Bulls Aren’t Legitimate Title Contenders Until They Fix Underlying Issue: ‘If We Want to Be the Team We Want to Be and We Know We Can Be, It Has to Be for 48 Minutes’

The Chicago Bulls are having a terrific 2021-22 season. They have the best record in the Eastern Conference and are on their way to making the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

However, the Bulls aren’t legitimate title contenders until they fix an underlying problem and the players and coaches seem to know it.

Bulls aren’t consistent on defense

The Bulls’ nine-game winning streak ended on January 9 against the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks shot 50.0% from the field and 44.4% from beyond the arc. They also outrebounded the Bulls 48-39.

Even though it’s only one loss, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan sees some alarming trends being developed. He consistently pointed to defensive slippage that concerned him during the nine-game winning streak, and All-Star big man Nikola Vucevic says things must change if the Bulls want to be dominant in the playoffs.

“Our defense is just not consistent enough throughout games,” Vucevic said after the Bulls-Mavericks game, via NBC Sports Chicago. “We have stretches where we’re really good and are able to make our runs. And then we have stretches where we’re not focused enough. Our rebounding needs to be a little better. A lot of times we do get stops but we don’t get the rebounds so they get second-chance opportunities. Those hurt always. If we want to be the team we want to be and we know we can be, it has to be for 48 minutes.”

The Bulls are giving up 107.6 points per game, 14th in the NBA. They are ranked 13th in the league in defensive rating. However, their defense has been poor lately, even during the nine-game winning streak.

Bulls ranked 20th in defensive rating during winning streak

The Bulls’ nine-game winning streak was fun to watch. However, their defense wasn’t. Chicago ranked 20th in defensive rating during its winning streak, allowing 112.3 points per 100 possessions.

The Bulls are sixth in the NBA in offensive rating. They won’t have issues scoring the ball with Vucevic, Zach LaVine, and DeMar DeRozan leading the way. However, defense wins championships, and right now, Chicago isn’t playing like a sound defensive unit.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” Donovan said after the Bulls’ loss to the Mavericks. “In the second half, because we didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, I think it bled into our defense. I’ve said this before, if we’re not shooting the ball particularly well, we’ve gotta have something else to give ourselves a chance.”

The Bulls’ two best defenders are Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. The latter is out due to a foot injury and was just placed in health and safety protocols. His absence could be why the Bulls have struggled on defense recently, but it’s become clear that Chicago needs a stout rim protector and rebounder to solidify its average defense.

Chicago should trade for Myles Turner

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, and Mavericks have expressed interest in trading for Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner. The Bulls should also enter the Turner sweepstakes and make an aggressive offer for him.

Turner is the NBA’s leading shot-blocker, averaging 2.9 blocks along with 13.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest. That is production the Bulls would love to have next to LaVine, DeRozan, Vucevic, and Ball in the starting lineup.

Not only would Turner make Chicago more lethal on defense, but his improved 3-point shot would also create more floor spacing on offense. The two-time blocks champion is shooting 35.7% from beyond the arc this season.

The NBA trade deadline is on February 10. It will be interesting to see if Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley pursue Turner or another center to help the Bulls’ defense. Chicago’s current roster is adequate, but it won’t win a title without shoring up its defense.

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