive as Ball recorded his first triple-double in a Bulls uniform (this was made all the more sweeter when you consider the Pelicans were his old team) and LaVine scored 32 points, making the final score 128-112.
In a rematch against the Pistons the day after the Pelicans game, the Bulls would once again win, this time by 15 points. A few days later, they would play the Raptors in Toronto and escape with a three-point win as Vucevic, Ball, DeRozan, and LaVine accounted for 80 of the Bulls 111 points. However, not all of the success can be attributed to the players. Bulls Head Coach-Billy Donovan-has had experience working with stars (as he coached Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Victor Oladipo, and Domantas Sabonis), and he is a highly qualified candidate to coach the Bulls, as he led the Thunder to many deep playoff runs during his tenure there. He is easily a better coach than Jim Boylen, who I said was one of the worst coaches in the NBA a few years ago and needed to be fired (he was soon afterward; thanks to the Bulls Front Office for reading that!)
The Bulls 4-0 start is the franchise’s best start to a season since the 1996-97 season, in which Michael Jordan led the Bulls and they went 72-10 (they would also win the NBA Finals that year). Obviously, they are not going to match the talent of that Bulls team, but I do believe that people are sleeping on just how good the Chicago Bulls are. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that they could be a top three team in the East, right behind the Nets and the Bucks. This next statement is going to sound very outlandish, but if Kyrie stays out and players on the Nets roster get injured (like last year), and the same thing happens with the Bucks, then the Bulls could be playing in their first NBA Finals since 1998. Congratulations Chicago Bulls fans. You finally have something to look forward to, 10 years after Derrick Rose became the youngest league MVP and had his career derailed by injuries.
Make sure to tell everyone you know that Chi-town could actually have a good basketball team again, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!