The Chicago Bulls have had a busy first 24 hours in this year’s NBA free-agency period, having already landed former UCLA superstar Lonzo Ball to pair alongside Zach LaVine. While the NBA as a whole appeared to have soured on Ball following a rough first two years with the Los Angeles Lakers, Ball has actually somewhat reinvented himself during his recent tenure with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Ball is fresh off a year in which he averaged a career-high 14.6 points per game, along with 5.7 assists and 4.8 rebounds. He also averaged 3.1 3-pointers made on 38.7% shooting — both career highs as well. Safe to say, it wasn’t all that surprising to see the Bulls pounce on the opportunity to land him via a four-year, $85 million deal.
Lonzo Ball’s new four-year deal with the Bulls shows just how much better he’s gotten since leaving the Lakers
With Ball now under contract for the next few seasons, the Bulls have quietly begun to build themselves an increasingly competitive roster.
LaVine is coming off a year in which he was named to the first All-Star Game of his career, and the Chicago front office bought hard at the 2020 trade deadline by acquiring multi-time All-Star center Nikola Vucevic. Even without Ball, the Bulls were shaping up to be a team that should see postseason action moving forward.
Circling back to LaVine, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he’s not currently thrilled at the idea of playing alongside Ball moving forward. While LaVine has had a ton of success in recent years operating as the Bull’s de-facto point guard (due to how much he was handling the basketball), the addition of Ball should take a ton of stress off him when it comes to creating offense. Ball is already one of the league’s top passers, something that makes life easier for everyone.
The lighting-quick spurts of fast-break offense that the Bulls will orchestrate with LaVine and Ball leading the charge should create more than a few ESPN-worthy highlights this season. LaVine might not be as explosive and powerful as someone like Zion Williamson, but he’s easily just as bouncy. The Ball-to-LaVine lobs moving forward should be all sorts of fun.
Ball had a ton of success chucking the ball up near the hoop for Zion during their time together in New Orleans, and LaVine is a two-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion. It’s not that hard to see why this is going to be a fruitful partnership.
The Bulls’ fast-break offense should be one of the best in the league this season
Zach LaVine has yet to sign a long-term extension with Chicago as he’s likely looking to see how the upcoming season plays out before agreeing to remain in Illinois. Still, early signs are pointing toward him seeing this thing out.
The Bulls continue to be aggressive in their pursuit of win-now talent, and one can only assume they’ll employ a similar mindset at this year’s trade deadline.
The Bulls signed another former Laker in Alex Caruso, who also has a knack for highlight-reel dunks. The front office has clearly bought into the idea of constructing the team around multiple elite-level athletes.
Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball should be able to lead the Bulls to the postseason in 2021
Further moves may be on the horizon for Chicago as it continues to navigate through this year’s free-agency period.
Still, as things currently stand, the Bulls have built a roster that should remain competitive in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. LaVine, Ball, and Vucevic is an impressive trio at the top with guys like Coby White, Patrick Williams, DeMar DeRozan, and Caruso slotting in as solid role players.
Only time will tell if this year’s Bulls team has what it takes to make a playoff run. But at the very least, the LaVine-Ball connection should be a fun one to follow all season long.
Expect all sorts of remarkable dunks and alley-oops from the two of them — Los Angeles Clippers “Lob City”-type vibes, if you will.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference