The Chicago Bulls were a major disappointment last season. They struggled to play respectably most of the year and they finished with a 40-42 record and had to take part in the 9-10 play-in game against the Toronto Raptors.
They were victorious in that game and would have been in the playoffs had they beaten the Miami Heat. The Bulls had the lead late in that game before the Heat pulled it out and eventually won the Eastern Conference title and played the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Final.
The Bulls have talent, but something is clearly wrong with the chemistry. It appeared likely that Executive Vice President – Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas, a fancy title for general manager, might be inclined to break up the team's big three of Zach Lavine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. However, that was not the case in the offseason, and the Bulls will remain dependent on that trio — at least at the start of the season.
Karnisovas and head coach Billy Donovan could make moves with those players later on in the year, especially with the 34-year-old DeRozan, but it seems that the Bulls have one player who could lose his spot in the starting lineup.
Power forward Patrick Williams
When it comes to players who look like they should be able to dominate, the 6-7, 215-pound Williams comes quickly to mind. He is entering his 4th season in the league since the Bulls selected him with the No. 4 pick in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft out of Florida State.
Williams should be entering the prime of his career, but so far the results have been quite underwhelming. Last season was the best year of his career, but an average of 10.2 points per game is not giving the Bulls much bang for their buck. They envisioned Williams as a player who could score and get key rebounds when they drafted him.
For his career, he is averaging 9.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists while shooting 47.7% from the floor. When he ventures outside the arc, he is connecting on 41.4% of his 3-point attempts and he is also hitting 77.9% from the free-throw line.
Since Williams is going to become a restricted free agent at the end of the current season, expect him to turn it on from the start of training camp.
Newly signed Torrey Craig in line to challenge
If Williams does not increase his productivity and effort right away, veteran Torrey Craig could take his job in training camp — or at least threaten it and take minutes away from Williams.
The 32-year-old Craig signed a 2-year, $5.4-million deal with the Bulls in the offseason after spending last year and a portion of the 2021-22 season with the Phoenix Suns. Craig, 6-7 and 221 pounds, averaged 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last year in Phoenix.
While Craig is not a superstar, he is an effort player who will be noticed and he will have a chance to impress the coaches and gain status with his training-camp performance.
Zach LaVine, DerMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic form the core of the team
If the Bulls are going to rise above play-in status this season, they need their core players LaVine, DeRozan and Vucevic to take responsibility when the game is on the line.
That happened last year, but only on an inconsistent basis. DeRozan seemed to come up with his best effort most nights, but LaVine and Vucevic were not as dependable.
LaVine averaged 24.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists last year while shooting 48.5% overall, 37.5% from 3-point range, and 84.8% from the foul line. DeRozan averaged 24.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists and shot 50.4% from the field. He knocked in 32.4% of his shots from beyond the arc, and made 87.2% of his free throws.
Vucevic signed a three-year, $60 million deal in the offseason and the Bulls are clearly counting on him to improve off a solid 2022-23 season. He averaged 17.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists last year.
If the Bulls don't rise to a higher level in 2023-24 than they did last year, there could be quite a bit of movement at the trade deadline this season.
Former Buck Jevon Carter moves into starting role
Carter signed a 3-year, $19.5 million deal with the Bulls in the offseason and he will be the starting point guard. He is a rugged defender who averaged 8.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists last year.
Carter is a solid shooter, and the Bulls need another player who is not afraid to step up in crunch time. The former Buck appears ready to fill that role. Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu are both solid backups, and Caruso can move into the starting lineup if the Carter struggles with the assignment.