With a new Bulls season upon us, there is excitement building in the city that is considered a basketball Mecca. An invigorated front office and roster are catching the eyes of many national media members.
This newfound enthusiasm may bring back fans who left during the end of the Gar Forman/John Paxson era. Who can blame them for leaving? When the front office says, “We plan to get younger and more athletic,” only to bring in Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo, that should be taken as a slap in the face. Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world. When the Bulls aren’t charging full speed ahead, fans pivot to the Windy City’s world-class restaurants, bars, plays, concerts, and other things before they even think about switching on a game. But now, the Bulls are back.
With many fans returning their attention to the Bulls, some may be lost when it comes to the current roster construction and how things came together on W Madison St. Some fans’ last memories may be of Jimmy Butler still donning the red and black. Below is a breakdown of how the current roster got here complete with player profiles and expectations for the 2021-22 season. Be sure to check the additional links below certain players’ sections for some deeper dives into the roster.
The Front Office
Arturas Karniosvas, the new President of the Bulls, has a strong reputation in the NBA and the international community. He was one of the architects of the Denver Nuggets, a team that rose to relevance through effective drafting. Karnisovas brought along Marc Eversley from the 76ers front office to serve as general manager. Again, Eversley is well-connected throughout the NBA and has a great reputation.
More on Karnisovas: The Bulls Are Serious This Time
More on Eversley: The Chicago Bulls Have Found Their New General Manager
The Coaching Staff
For fans that took a hiatus from the Bulls, Jim Boylen was the coach prior to Gar Forman and John Paxson being replaced by Arturas Karnisovas. Boylen was arguably the worst coach in Chicago sports history. When Karnisovas came over, Boylen was let go and Karnisovas’ first big task was finding a new coach. A few names came up but no candidate was particularly eye-popping. As things progressed, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Billy Donovan agreed to part ways. Donovan was the biggest name available at the time and Karnisovas pivoted to get Donovan. While coaching the Thunder, Donovan led his team to multiple playoff appearances and previously won a national championship at Florida at the college level. Donovan proceeded to hire a slew of assistant coaches with ties to all around the country and the globe. For additional information on the coaching staff, check out the links below.
More on Head Coach Billy Donovan: Chicago Bulls Hire Billy Donovan As Head Coach
More on Assistant Coach Maurice Cheeks: Donovan Continues To Build Bulls’ Staff By Hiring Maurice Cheeks As An Assistant Coach
More on Assistant Coach Chris Fleming: Billy Donovan Fills Out His Coaching Staff
More on Assistant Coach Josh Longstaff: Billy Donovan Adds Josh Longstaff to Bulls’ Coaching Staff
More on Assistant Coach John Bryant: Billy Donovan Makes First Bulls’ Coaching Hire
More on Assistant Coach Damian Cotter: Billy Donovan Fills Out His Coaching Staff
More on Assistant Coach Billy Schmidt: Billy Donovan Fills Out His Coaching Staff
Zach LaVine is now the centerpiece of the Bulls organization and the longest-tenured player. After the three alphas of Rondo, Butler, and Wade failed, GarPax decided to trade Butler to the Timberwolves for LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn.
LaVine has always been known as a scorer. He increased his three-point percentage to the point where he’s now known as an all-around scorer and not just a slasher. The areas he needs improvement on are passing and defense. His defense improved last year as he created more steals, but he still couldn’t carry the team on both ends of the floor. While he isn’t expected to be a lockdown defender by any means, his load on offense is enough to justify him lying back on defense. His facilitating will be the biggest focus this season since the revamped roster is packed with scoring threats around him. It would not be a surprise to see him make strides in this department because it was a noticeable element of his game during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where he averaged 3.3 assists per game in the little playing time he had.
More on LaVine: Zach LaVine For MVP, Why Not?
Coby White is the only player other than LaVine to remain from the GarPax era. White was the seventh overall pick out of North Carolina in the 2019 NBA Draft. Back then, White was supposed to be the combo guard that would complement Dunn and LaVine. White showed strong scoring ability when shooting the ball off the dribble during these years.
Last year, the Bulls moved on from Dunn, and White was thrust into the facilitator role. White’s scoring skillset took a back seat as he tried to learn to be a facilitator. As the season progressed, White did not improve that quickly and maintained an assist to turnover ratio of 2:1. Even with the eye test, it was evident White was timid with his decision-making, which slowed the Bulls’ offense down last year.
While the White at point guard experiment seems to have failed since the Bulls brought in Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso this offseason, Coby can still be a valuable piece coming off the bench as a scorer. When White was on the floor last year as a shooting guard while Satoransky ran the point, White saw a significant improvement in his scoring. Do not be surprised if he takes a big jump this season under a competent coach and while not being forced into a role that doesn’t fit his game. One minor note, White sustained a shoulder injury this offseason that required four months of healing, but according to reports he should be healthy for the start of the season.
Heading into the 2020 NBA Draft, the Bulls were lucky enough to land the fourth overall pick via the lottery. The top three picks were obvious locks — Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, and James Wiseman. When the Bulls were on the clock at No. 4, no one had a clue who they were going to pick. Chicago went with Patrick Williams, a 19-year old forward out of Florida State. Williams is a strong defender with the ability to guard positions 1-5 and the capability to take the ball up the floor offensively. If you looked up versatility in the dictionary, Williams’s picture would be right next to it.
