What the Chicago Bulls Need to Do Before 2021 NBA Season Starts
The last time the Chicago Bulls even reached the NBA Finals was the year the franchise willingly decided to force Michael Jordan into retirement.
Karma is a heck of a thing.
The Bulls have still enjoyed modest success since those dark times, of course. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler were quality stars that pushed Chicago deep into the playoffs for years, and even now, the Bulls have some nice prospects to rebuild with.
Unfortunately, talent hasn’t translated into wins lately. Not having great coaching or a lot of veteran leadership plays into that, though, and early indications are the franchise realizes that.
The hiring of Billy Donovan shows they’re committed to making this work, and if the Bulls make a few more solid moves, they could inch back into the playoff picture.
I wouldn’t recommend them as one of your NBA bets to make the postseason just yet, but they could be closer than you think.
Before that happens, however, the Chicago Bulls’ biggest needs for the 2021 NBA season need to be broached. Here’s a look at what those are, and how the Bulls can patch some leaky holes.
A Defensive Stopper
Otto Porter is a nice perimeter defender when healthy, but the Bulls could be losing their best defender by the numbers in Kris Dunn.
Kris Dunn's defense is next level. pic.twitter.com/rbtLnsAp6l— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 15, 2018
Porter has a player option, so he could leave, too.
That isn’t happening, so the Bulls should be able to (hopefully) rely on his perimeter defense and outside shooting. Sadly, he wasn’t able to stay healthy last year, so getting some extra defensive help for now and for the future does make sense.
Their defense wasn’t even awful last year. They were in the middle of the pack in defensive efficiency, and they were really stingy on the perimeter. Getting a true stopper on the outside could really provide a nice boost, however.
Chicago does possess a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and that’s one way they could beef up their defense. It may make more sense to just grab the most talented overall prospect, though.
That could make free agency the best path to bolstering their defense, with big names like Jae Crowder and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope standing out as useful defensive assets.
A Dominant Interior Presence
Whether it be a monster shot-blocker, a menace on the boards, or an unstoppable scorer, the Bulls must find a way to get nastier down low.
To be sure, they still could just get all of that from within. Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen offer different pieces that Chicago would want. Health, consistency, and an inability to reach their full potential have all been roadblocks to this point, however.
Their biggest defensive issues do stem from the paint, of course.
Chicago ranked 21st in points allowed down low last year, and 28th in two-point shooting percentage given up. The resistance in the paint just wasn’t there. Throw in a lack of a shot-blocking presence (26th in blocks per game), and the Bulls were someone big men wanted to face.
Hassan Whiteside is a free agent and can rebound and block shots.
At the right price, he’d be an interesting free agency addition. Other big men available in free agency could be Serge Ibaka, Tristan Thompson, Bismack Biyombo, and Derrick Favors.
This could easily be where the Bulls invest their lottery pick, of course. The team seems loaded with guard talent these days, and their big men thus far haven’t been overly reliable.
Could Chicago cure what ails them by flipping one of their bigs and selecting James Wiseman with the 4th pick in this year’s draft? Based on sheer upside, it’s certainly an option to consider.
Coby White is a terrific scorer off of the bench for the Bulls, but everyone could tell this isn’t a guy who belongs on the sidelines to start games.
With White demanding his ticket into the starting five be punched, the Bulls need to find a way to replace the instant offense he’ll be taking with him off the bench.
Chicago was actually solid in bench scoring last season (13th), but if White is inserted into the starting five full-time, they have to find a way to replace that instant offense.
The draft is one place to get some bodies who can score, as the Bulls own the 44th overall selection in round two. There are a plethora of shoot-first guys they can give a look, with Duke’s Cassius Stanley potentially being an interesting value in their draft range.
The Bulls are losing some depth pieces, so they could replace departing free agents like Dunn, Denzel Valentine, and Shaquille Harrison by bringing in a capable, proven scorer.
Kent Bazemore, Alec Burks, and Bryn Forbes are all scheduled to enter free agency and can check a lot of different boxes for the Bulls – most notably scoring.
Beyond the specific concerns above, the Bulls are just too young. Their talent is good enough to be optimistic about, but how long can Chicago sit around and cross their fingers that these guys all develop?
Instead of doing that, the Bulls can do two things; pick a prospect to flip to get better via trade, or try to bring in a steady veteran that can help out in areas of need, and also help expedite growth with the younger players.
It looks like the team has already started this process, as they added Tomas Satoransky, Thaddeus Young, and Otto Porter in recent years. One more key veteran addition could be in the cards, and it just might help turn a young, promising team into a pretty darn good one.
Chicago had one of the least experienced rosters in the league, so there is a pretty clear argument for bringing in some more experienced.
Cost is definitely a question mark, but aging commodities like the aforementioned Ibaka, Paul Millsap, J.J. Barea, Marco Belinelli, and others could be appealing.
The Bulls were a bit of a mess last year, but the changes so far look good. Dunn coming back at the right price would be good for the defense and playmaking, but this team really needs Zach LaVine to take the next step in his development.
If LaVine ends up being the superstar Chicago believes he can be and they concentrate on addressing some of these core needs, the Bulls could really be onto something.
After all, the Pacers are among the NBA teams that could take a step back in 2021. If Indy drops down, Chicago may be next in line to rise up and snag a playoff spot out of the Central Division.
These Chicago Bulls team needs are a great place to start. Now it’s on LaVine, Billy Donovan, and everyone else to make sure this team gets back to their winning ways.