The Chicago Bulls have had a bit of an interesting start to the 2022-23 season. They opened the season with a big win over the Miami Heat, but have ended up losing their two most recent games to the Washington Wizards and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bulls don't really seem to know what their identity is yet, and neither do we.
Chicago's goal this offseason was to get healthy after getting plagued by injuries down the stretch of their previous season. While they did for the most part, it hasn't looked like enough to help them stay competitive in the Eastern Conference. There's still time to turn things around after all, but the Bulls start to the season has left a lot to be desired.
There are some key things to takeaway from their start to the season, but there are also some hot takes from the Bulls first three games of the season that may end up coming to fruition as the season plays out. Let's take a look at three such hot takes that have come to light after the Bulls first three games of the season.
3. The Bulls are still relying on DeMar DeRozan way too much
The Bulls relied very heavily on DeMar DeRozan last season, and it ended up killing them in the playoffs. The Milwaukee Bucks did everything they could to slow down DeRozan, and if he struggled, so did the rest of the offense. A point of emphasis was made to change that this season, but so far, it looks like more of the same from last season.
DeRozan scored 37 points and 32 points in the Bulls first two games, and unsurprisingly, the Bulls were competitive in those two contests. There's certainly nothing wrong with that. But against the Cavs in their third game, DeRozan had just 13 points, and Chicago ended up losing by 28 points.
The reliance on DeRozan to be the primary source of offense is continuing to kill the Bulls. When he scores, it doesn't really matter, but the best teams in the league will have the defensive firepower to slow down DeRozan. Other star players such as Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic should be just as involved as DeRozan, and until the Bulls become a more balanced team, they likely will continue to struggle.
2. Nikola Vucevic will continue to be a disappointment for the Bulls
Nikola Vucevic's first full campaign with the Bulls last season was massively disappointing. After a career year with the Orlando Magic and the Bulls during the 2020-21 season, Vucevic fell victim to DeRozan taking over the offense, and he couldn't impact the game in the same way he had done the season before. Through three games, it doesn't look like much has changed for Vucevic.
Vucevic's biggest struggle last season was his shooting efficiency, and it looks like it is going to carry over into this season. Vucevic hasn't shot well from the floor in the early going, and the only game in which he scored 20+ points was a game in which he took and made 12 free throws. That's obviously not going to happen every game.
At his best, Vucevic is a dynamic inside-out scorer who can add another dimension to the Bulls offense. But he doesn't get as many shots as he once did in his career, and even when he does, he's not hitting them on a consistent basis. The Bulls offense isn't settled yet, but Nikola Vucevic's slow start to the season hasn't been particularly encouraging for Chicago and their fans.
1. The Bulls won't be a playoff team unless Lonzo Ball returns to the floor this season
It's hard to overlook the common denominator in the Bulls struggles. Ever since Lonzo Ball picked up a knee injury in January of last season, which ended up holding him out for the remainder of the season, the Bulls have not looked like the same team. And it's fair to wonder whether they will be able to reach the heights they hit early on in the 2021-22 season without Ball.
Without Lonzo Ball, the Bulls don't have a true facilitator on their offense. DeRozan has been doing his best carrying the load, but that's not his skillset. He's done an admirable job, but the Bulls offense is increasingly one-dimensional with things running through DeRozan. Ball offers the ability to hit his open teammates more frequently than DeRozan can, and he also became a knockdown three-point shooter last season.
The Bulls haven't looked like a playoff team without Ball on the floor, and until he returns, it's fair to wonder whether or not they will be able to reach the playoffs without him. The Eastern Conference is very deep this season, and the Bulls look like they have picked up many of the same bad habits they had from last season. If Lonzo Ball can't return anytime soon, don't be surprised if Chicago ends up missing the playoffs this season.