The 2021-22 NBA season is set to tip off on Oct. 19 (ET). In preparation for the upcoming season, we're dedicating one day between now and the start of the season to each team in the league.
Up next is the Chicago Bulls.
2020-21 season record
31-41, 11th in Eastern Conference
Lonzo Ball, sign-and-trade
DeMar DeRozan, sign-and-trade
Derrick Jones Jr., trade
Alex Caruso, free agency
Tony Bradley, free agency
Ayo Dosunmu, No. 38 pick in 2021 NBA Draft
Tomas Satoransky, trade
Garrett Temple, trade
Daniel Theis, trade
Thaddeus Young, trade
Al Farouq-Aminu, trade
Lauri Markkanen, trade
|PG||Lonzo Ball||Coby White*||Ayo Dosunmu|
|SG||Zach LaVine||Alex Caruso||Matt Thomas|
|SF||DeMar DeRozan||Troy Brown Jr.||Javonte Green|
|PF||Patrick Williams*||Derrick Jones Jr.||Stanley Johnson|
|C||Nikola Vucevic||Tony Bradley||Alize Johnson|
*Williams has been diagnosed with a severe ankle sprain and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks.
*White is still recovering from a shoulder injury and is expected to make a full return in November.
3 key storylines
New additions getting accustomed
The Bulls added plenty of talent to their starting lineup this offseason, but how long will it take the new additions to settle in?
A season ago, LaVine was handling the majority of ball-handling duties in Chicago - as was DeRozan in San Antonio and Ball from time to time in New Orleans. With three playmakers in the starting lineup, the trio will have to take turns initiating the offence.
Ball already spoke on his excitement to return to a role as a traditional point guard, while LaVine (4.9 APG) and DeRozan (6.9 APG) are each coming off of career-high assist averages. As we saw in the postseason last year, it pays off to have multiple ball handlers, so it's a good problem for Chicago to have, but it may take some time to get adjusted to playing off the ball.
LaVine is also coming off of a career-high in scoring (27.4 PPG), while DeRozan has averaged over 20 points per game in eight consecutive seasons, so those two should have no issue playing off of a passer of Ball's calibre.
It should be fun to watch this trio once they learn to play alongside one another.
Is depth an issue?
While Chicago loaded up its starting lineup, there are some concerns to be had about its depth. With Williams expected to miss the first four to six weeks of the season with an ankle injury and White out until November while he recovers from a shoulder injury, the Bulls' depth chart is already thin.
They brought in Caruso, Jones and Bradley to try and fill out the roster, but they'll be asking a lot of that threesome with the aforementioned injuries. Caruso will take over reserve guard duties, with rookie second-round pick Dosunmu likely stepping up to fill some guard minutes as well. Jones is the likely candidate to fill Williams' spot in the starting lineup, needing to bring it on the defensive end to do so effectively.
Late offseason additions like Alize Johnson and Stanley Johnson may also see an uptick in minutes until the team returns to full strength, meaning the Bulls will be heavily relying on their reserves to keep them afloat during the early stages of the season.
Getting back to the playoffs
In the early 2000s and 2010s, the Bulls got back to being a mainstay in the playoffs for the first time since the Michael Jordan days. After missing the playoffs in six consecutive seasons following Jordan's retirement, Chicago went to the postseason in 10 out of 11 seasons from 2004 to 2015.
They qualified for the playoffs as the eighth seed in 2017, but that was the last time the Bulls have made it to the postseason. They have missed the playoffs in four-straight seasons, but the front office made some win-now decisions at last year's trade deadline, bringing in an All-Star center in Vucevic. With the additions of Ball and DeRozan this offseason, the franchise is all-in to get back to the playoffs, with anything short of that being seen as a failure.
Will Chicago snap its four-year drought and get back to the postseason?
5 games to watch
Oct. 25 at Toronto Raptors
Any time DeRozan is back in Toronto, it's a noteworthy game. In just the Raptors' third game back at Scotiabank Arena after an entire year of playing in Tampa, the Toronto crowd will be rocking when the franchise's all-time leading scorer is back in town.
Nov. 1 at Boston Celtics
The Celtics and Bulls should be jockeying for seeding in the Eastern Conference this season, making every matchup meaningful. There will be plenty of star power on display when LaVine and DeRozan go head-to-head with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
Nov. 8 vs. Brooklyn Nets
There is no better barometer for legitimacy than going up against one of the best teams in the NBA. The Bulls will put their new-look roster to the test early on in the season when they host Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and the Nets early in November.
Nov. 27 vs. Miami Heat
Two best friends go head-to-head when DeRozan takes on Kyle Lowry for the first time as a member of the Heat. After playing seven seasons together in Toronto, there will always be some added juice to the game when these two take the floor against one another.
Nov. 29 vs. Charlotte Hornets
From the driveway to the NBA hardwood. Two brothers will face off when the Hornets come to Chicago for the first time this season, as LaMelo and Lonzo each try and prove they're the best Ball brother in the league.
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