Da Bulls: Regular Season Ready?

A Look Into a Few Keys to a Successful Season

Elijah John

After the Bulls’ first two blowout victories, they fought hard in week two, notching wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies. Ending the preseason undefeated, the Bulls have shown that they will be a tough matchup for any team in the NBA. However, the Bulls’ weaknesses have become much more apparent, as the past two games were more competitiveespecially the Bulls’ rematch against Cleveland. The starters turned in lackluster performances, trading baskets and leads with the Cavaliers. Backup forward Alize Johnson was one of the few bright spots, rebounding at an excellent rate and hustling on defense. But the real star was rookie Ayo Dosunmu, who checked in amidst the fourth quarter with reckless avail, immediately taking over the game and scoring on an array of floaters, jumpers and drives to the basket. Of course, relying on your rookie to win games is never a wise strategy; that brings us to the crucial question: what do the Bulls need in order to have a successful season? Here are three essentials.

1. Ball movement

In the first two matches of the preseason, fans were thrilled due to the unselfish play on offense. The Bulls directly addressed this need in the offseason by signing Lonzo Ball, who has made a name for himself when it comes to setting up his teammates. Ball has had a ridiculous +88 box plus/minus in four games, showing the impact of ball movement for this team. New acquisition DeMar DeRozan should also help in this area, coming off a season where he averaged close to seven assists per night. With offensive threats from all over the court, the Bulls passing will be critical, as finding the open man will almost guarantee points on the board. Meanwhile, isolating at the top of the key or forcing up contested jumpers is more likely to result in an empty possession. It’s simple: more passes will lead to easier baskets.

2. Defensive effort

Many critics have attacked this roster for its lack of defensive options, citing DeRozan and center Nikola Vucevic as negatives on that end of the floor. However, if the Bulls are aggressive in the passing lanes and paint, they will at least have a league-average defense. Ball is a tenacious off-ball defender and sophomore Patrick Williams is a strong, versatile player who can guard multiple positions. Also, many forget that the Bulls managed to end last season at eleventh place in defensive rating due to coach Billy Donovan’s focus on that end of the floor. Even more encouraging is the Bulls’ defensive rating of 91.3 in preseason. They will need to sustain their effort heading into the regular season.

3. Durability

Perhaps the greatest issue the Bulls have battled in years past is injuries. Whether it was promising young forward Lauri Markkanen, veteran forward Otto Porter, or center Wendell Carter, it always has seemed like the Bulls were never at full strength heading into a game. The aforementioned players are no longer with the team, but durability may be the team’s biggest concern heading into the season. After all, the Bulls might have qualified for the play-in tournament last year had it not been for Lavine’s bout with COVID-19 and subsequent ankle injury. Williams has just come back from an ankle sprain of his own, while backup guard Coby White continues to recover from shoulder surgery. The Bulls training staff will need to advise the players correctly so that they can minimize the games missed. Players will also need to follow COVID regulations to prevent team-wide quarantines. 

As long as they are able to stick to these core ideas, the Bulls are set to have a breakout season after spending the past few years in the bottom tier of NBA teams. Fans should be excited to watch a brand new basketball team take the court on Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons.