The Chicago Bulls are tired of watching the playoffs from home.
Last year, the Bulls overhauled their leadership, hiring Arturas Karnisovas as executive vice president of basketball operations and Billy Donovan as head coach. Now, after four consecutive losing seasons, the Bulls spent the summer reshaping their roster. It’s one thing to ask whether they’re a true title contender, but count DeMar DeRozan as a believer in the new-look Bulls.
The Chicago Bulls had an active offseason
Karnisovas knew he had his work cut out for him in Chicago. The Bulls won 27, 22, and 22 games in three seasons with head coaches Fred Hoiberg and Jim Boylen. Artie K started his tenure by firing Boylen, drafting Patrick Williams fourth overall, and making an aggressive trade for Nikola Vucevic at the NBA trade deadline. But the shuffling continued once the season ended.
The Bulls made one of the first moves of free agency, agreeing to a Sign-and-Trade with the New Orleans Pelicans that sent Lonzo Ball to Chicago. Soon after, Karnisovas executed another Sign-and-Trade, this time with the San Antonio Spurs for DeRozan. The Bulls also signed former Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Caruso to a multi-year pact. Those three alone will earn around $200 million over the course of their contracts.
To counteract these additions, Chicago parted ways with former first-round picks Lauri Markkanen and Denzel Valentine. They also traded veteran role players Tomas Satoransky, Thaddeus Young, and Daniel Theis, swapping them out with Derrick Jones Jr. and Stanley Johnson.
DeMar DeRozan praised the Bulls’ talent
DeRozan, 32, is one of the more experienced players on Chicago’s new-look roster. The four-time All-Star has been a part of several playoff teams with the Toronto Raptors and had All-Star teammates like Kyle Lowry and LaMarcus Aldridge flanking him. But the 6-foot-6 wing thinks the Bulls may be better than anything he’s been a part of (h/t: Bulls.com).
“The talent is there. I don’t think I’ve played with as talented a team as I have since coming here. Now it’s about just putting it together and me doing my part, being a veteran on the team, bringing it all together, and helping it mesh a little quicker. There are a lot of great opportunities. I’m excited to be out there with those guys and just begin putting this all together.”DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan leads the team with four All-Star appearances, followed by Vucevic’s two and Zach LaVine‘s one. But all three guys have averaged over 20 points per game in the last three seasons, something few teams can boast. And that’s not even counting Ball, who has flourished playing alongside LeBron James and Zion Williamson in his short career.
“Every guy when I look at that roster has a chip on their shoulders,” DeRozan said. “Me knowing Vuc since college, I know what type of player he is, how bad he wants to win. Zach wanting to be on that main stage and wanting to compete for something much more than just stats during the season. … You see them put in the work, how bad they want to win, how bad they want it. And it’s just not about highlights and All-Stars, it’s much bigger than that.”
The Chicago Bulls can make noise in the Eastern Conference
There have been plenty of teams in years past to “win the offseason” but fall short when it’s time to play. But things would have to go disastrously wrong for the Bulls to not make a sizable improvement off of last season’s 31-41 record.
With DeRozan, LaVine, and Vucevic, Chicago has three players capable of putting up 30 points on any given night. With Ball and Caruso, they have two guards who can not only facilitate but also defend at an above-average level. Then there are the younger kids like Williams and Coby White, who with less pressure can grow at their own pace.
“We have great, high-character players, unselfish players and once you have that element, everything else will be easy,” said DeRozan. “It’s all about winning and whatever we need to do and whatever we need to figure out to be a successful team, that’s what we’re going to do.”
For now, the Bulls are still on the outside looking in for a top-four seed in the East. The defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets are the runaway favorites, with the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, and Atlanta Hawks in the mix as well. But if things go according to plan, there will be playoff basketball again in Chicago.