The Chicago Bulls are most likely going to miss the opportunity to play in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament. The Bulls squad sits in 12th place in the Eastern Conference. They are four games back of the Washington Wizards who have overtaken them for the 10th place spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
What is going to happen with the Chicago Bulls for the rest of 2021 and beyond?
The loss of Zach LaVine to the NBA’s health and safety protocol really hurt them. Since LaVine has missed 11 games, the Bulls went from averaging 112 points on offense to 104 points per game. Out of the four teams battling for the final position in the play-in tournament, the Bulls have the hardest schedule of teams to face down the home stretch of the season.
The Bulls are most likely out of the playoffs… now what?
The Bulls are looking towards the offseason. First, they are looking to the NBA draft on July 29. The Bulls traded away their first-round pick for this draft to the Orlando Magic via the Nikola Vucevic trade back in March but they could get it back.
The pick has to land in the top-four draft picks for the Bulls to retain possession of the pick. Daniel Greenberg reported the Bulls to have a 31.9 percent chance of retaining that pick. Does this pose the question, will the Bulls bring back LaVine and Vucevic?
LaVine is currently working his way back from testing positive for COVID-19 and Vucevic was a late scratch to the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night due to a hip injury.
If the Bulls have a shot now at retaining their pick for the upcoming NBA draft, they might as well try it. Since the Bulls have lost their chances at making the Eastern Conference playoff, there is no longer any need to play their best players.
The Bulls are gearing up for a big free agency.
Vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley are not shy about making the roster changes. They got rid of five players on the day of the trade deadline to bring in an all-star and a solid supporting cast.
The Bulls will be getting a lot of names off the books this upcoming season. Most likely, Lauri Markkanen, Cristiano Felicio, Al-Farouq Aminu, JaVonte Green, and maybe even veteran Garrett Temple will be gone.
The Bulls should have a lot of cap space to play with, outside of the need to extend LaVine as he heads into the final year of his contract next season.
First on the list for the Bulls to chase in free agency should be Lonzo Ball. The Bulls need a true point guard and it is evident from Coby White’s failure to facilitate and Tomas Satoransky’s struggle to self-produce on offense.
The Bulls may also be in the hunt for a new power forward if they decide not to bring back Markkanen for a second contract. On top of that, LaVine could use a backup for his position, considering Denzel Valentine has not been consistent enough at shooting guard.
Are some strategy changes coming?
Certainly, head coach Billy Donovan got a feel for the Bulls team in his first year as the head coach and now he needs to go back to the drawing board.
The Bulls have the 21st ranked offense in the NBA, averaging 110.6 points per game (they were once the fourth-ranked offense in the NBA). They also hold the 18th ranked defense in the NBA.
Here are some things the Bulls need to take care of before next season:
Turnovers: The Bulls are one of the worst teams in the NBA in terms of taking care of the ball. They rank 27th in the NBA in turnovers, averaging 15.4 per game. Their assist/turnover ratio is 1.74 which ranks 19th in the NBA. I will admit, their passing and team-play on offense are outstanding.
Help Defense: While the Bulls’ defense, in general, is atrocious and unwatchable. One of the biggest pieces as of recent is missing rotations. It’s tough to find video evidence of this but the lack of a “free safety” in the post area is frustrating.
Pick-and-Roll Defense: If you follow my analysis of the Bulls, you know this part of the defense is one of the most infuriating factors the Bulls miss on. Donovan’s drop coverage on defense has to go. The Bulls allow some of the highest shooting percentages to opponents on pick and roll, including over 55 percent from the field for ball-handlers.
The Bulls have a lot of work to do but Bulls fans should not panic. They have the best front office they have seen in a long time and the best coach they have seen since Tom Thibodeau. Get ready Bulls fans, our time will come next season.