Contracting Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan ahead of the start of the 2021-22 season, and pairing them with the likes of Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, the Chicago Bulls have risen from a low-profile team in the Eastern Conference to one that can rival the best of the best.
After finishing 46-36, the Bulls finished off their best record since the 2014-15 season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2017, but injuries limited their chances of being true contenders in the tournament, particularly due to the fact that only the Lonzo Ball played in 35 matches.
While undergoing surgery on his left knee for a meniscus tear in January, the ball’s absence made a huge impact on the Bulls simply because he was their primary playmaker and has turned himself into the team’s top three-point shooting option.
Being able to create the team’s three All-Star talents, as well as play off the ball and be a three-point shooter, Ball proved to be the “glue” for the Chicago Bulls during the 2021-22 season in the sense that he kept the offense flowing. With his on the ground, Chicago climbed 22-13 and was seated atop the Eastern Conference standings.
With him off the bench injured, the Bulls struggled to move the ball offensively, finishing 19th in the league in assists per game, and they were truly a two-man attack with LaVine and DeRozan carrying a heavy burden for this team offensively.
While meniscus injuries usually offer quick and easy recovery, it does. Not the case for Lonzo Paul. He has not yet fully resumed basketball activities and due to the fact that he still has discomfort in his left knee, Ball is in danger of missing training camp at the end of September and possibly the start of the 2022-23 NBA season.
With the ball sidelined at the moment, Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmo are likely to continue to see action in the points-guard position, as is the case with veteran Goran Dragic.
He may have only played in 21 total games one season ago, but Dragic is a veteran who has proven he can still score far from dribbling and creating chances for others, which is exactly what the Bulls needed about their All-Star talents. .
Playing both the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets, Dragic averaged 7.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and fired 37.7% from the ground. For his career, he’s fired 36.2% from a three-point range.
Caruso, Dosunmu and Dragic all three will see action in the point guard position in Ball’s absence, yet this injury still looms large over the Bulls as an organization.
Lonzo Ball owes a guaranteed $40 million over the next two seasons and has a $21.3 million player option for the 2024-25 season. If his injury continues to slow and have long-term effects, Paul may not be able to live up to his current contract with Chicago and perhaps the worst part of his absence from the start of the 2022-23 season is that the Bulls will not be able to build chemistry early in the year their full list.
This team certainly has the potential for a deep run in the post-season due to their impressive mix of young and experienced talent, however the inconsistency they encountered in the guard position could ultimately hold them back.
Alex Caruso is more of a defensive-minded player than a playmaker and attacking facilitator, Ayo Dosunmo is more of a peripheral player than a true goalkeeper and Goran Dragic is 36 and he might not be able to get past him. 20-25 minutes per game anymore.
As mentioned earlier, Ball’s ability to innovate not just for others but to be a three-point shooter on the periphery is what made the Bulls a highly talented offensive team early last season. With him out of the squad, it’s easier to protect them because teams don’t have to worry so much about the Chicago guards coming in offensively.
Turning 25 in October, there’s certainly cause for concern in Chicago right now regarding the Lonzo Ball and his long-term status as a potentially high-impact player for what could be a tournament contender’s roster.