The Chicago Bulls are Simply Amazing

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.

Credit to The Chicago Tribune for Picture

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!)

Credit to NBA.com for Picture

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!

 

 

A Preview of the Controversial Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls made a lot of noise this offseason and acquired some good and great players, enough that they have hopefully pleased All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine into re-signing with the team. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that if a star player doesn’t like the amount of wins his team has, he will request a trade or leave by the end of the year. But, despite picking up great assets, not everyone believes the Bulls will be all that they stacked up to be this year. Can the Bulls be a playoff team, and advance past the first round for the first time in LaVine’s young career? Today, we break down the pros and cons of the Bulls’ offseason, and take a look at their roster and what we can realistically expect from them this season.

Credit to The Chicago Tribune for Picture

Just a few minutes into free agency, the Bulls made their first major signing, which was point guard Lonzo Ball, brother of Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball. Ball signed a four-year $85 million deal, and was acquired by the Bulls in a sign and trade, in which the Pelicans received Tomáš Satoranský, Garrett Temple, and a second round pick. This was a great move considering the low production of Satoranský and Temple, and considering how Ball wanted to be in a bigger market and has All-Star potential. It’s clear to Bulls fans that he will be the starting point guard over the 2019 sixth overall pick, Coby White from UNC. In fact, there have been a lot of questions about whether or not a more ball-dominant point guard like White can coexist in the backcourt with LaVine. Needless to say, this move was heralded and loved by just about everyone.

In addition to adding Ball at point guard, the Bulls signed Alex Caruso in free agency, who became quite a meme during his time with the Lakers (with many fans calling him the GOAT despite his averaging 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists per game). However, he has made some incredible jaw dropping dunks and is a good three-point shooter (his free throw shooting could use some work). The fact that the Bulls signed him makes me even more sure that White will find his way out of Chicago. Even though Caruso was arrested for weed possession, he is still loved by almost everyone, and I don’t think anyone disagreed that it was a good move for the Bulls to pick up Caruso.

The same thing, unfortunately, cannot be said about DeMar DeRozan. A four-time All-Star and two-time member of the All-NBA Team, DeRozan was an athletic freak in his prime, appearing in the 2010 and 2011 NBA Slam Dunk contests. Unfortunately, DeRozan’s prime was in Toronto, and while he still had a few monster dunks while playing for the San Antonio Spurs, he’s a shell of his former self. As a 6’6″ shooting guard, DeRozan has transitioned to playing small forward and even power forward for the Spurs, where he logged a large percentage of his minutes in 2021. DeRozan can be a great locker room guy and has lots of experience, but he is now 32 years old. Even though he’s averaged 20+ points per game every year since 2013 (his fifth in the league), it’s clear that will change this season.

To get DeRozan, the Bulls had to give up Thaddeus Young, a solid veteran big man who still has a lot of athleticism, Al-Farouq Aminu, a protected first-round pick, and two second-round picks. While that may not seem like a lot, assuming those draft picks all play in the NBA, that’s five players for DeRozan! Even if the Bulls became one of the best teams in the NBA, there’s value in a protected first-round pick, as the Lakers proved with the Nets’ late first-round pick in 2017 by drafting Kyle Kuzma. So, five players for an out of his prime former All-Star? While DeRozan can bring a lot to the table and is very versatile, it’s clear why so many people did not like this move.

Credit to Jonathon Daniel of Getty Images for Picture

It was also very clear from early on in the 2020-21 season that Lauri Markannen, the Bulls power forward ever since the Jimmy Butler trade, was not fitting in well with the team, and that it was time for him to move on. The opportunity finally came around, and Markannen was traded in a three-team deal to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Also in this deal, Larry Nance, Jr, goes from Cleveland to Portland, and the Bulls picked up Slam Dunk Contest champion Derrick Jones, Jr, and some draft capital. Whether or not Jones, Jr, deserved to win the dunk contest is a story for a whole other blog, but he is a very athletic forward nonetheless, and will be a valuable asset to the team. I personally don’t think Markannen will fit in very well with the Cavaliers either, as they have centers Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley on the roster… and somehow, Kevin Love hasn’t been traded yet! He’s been unhappy for nearly three years, and he’s still not gone?

These are the most notable offseason additions, but we also have to look at what the Bulls already have. We’ve mentioned that they have an All-Star scorer in LaVine who sometimes looks like a clone of Bradley Beal, and White, who the Bulls decided to keep with their fourth-year option on his contract but may be leaving soon. In March of 2021, the Bulls acquired Nikola Vučević from the Magic, giving the All-Star big man a contender and giving the Magic some more assets, which you can read about here. It was wonderful that LaVine got an All-Star partner and the Bulls suddenly had a chance to make the playoffs, but the Bulls finished the year as the 11th seed, one spot out of the play-in tournament. It was during this time when some started to believe that Vučević was one of those great-numbers bad-team players. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Andre Drummond is a perfect example. On the Detroit Pistons, Drummond put up great numbers, and was an All-Star center. However, as soon as he left Detroit to go to the Cleveland Cavaliers, people realized that his efficiency was horrible, he had almost no offensive game, and his basketball IQ was severely lacking. He went from an All-Star to a shell of his former self on the Lakers, and this upcoming season will be Joel Embiid‘s backup on the 76ers. From an All-Star to a backup in just a few seasons!

