The Chicago Bulls finished the 2020-21 NBA season a disappointing 31-41.
The team missed out on the Play-In Tournament after the major trade deadline acquisition of All-Star center Nikola Vučević.
First-year head coach Billy Donovan led the Bulls to the cusp of the playoffs, but losing All-Star Zach LaVine for 11-straight games due to health and safety protocols and a right ankle sprain didn’t help matters.
Chicago struggled on offense last season, despite LaVine’s talents.
The Bulls ranked 21st in points per game (110.7) and ranked 27th in the league in turnovers per game (15.1).
Those figures will have to get better if Chicago can truly become the NBA’s most improved team.
Bulls Roster Features All-Star Talent
The NBA rarely showcases teams the league feels won’t be successful.
So the fact that the Bulls’ nationally televised games jumped from one last season to 12 for 2021-22 speaks to the team’s improvement on paper.
12 national TV games coming up 🍿 pic.twitter.com/eG2ZTOYyHf
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) August 20, 2021
The Bulls brought in Donovan to work with their young core, and despite a season marred by injuries, the former Oklahoma City and University of Florida head coach had the team on the precipice of the Play-In Tournament.
Heading into next season, Chicago knows it can count on Donovan’s leadership, but also the evolution of several All-Star talents.
Last season, LaVine made the leap to All-Star level.
He set new career-highs in points (27.4), rebounds (5.0), assists (4.9), field-goal percentage (50.7 percent), and three-point percentage (41.9 percent).
LaVine gained further experience this summer winning a gold medal with Team USA in the Olympics.
The Bulls paired LaVine with an All-Star big man at the trade deadline when they traded for Vučević.
The four-time All-Star averaged a double-double in Chicago (21.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game), and he provides LaVine with an excellent pick-and-roll partner.
Offseason Additions Could Push Bulls To The Playoffs
“I think it's fair to say the Chicago Bulls have had the best offseason in the NBA.”
– Charles Barkley
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) August 26, 2021
The additions of Ball and DeRozan to this roster stand as the biggest reasons for hope in Chicago.
In Ball, the Bulls get a pass-first point guard to help organize the offense.
A much improved three-point shooter, Ball can also play off the ball when LaVine initiates the offense.
Ball’s versatility as a defender also provides an upgrade for the backcourt.
His ability to see the floor and provide hit-ahead passes will only add to Chicago’s offensive flow.
As far as DeRozan is concerned, although the price tag to acquire him was steep, he provides a proven halfcourt scorer.
The Bulls offense often bogged down when not in transition, so adding someone like DeRozan gives Chicago a player who can score when things slow down.
DeRozan can start in the frontcourt, or provide scoring depth off the bench.
Chicago also bolstered their bench with the signing of Alex Caruso.
The hard-nosed guard pairs well with Coby White as a reserve.
If the Bulls bring back Lauri Markkanen, they’ll have plenty of floor spacers to deploy around Ball and LaVine.
The team also hopes to see further development from former top-5 lottery selection Patrick Williams.
These additions and internal improvements should see Chicago make the Play-In Tournament at the very least.
They could push for a top-6 seed if everything breaks their way.