Now that we’re past the 2021 NBA Draft, and the free agency is almost completely unfolded with few remarkable players left without a contract, we can finally start looking ahead to the upcoming NBA season. Coming off an offseason in which they made arguably two of the best signings in free agency, the Chicago Bull will be entering the 2021-22 season as one of the most promising teams in the Eastern Conference.
Last season, the Bulls had a frustrating campaign in the regular season, but the moves made at the trade deadline just before the end of last season, paved the way for the rebuild we’re seeing now. In an attempt to make a late-season playoff push, Chicago acquired center Nikola Vucevic, in a trade that sent Wendell Carter Jr. and two first-round picks to the Orlando Magic. Even though the team didn’t qualify for the postseason, the pairing of Vucevic and Zach LaVine gave some home and optimism for the Chicago fanbase.
In a matter of just a few days of NBA free agency, the Bulls went from a sub-.500 Eastern Conference aspirant to an All-Star laden team that should put up a fight with the best teams in the conference. Chicago will now start three All-Star players with a lot of potential as a team, in Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, and DeMar DeRozan, the four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA player who arrived via free agency in a sign-and-trade with the San Antonio Spurs.
The team also acquired restricted free agent point guard Lonzo Ball, the former No. 2 overall Lakers draft pick, who is coming off arguably the best shooting season of his career, after fixing his awkward jump shot and shooting 38 percent from three.
But all of that didn’t come for free, as the cost spread around to the San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans, and Houston Rockets, and included a future first-round pick, three second-round picks, Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Daniel Theis. Ryan Arcidiacono’s team option was not picked up, Cristiano Felicio signed overseas, and Chicago gave up their Bird rights with Denzel Valentine.
With a projected starting five of Lonzo Ball, Zach Lavine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, and Nikola Vucevic, there’s a good chance the Bull will at least be a strong competitor in the Eastern Conference. Since sports betting is finally being legalized in the state, according to this page about Illinois gambling regulations, Chicago Bulls fans can already start placing bets on the team, as they are at -155 odds to make the playoffs, and at -105 odds to record over 42 wins in the regular season.
DeMar DeRozan confident
One of the biggest surprises in the offseason, the Chicago Bulls announced on August 11 the addition of four-time All-Star forward DeMar DeRozan, in a sign-and-trade deal that sent Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, a protected first-round pick, and two second-round picks to the San Antonio Spurs.
DeRozan is one of the game’s elite scorers, and despite his high-usage style being labeled as archaic, he can still deliver with a mid-range game that is regarded among the best in the NBA, and also as a player who can take big, closing game shots. Pairing him with LaVine and Vucevic, the Bulls are capable of being one of the highest scoring teams in the league.
“It’s basketball,” DeRozan said about his fit with the Bulls. “Lot of people I see criticizing, talking about ‘fit this, fit that’ have probably never even played basketball. Being a basketball player, you go out, play at the park. Some of your best is against guys you don’t even know that you go out there and compete with. But for me, if everybody is on the same page mentality and wants to win, it doesn’t matter about a fit.”
Zo ready to run the point
On August 8, the Bulls disclosed yet another sign-and-trade deal, this time with the New Orleans Pelicans. Chicago acquired point guard Lonzo Ball, and traded Garret Temple, Tomas Satoransky, a 2024 second-round pick and cash considerations as part of the deal.
The 6-6 point guard is noted for his transition offense and passing, but he can also contribute a lot as a top defender against the opponent’s point of attack. And Ball has already stated that he doesn’t want that “Big Baller” image anymore, and just wants to be the point guard to help make other players and the team better.
“Just come in and do what I’ve been doing my whole life, playing point guard, leading the team, getting things going on the defensive end, for sure, picking up the ball,” Ball told reporters during an introductory conference. “Just playing with energy and creating a good atmosphere that everybody really wants to be a part of, building chemistry together as a unit to win basketball games.”