It’s not an understatement to say that the Magic were barely a playoff team, and while Vučević is still putting up All-Star double-doubles, his shooting percentage has dropped in every part of his game, save for free throw shooting. If Vučević truly was overrated on a bad team, I’m afraid that’s going to show next year with so many better players around him.

The final key piece of the Chicago Bulls for next year is Patrick Williams, the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. At first, many thought the Bulls were crazy for taking Williams so early in the lottery. However, during the 2021 NBA Summer League, Williams showed how much he improved both defensively and offensively. He averaged 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game his rookie season, although I’m expecting him to take a big leap and become a sophomore stud next year. His performance will end up contributing a lot towards the Bulls’ success.

While the Bulls had one of the more active free agencies this offseason, and have a lot of new talent to be excited for, I simply don’t think they can compete with the powerhouses and All-NBA players in the Eastern Conference, such as NBA titans Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Embiid. Even with the new look roster, there’s no way the Bulls are the 1, 2, 3, or 4 seed. The highest I could see them being (and this is assuming everything goes as planned) is the fifth seed. Realistically, I think the Bulls will be in the play-in mix, and win around 35 games in 2022; a slight improvement but not by much. How well they do depends on how much the team gels and how well the younger players develop. However you spin it though, the Bulls are going to be a very fun team to watch during the 2021-22 season.

Where do you think the Bulls will land in the win spectrum? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!

 

Days One and Two of Free Agency: The Strong Get Stronger

In a very exciting free agency class, Days One and Two of Free Agency have brought us some crazy singings, moves, and trades. From 5-8 PM Eastern Time, NBA TV did a special called Free Agent Fever, where they had analysts react in real time to the trades and signings going on. As soon as 6 PM rolled around and free agency started, I started looking at Adrian Wojnarowski’s twitter. Not two minutes into free agency, I saw this pop up on my screen:

Yup, believe it or not, Lonzo Ball is headed to the Chicago Bulls! Along with the contract they are picking up, the Bulls are sending Tomáš Satoranský, Garrett Temple, and a second round pick to the Pelicans. This is a great move for the Bulls, as they get a near All-Star caliber point guard, show Zach Lavine (who is an unrestricted free agent next year) that they are dedicated to winning and will more likely then not make the playoffs next year. Also in another exciting turn of events…

Everyone’s favorite player is switching teams

Yes, believe it or not, the official meme of the NBA (actually, maybe not considering how Ben Simmons has been playing and Kyle Kuzma… should I make a biggest memes of the NBA post? Let me know in the comments), Alex Caruso will be signing a four year, $37 million contract with the Chicago Bulls, meaning that the Bulls now have lots of depth at that position. On a side note, I would expect that Coby White won’t be with the Bulls much longer, as his play style and Lavine’s don’t mesh well together. However, now that Caruso is on the Bulls and previously played for the Lakers, it will be ridiculous easy to make memes about him… almost as easy as it was to make memes about Brian Scalabrine. Here’s an example:

Personally, I don’t like Caruso because this offseason he was arrested for drug possession, but as a basketball player, this move does indeed help the Bulls.

Some All-Star worthy players resigned big contracts with their current team, such as Mike Conley, who resigned with the Utah Jazz for three years, and $72.5 million. Jarrett Allen resigned for five years and $100 million, and the Phoenix Suns successfully negotiated with Chris Paul to give him a four year deal that earns him up to $120 million. Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat also made some big money, with a five year, $90 million deal. This made headlines as the largest deal for an undrafted player in NBA history. However, the biggest contract so far has come from Steph Curry. He signed a contract extension for four-years and $215 million, making him the first player to sign two contracts over $200 million. My, how far we’ve come from the days where players were making $50,000 a year.

Credit to Getty Images for Picture

Kyle Lowry, who is one of the biggest free agents in the 2021 Free Agent class, has found a new home, as he is getting a three year deal in Miami, which will be a sign and trade. Jimmy Butler, who just earned himself a four year, $184 million contract, was instrumental in recruiting Lowry to the Heat, and now that he’s there, they have a team worthy of the NBA Finals once again. The Heat can have a starting five of Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, and Bam Adebayo, which features four All-Stars.

In my years watching the NBA, I have developed a distain for both the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, as in my opinion, they have ruined free agency. They are both big markets, meaning they can attract big names, but that is not why I hate them. Because of what LeBron James and Kobe Bryant have done in forming multiple super teams, every toxic Lakers and Heat fan likes to brag that every star player is going to the Lakers, and it gets very annoying very fast. The Heat are the same way, as it seems at every trade deadline or free agency fans claim they are going to acquire at least four new All-Stars.

