Incredible the Chicago Bulls were never mentioned as the summer concludes and the NBA is set to resume in about another month. I think people are just done expecting DeMar DeRozan to get past his mental hurdles in the playoffs and Zach Lavine was not healthy last season to really gauge just how good the pairing could actually be. Throughout this past season in the first half I recall some saying DeMar DeRozan and Zach Lavine were the best duo in the league, I never bought into it but I was extremely shocked at the level DeMar DeRozan was playing at as he finished the season as one of the top 5 contenders for the League MVP trophy and had some scoring outputs which left me and many other NBA fans reminiscing about former NBA legend Kobe Bryant who marveled us with his movements and silky smooth jumper from the post. Watching DeMar DeRozan pair up with Lamarcus Aldridge in San Antonio and flop had me not making much of him signing a long extension with the Chicago Bulls and just looking at the Bulls as a team that was desperate for star-power.
Zach Lavine’s future with the franchise was questioned early on this past off-season and he all but shut down any doubts about his future by committing to the Bulls on a 5-year extension. I believe the reason most NBA fans don’t take the Bulls seriously as a team that can actually get out of the Eastern Conference and compete for a championship is because we just don’t know how much more better can Zach Lavine become and can he remain healthy. They missed their prized top 5 pick Patrick Williams all of last season and it took him practically 7-8 games to really hit his stride and anyone who watched him in the first round against the MIlwaukee Bucks could see he was able to make a difference on both ends with his timely 3-point shooting and length and versatility on the defensive side of the ball. For spurts I felt like I was watching Kawhi Leonard in Patrick Williams against Milwaukee which made me wonder what if Patrick had went through a full-training camp last season and the entire regular season? He would’ve easily been at the very worst the second man off the bench in Billy Donovan’s rotation and maybe even the starting power-forward alongside Nikola Vucevic.
With Lonzo Ball on the injury list already as usual guards Alex Caruso,Coby White, and Ayo Dosunmu will be called upon to fill the void and Ayo and Alex more than proved they could fill in for Lonzo and helped keep the Bulls afloat last season in the absences of Lonzo Ball and Zach Lavine. The buzz around Coby White has faded but he played well in the second half of this past season and seems to have carved out a role for himself as the top gunner coming off the bench for a Bulls team who in dire need of depth. Center Andre Drummond won’t likely ever start for any franchise in the NBA any longer but off the bench against second units he will be extremely effective on the boards and give the Bulls much needed interior scoring which not even their current center provides Nikola. Nikola Vucevic can score around the rim but he has adapted with the times and is playing much more outside of the paint and more as a screen and pop target or taking opposing defenders off the dribble on a pump fake and drive .
The good thing about the Bulls is that they are an actual team and not just a big blob of names put together on one team which seemed to be Lakers GM Rob Pelinka’s approach last summer when he put together Russell Westbrook,Carmelo Anthony,Dwight Howard,LeBron James,and Anthony Davis together on one team and expected them to break the Warriors 73-9 record and steamroll everything in their paths in the playoffs. The Bulls have star power and what should be a formidable bench with Ayo Dosunmu,Coby White,Andre Drummond,Alex Caruso, and Derrick Jones Jr assuming Patrick Williams becomes a starter which is highly likely for a Bulls team in need of some length and athleticism add on a team short on 3 and D players who could defend at a high level and space the floor which is something Patrick could flourish at going forward.
The fit between DeMar and Zach has been something to question despite their willingness to want to co-exist together but it should be able to work so long DeMar is willing to play the small-forward position which isn’t the most suitable position for his game but he’s more than physically capable for the position considering coaches are using more versatile lineups these days to cause mismatches. Assuming Lonzo Ball gets himself in the Bulls lineup eventually boasting two guards in Ball and Caruso who are both unselfish and are defensive minded point guards will certainly help the Bulls in the long-run being that they won’t get in the way of Patrick William’s development and will allow him to carve out a role for himself as the 4th and maybe even 3rd option on the team assuming he makes the expected strides offensively to overtake Nikola Vucevic as the 3rd scorer behind DeMar and Zach which isn’t likely but possible.
I keep harping on Patrick Williams because I really do believe he could be a poor man’s Kawhi Leonard which is high praise for the former lottery pick being that Kawhi Leonard is one of the best two way players the NBA has ever seen. He’s got the big hands,long arms,athletic ability,foot-speed, and an offensive game which needs polishing but with more and more reps in this coming regular season Patrick could develop into a star right before our own eyes very soon and make the Chicago Bulls a legitimate title contender. I’ve told many that yes DeMar,Zach,and Lonzo’s health will be crucial but the Bulls true x-factor is Patrick Williams being that he is the one player on their roster with an untapped ceiling, we kind of already know what to expect from Lonzo,DeMar,and Zach at this point but Patrick has potential to be a game-changer with his ability to be a rim-protector,post-defender, and guard practically every position in the front-court. Don’t believe me go watch his possessions against Giannis in last year’s playoffs, of course Giannis got the best of him but Patrick had his moments where he would get crucial stops and a ton came against Giannis whether it was switching over to pick him up and forcing him into a highly contested jumper or getting deflections off the ball.
When we hear about the Eastern Conference going into this coming season we only hear of the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets having resurgent seasons after superstars Giannis Antetokoumpo and Kevin Durant fell short at the hands of a Boston Celtics team who had everything clicking at the right time. The returns of both Khris Middleton and Ben Simmons will make both the Bucks and Nets heavy favorites to come out of the East and you can’t count out Boston,Miami and Philadelphia either but I wouldn’t sleep on the Bulls, head coach Billy Donovan has not had much success at the NBA level as opposed to his days at Florida but most forget he was the man in charge when the Thunder had the Warriors on the ropes 2016 down 3-1. The Thunder blew the 3-1 lead but it was quite impressive that Billy Donovan made Steve Kerr arguably the best coach in the game break a sweat in that series, so coaching also won’t be a problem for Chicago. Billy Donovan has the right ingredients to lead the Chicago Bulls on a special run this coming season which no one sees coming, remember I told you so.