At 46-36, the Chicago Bulls took a huge step forward into becoming a playoff team again.
After acquiring DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso in free agency, the Bulls took their game to the next level. Their new pieces, along with Zach Lavine and Nikola Vuecvic, took the Bulls to their first playoff run since. After a strong start, they stumbled in the second half of the season, where they were 13th in offensive efficiency and 22nd in defense efficiency.
When you take a quick look at those numbers, it is kind of surprising because you expect the Bulls to have better stats, especially on defense. It doesn’t help that key players in Ball, Lavine, Vuecvic and Caruso all were dealing with injuries, (even those that were not their fault on their own). However with their season over, what is next for the Bulls to do to make it back to the playoffs and maybe take the next step, to go on a deeper run?
Re-sign Zach Lavine
Before we can talk about doing anything else, we need to see that the Bulls take care of their own guys.
Despite interest from the Portland Trailblazers, I personally doubt Lavine will be leaving Chicago. However nothing is promised, so they have to make sure to give Lavine his money and to not low ball him or underpay him, so he’ll be more than willing to re-sign with the Bulls.
Upgrade the PF Spot
If the Bulls had a primary weakness, it would be at the Power Forward spot (or at their backup Center spot). What I’m saying is that they are a big man (or two) short.
I don’t trust that Patrick Willams will stay healthy for the full season, or else he’d be the best fit for the role. Also I think that they can even upgrade to someone that is a slightly better player and can fit that role better than Willams.
When I think of players that can fit this role, it would be a versatile defender that can guard multiple guys and can fit the Bulls defensive scheme and make them even more dangerous. Someone like a Jeremi Grant (already talked about this team), Aaron Gordon, Harrison Barnes or even a … wait for it … Ben Simmons? Someone, who is a solid defender but can do some things on offense without needing the ball in his hands or someone who can be a secondary playmaker and/or solid passer on offense.
If they can’t get those guys, maybe they can get someone in that similar mold, like a Thadeous Young or an Otto Porter Jr. Ironically, they both are former Bulls and have played with Lavine before and will be easier to re obtain without giving up assets in doing so. Getting any of these players would be better than what they have in Derrick Jones Jr. in this role.
Retool the Bench
The Bulls, when healthy, have a solid bench for the most part. That doesn’t mean they can’t make some changes to upgrade their team that would solidify their roster better. One thing that they could use is an upgrade at the backup center. I don’t think Tony Bradley or Tristan Thompson will cut it long term. If they can upgrade that spot, it can help the Bulls improve their 22nd ranked defense, when Vucevic sits.
I would look to try to get guys like Dewane Dedmon, Gorgi Dieng, or Bismack Biyombo if they want a solid defensive backup. If they want to have a backup center that can space the floor, Kelly Olynyk could be a good option for them and maybe they can get him through a sign and trade with the Detroit Pistons.
They may also need another scoring option off the bench.
Coby White is a solid player but they can package him with another asset (or two) they could get someone like Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson is a offensive minded player that is different from many of most of their bench perimeter players, like Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, Javonte Green and Troy Brown Jr. If they can’t get Clarkson, then someone like Eric Gordon would be another solid option for the Bulls to pair with DeRozan, Lavine and Vuecvic (on offensive)
All of these moves can help the Bulls push their team to the next level. However, I think the Bulls need good health for the next season. They were the number one seed coming into the all star break at 38-21, then the injuries came and slowed them down. If they can make some minor tweaks to their team and get some good injury luck, then the Bulls can be a force to be reckoned with.