Credit to Clutch Points for Picture

Speaking of the Lakers, they have made some key acquisitions, and have had some key departures. Russell Westbrook was a huge upgrade for them at the point guard spot, but they lost a lot of young assets and draft capital in return. They still have an unhappy Dennis Schröder, who I fully expect to be traded this offseason. So, the Lakers need veterans because otherwise they simply won’t have enough players to form a solid rotation where players can get rest.

The first veteran they got was Trevor Ariza, who previously played for the Los Angeles Lakers in the Kobe Bryant-era. Dwight Howard is also returning to the Lakers, back from a season with the Philadelphia 76ers in which the team underachieved. This will be Howard’s third stint with the franchise, and second time playing for them in three years. The Lakers also got Kent Bazemore on a one-year contract, as he has also played for the franchise before. Wayne Ellington will also be coming along for the ride, as he played for the Lakers for one season in 2015. One of their bigger additions is Malik Monk, who is a young stud of a shooting guard and progressing each and every year of his NBA career. The Lakers also acquired Kendrick Nunn, who despite being a younger player, really wants to win a ring. He turned down significantly more money to join the team, making only $5 million a year for the next two years. This also just helps prove my theory that the Lakers are going to trade Schröder as soon as possible. However, the most hyped-up signing of a veteran player has to be Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony has been chasing a ring his entire career, but unfortunately he’s mostly been on losing teams. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from NBA history, however, it’s that when a player joins a super team to win a ring, it doesn’t end up going very well (Karl Malone, Gary Payton on the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers). However, just think about how you would have lost your mind if you saw James and Anthony team up in 2011.

The Lakers also unfortunately got a downgrade at the center position, as even though they acquired Dwight Howard from the 76ers, the Lakers All-Star big man Andre Drummond found his way to Philadelphia. This is a somewhat puzzling move, as Drummond and Joel Embiid have a history of beef, but it is a great way to get depth for the 76er’s second unit. That is, if they can mesh after Embiid has said things like this:

Credit to Bleacher Report

Speaking of the Washington Wizards, they have been making some moves since the Russell Westbrook team. Tommy Sheppard, the Wizards GM, has let Robin Lopez walk to the Magic. Lopez is the second center to go the Magic from the Wizards, with the first being Moritz Wagner.

After Russell Westbrook was traded by the Wizards, their biggest offseason addition is Spencer Dinwiddie, who is not officially a member of the team, but as close as you can get. An anonymous Wizards fan said about the Westbrook trade, “Although some are disappointed with Russell Westbrook’s departure from DC, the trade may be just what the Wizards need to become a playoff team. For years now, Wizards have been at the bottom of the league, loosing games, and as Bradley Beal says, ‘lacking defense.’ Most people blame the downfall of the Wizards on past stars, John Wall and Russel Westbrook. However, the Wizards unstable season is more to blame on DC’s lack of role players. Through the Lakers trade, DC acquires great surrounding players, all with playoff experience. Combined with Beal’s lights out shooting, the Wizards could be unstoppable!”

Dinwiddie is a superb point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, who averaged over 20 points per game in 2020 and was nearly voted an All-Star. In 2021, Dinwiddie only played three games due to an ACL injury, but he is back, better then ever, and will certainly play at that All-Star level.

Credit to Michael Dwyer of AP Images for Picture

Multiple other small signings have happened as well, although it’s clear that as of right now, the winners of the 2021 Free Agency are the Chicago Bulls. I couldn’t even get through writing this article without another major trade happening, and once again, it features the Chicago Bulls.

Credit to Jonathon Daniel of Getty Images for Picture

Demar DeRozan is headed to Chicago, on a sign and trade deal for Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, and two second-round picks. DeRozan’s new contract will be for three years and $85 million. With this move, the Bulls have easily propelled themselves into the playoffs, and may just come out of the east and make their first NBA Finals since the Michael Jordan era. This is easily the best Bulls team we have seen since 2012, which featured Derrick Rose, a young Butler, Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Kyle Korver, and Brian Scalabrine. Last season, DeRozan averaged 21.6 points and a career-high 6.9 assists per game, despite not being properly utilized by the Spurs and spending most of his minutes at the power forward position. A starting five of Lonzo Ball, Zach Lavine, Demar DeRozan, Lauri Markkanen (assuming he doesn’t get traded), and Nikola Vucevic features two All-Stars and two borderline All-Star caliber players. They also their 4th overall pick from 2020, Patrick Williams. They are undoubtedly a contender and favorite to come out of the east.

When asked about their chances, an anonymous Bulls fan told me, “I think the Bulls have set themselves up for a significant run in the playoffs. The addition of Lonzo Ball should propel their move. Zach Lavine is turning into a force, Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams add to the mix. I don’t know what Ayo Dusunmu will bring but I hope it’s the same spark he gave to Illinois.”

Kawhi Leonard has not yet announced his decision to either re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, or to sign with another team, so stayed tune for what has the potential to be the biggest news in all of free agency.

The Kendrick Nunn signing came in right as I was finishing the article, so I want to know: who won free agency so far, the Bulls or the Lakers? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog so you don’t miss more articles coming out on free agency, and as always, have an awesome day!