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The Writing Is On The Wall For The Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls are on a three-game winning streak but when it comes to making the Play-In, they are on the outside looking in. After three failed seasons riddled with heartbreaking injuries and shortcomings, all signs are pointing in the direction of a complete rebuild.


It Starts At The Top


Demar Derozan and Zach Lavine are two phenomenal all-stars with an impeccable shot-making arsenal. Behind those two, lies Nikola Vucevic, who plays with finesse when it comes to shotmaking. These three players encapsulate $86 million of the Bull`s salary cap sheet. The one similarity that these three excel at is scoring the rock. Without a doubt, these three can facilitate and rebound. But if there is one takeaway from the entirety of this Bulls era, it is that these three cannot win consistently enough to make noise in the postseason.


There is an old saying that goes, "Just because you can, does not mean that you should" and it seems like the Chicago Bulls have not taken this advice to heart. The team has acquired players such as Derozan, Lavine, and Vucevic, who are not necessarily known for being complete players. They may struggle when it comes to making their teammates around them better, as they are not natural playmakers. While Derozan and Vucevic have some experience in playmaking due to their previous roles in Toronto, San Antonio, and Orlando, Lavine has shown a tendency to have tunnel vision as a player.


The defensive side of the ball is a nightmare come true. All three stars are at the bottom of their team when it comes to defensive ratings. Scoring the ball is not an issue for the Bulls, it`s giving the points right back on the other end. This is never a good sign if a team has three stars that cannot defend. Derozan and Lavine are subpar defenders which makes it worse for Vucevic as the last line of defense, who has never been known to be a rim protector.


Never Tell A Bulls Player To Play The Lottery


In this current construction of the Bulls, luck has not been on their side. Some parts are uncontrollable whilst other parts have had the opportunity to change but did not prevail. Many fans have forgotten the name Lonzo Ball as has been almost three years since he has played in an NBA game. Lingering knee issues have led Ball to undergo three surgeries and his career is almost definitely over. The Bulls signed Ball in 2021 to be a defensive playmaking hub, which the team needs now more than ever.


Another wrinkle in the Bull`s luck or lack thereof is the injuries to Alex Caruso who was signed alongside Ball to be a defensive stopper at the guard and even wing position. Caruso is seemingly always banged up and missing games. Bulls fans can thank two annual dirty Grayson Allen plays that happened within a year of each other. Caruso`s inconsistent health woes have landed the Bulls at a constant mediocre and average team defense. Without him, they are even worse.


The Bulls have also had dreadful draft picks that either did not work out or traded away. Alongside this, they have been terrible at developing. Some of the young players the Bulls traded away were Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr, and Daniel Gafford. Markkanen exploded for the Utah Jazz last year, receiving an all-star nod and Most Improved Player. Carter Jr is contributing to a surprising Orlando Magic team that will almost definitely make the postseason this year. Gafford is solid for the Wizards and is doing what the Bulls needed him to do.


Patrick Williams and Coby White are the two longest-tenured draft picks for the Bulls. White is averaging 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists during the Bull's current three-game win streak without Lavine. He is looking like a piece that the Bulls would keep during a rebuild. Patrick Williams, on the other hand, has not once been beneficial for Chicago. He averages twenty-five minutes a game just to put up 8 points and 1 assist on 41% field goal percentage. He is a piece that needs a new change of scenery away from the lopsided stars of Chicago so that he can spread his wings.



The Plan Of Action: Rebuild Mode


Since the start of the Zach Lavine era in 2017, the Bulls are 174-291 in the regular season, giving them a sorry win percentage of 37.4. In that time, the Bulls have made the post-season once just to get bounced by the Bucks in five games in the first round in 2022. Head Coach Billy Donovan has a decent record of 368-268 in his career which makes him safe as an NBA coach, just not on this Bulls squad. With this current construction of the roster, changes need to be made and they look like they are coming soon.


Zach Lavine and Demar Derozan are the two prized possessions and fans can expect their teams to try and make deals for them very soon before the deadline in February. Deciding on when and where to trade them is tricky. Do not expect much from the Derozan trade because he is in the last year of his contract. Many teams will be hesitant to give up assets for a player who may walk in free agency. The Lavine trade will be tricky because he is making upwards of 40 million until 2027. Fans can expect important assets to be given up including not just players but draft compensation.


Alongside the edges, there remains a potential Vucevic trade. He is making around 20 million annually for the next three years. Trading for the European big is somewhat of a gamble as it would require teams to give up upper-echelon talent of the role-player variety. Teams are going to be hesitant to pay an aging yet still-solid Vucevic because most teams already have a competent starting center. The most suitable teams for the three high-demanded players would be Lavine to the Lakers, Derozan to the Heat, and Vucevic to the Grizzlies.


There is clarity in accepting that this Bulls era is a failure because it recognizes that it is time to move on to bigger and better things even though it may mean taking a step back first. There is even more clarity in accepting what you have in Coby White and Patrick Williams once the big three are gone. Team turnover rate in terms of success in the NBA can happen in the blink of an eye so obtaining draft capital and young players is the first step.

 

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