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3 reasons why Lonzo Ball is the perfect complement to LaVine, DeRozan duo

Bulls, Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan

The Chicago Bulls began retooling their lineup at last season’s trade deadline, acquiring All-Star big man Nikola Vucevic to pair with franchise cornerstone Zach LaVine. After failing to garner even a spot in the play-in tournament last season, Artūras Karnišovas knew his updated roster wasn’t good enough to compete at the top of the Eastern Conference. As a result, he added three remarkable pieces in DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso during the offseason.

Before 2021-22, Chicago’s core lacked defensive stalwarts that could defend some of the best perimeter players in the league. Moreover, DeRozan and LaVine possess the same skill set and style of play, but they’ve clearly found a way to make it work. Among the many reasons why? The singular impact of Ball.

Here are three ways Lonzo Ball is spearheading the Bulls’ rise.

Finds an effective way to contribute on the floor

Ball still isn’t a big scorer, but his development on offense has been obvious nonetheless. He has incredible court vision, especially in the open floor, making him a perfect complement to DeRozan and LaVine. Ball’s understanding of timing and angles encourages motion in the halfcourt that keeps Chicago from bogging down into isolation basketball, too.

Ball has proven he can do more than just set up DeRozan and LaVine, shooting a career-high 43.6% from behind the arc. With DeRozan and LaVine shouldering the scoring load, Ball has emerged as one of the league’s most dangerous, versatile shooters, connecting on an elite 45.5% of his pull-up threes.

Defense is sensational

With DeRozan and LaVine not known for their defensive prowess, media and fans alike assumed that opponents would exploit the new-look Bulls on the perimeter. Vucevic’s middling interior defense, at best, only exacerbated those concerns. However, Ball has proven capable of masking those weaknesses, proving himself a magnificent defender of the opposing team’s best player.

Chicago’s 104.1 defensive rating ranks sixth in the league, and dips a bit further will Ball on the floor.The team’s net rating with Ball in the game is a stellar +8.3, by far the highest of his career. Furthermore, DeRozan and especially LaVine have competed harder on defense this season, no doubt steeled by the confidence a defender like Ball instills in them.

DeRozan, LaVine can defer to Ball when needed

Even though DeRozan and LaVine are on a tear right now, it’s inevitable they’ll hit a rough patch over the 82-game grind. The Bulls’ bench is still a question mark after the season-ending injury to Patrick Williams. With their shallow depth, they will need to rely on their core to manufacture its own offense at certain junctures of the game.

This iteration of the Bulls must push the pace at any given time because that is when they are unstoppable. Ball’s effective field goal percentage is at a whopping 80.3% when he shoots in the first four seconds of the shot clock, per NBA.com/stats. With the trio of Ball, LaVine and DeRozan on the fast break, they could decide to take quick shots from behind the arc or perform rim-rattling jumps with their tremendous athleticism.

Even if these early victories from Chicago are unexpected, the team’s formula for success is definitely sustainable for a deep playoff run. With their stars performing at an excellent level, the Bulls’ culture and chemistry could ultimately be what makes them real contenders in the Eastern Conference—and Ball is the driving force behind that synergy.