The Chicago Bulls find themselves in arguably the worst place to be in the NBA: basketball purgatory.
Teams with realistic championship expectations are continually looking for ways to improve their chances of hoisting a Larry O’Brien trophy by the end of the season. Bottom feeders, on the other hand, are looking for creative ways to lose games and pilfer top draft picks. Chicago, however, simply doesn’t fit into either of those categories.
With DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic serving as two All-Star level pillars in the Windy City, the uncertainty surrounding Zach LaVine’s contract situation, and the minuscule amount of cap space at the team’s disposal, the Bulls have no choice but to develop the talent they already have and push forward with their championship aspirations the hard way.
If the Bulls elect to stray away from handing LaVine cataclysmic type money, or even if they decide to swallow that pill and sign LaVine to a five-year contract worth over $200 million, they’ll still be forced to buckle down and improve on their homegrown talent. Luckily for them, they have plenty of notable players to work with.
Chicago Bulls’ young players have a ton of talent
For starters, rookie Ayo Dosunmu showed flashes of brilliance during his first year in the league, including when he dropped 26 points on 52% from the field. Once he was ushered into the starting lineup, Dosunmu’s numbers jumped from 8.8 points per game to a shade over 11.
In addition to Dosunmu, Patrick Williams will look to take the next step in his development. Despite suiting up in only 17 games due to injury this past season, Williams improved on his overall shooting averages, going from 48.3% from the field in his rookie season to 52.9% in year two. His 3-point percentage was also through the roof, jumping from a respectable 39.1% from behind the arc in year one to 51.7% in year two (albeit in smaller sample sizes).
The transition of both Williams and Dosunmu to franchise-level talents should be relatively smooth with Lonzo Ball controlling the tempo of the game. Before the mercurial point guard was pushed to the sidelines due to injury, he was in the midst of his best season, averaging 13 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 dimes a night.
Protracting their time in basketball purgatory shouldn’t be in the Bulls’ long-term plans. Neither should a full-on tank job. Chicago has all of the pieces in place to push its current idle status to another level. DeRozan, Vucevic, and possibly LaVine will continue to grab headlines but it will be the younger players and their overall improvement that will thrust them into contender status.