In his rookie year, Williams received praise from all over the league, including LeBron James comparing him to Kawhi Leonard. At the offensive end of the court, Williams was inconsistent in his first professional season. When he had confidence, he couldn’t miss a mid-range jumper. When he lacked confidence after a few misses, he would become passive whenever the ball got in his hands. This year, Williams will still be one of the better defenders on the team. He is going to have to be vocal on fenders. Most importantly he is going to have to play confidently and contribute where can.
More on Williams: Bulls Season Preview: The State Of Patrick Williams
Nikola Vucevic was the first big move the Bulls made in the process of reshaping their core. At the 2020 trade deadline, the Bulls sent 2018 seventh overall pick Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and 2021/2023 first-round picks to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Vucevic and Al-Farouq Aminu.
Vucevic is one of the last great “back to the rim” centers the league may ever see. With the league trending toward spreading bigs and playing positionless basketball, Vucevic is one of the last of a dying breed. “Vooch” is known for his offensive prowess. This talent was hidden on the small-market Magic, a team that usually opts for a young roster that takes a while to build, only to become a fringe playoff team before blowing it up when players start asking for more money. Vucevic excels at scoring in the post and the mid-range while also being a capable three-point shooter. One particular facet of his game the Bulls will utilize is his passing ability in the high post and on the pick-and-roll.
Bulls fans haven’t seen a big like this since Joakim Noah. Vucevic’s game complements LaVine’s strengths perfectly, and the flashy signings the Bulls made this offseason will only surround this pair with more dynamic ability. The only issue, along with LaVine’s, is that Vuvevic lacks on the defensive end of the floor, though he does have a better physical presence than the Bulls early 2020 bigs. One of his strengths on the defensive end comes in drop coverage. Under Donovan, he can only hope to improve. But if these issues persist, whoever is playing the power forward position will have to provide weak side help to Vucevic.
More on Vucevic: Don’t Worry, Nikola Vucevic’s 3-Point Shooting Woes Not Here To Stay
Troy Brown Jr.
Troy Brown Jr. came to the Bulls in a trade with the Washington Wizards that also helped Chicago acquire Daniel Theis, who was on an expiring deal. The Bulls sent Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchison back in return.
Brown Jr. proved to be a strong addition to the bench. He profiles as a quick lockdown defender who can guard the point all the way up to a wing. With the additional defensive help this year, his role will still be off the bench but he can jump in to cover an opposing starter if need be. Brown Jr. is average offensively, but he’s a solid slasher and can knock down a jumper as needed. Maintaining his solid defensive presence and growing offensively should be his main points focus for the 20221-22 season.
More on Brown Jr.: Chicago Bulls Preview: The State Of Troy Brown Jr.
Javonte Green was also part of the trade with the aforementioned trade with the Wizards. To most, Green seemed like a throw-in piece since he did not see much playing time.
Green rose to NBA caliber by proving to be a speedy physical player in the Euro leagues. With Patrick Williams out for the preseason, Green assumed the starting the power forward role, where he excelled and exceeded all expectations. In the preseason, he was one of the top defensive players. Green will play a huge role off the Bulls’ bench on both offense and defense.
More on Green: Meet Javonte Green, The Bulls 6’5 Power Forward
After the 2020-21 season, one thing was very clear. The Bulls needed a point guard. Looking at the market, Lonzo Ball was the best option available. Unlike the Bulls’ previous front office regime of Forman and Paxson, Karnisovas and Eversley acquired the top talent on the market versus having a seat at the table and settling for a second or third option.
Ball comes to Chicago as one of the best facilitators in the league. His additional strengths include being able to get the ball out on the break and flaring out to hit a corner three. The biggest asset Ball brings to the table is defense. With the Bulls’ starting lineup including LaVine and Vucevic, both of who mare not great defenders, Ball adds exceptional defensive pressure to the backcourt.
More on Ball: Lonzo Ball Is A Basketball Savant
DeMar DeRozan was another huge pickup for the Bulls this offseason. DeRozan is an offensive master who can score from anywhere on the floor. He doesn’t need the ball in his hands all the time to score either. One area he sneakily excels in is the passing game, as he is one of the most efficient passers in the NBA.
Looking at where Ball, LaVine, and Vucevic have come from in their careers, an argument can be made that all will have significantly better offensive years due to DeRozan’s ability. The flip side can also be said about DeRozan. To this point, he hasn’t had this many weapons to distribute to and play off of. DeRozan also brings playoff experience to a young Bulls roster.
More on DeRozan: Scouting Report: DeMar DeRozan Fixes The Bulls
While the Bulls could seemingly do no wrong this offseason, this move received a bit of resistance initially from the fan base. Chicago signed Alex Caruso to a four-year, $37 million deal. The former Laker embodies the vibe of a Brian Scalabrine-esque player. Upon first glance, one would think Caruso is the humanized version of Elmer Fudd running around in a Wednesday rec league. This “image” draws a great deal of fan love, but he actually has a lot more game and really doesn’t fit into that stereotype.
Caruso is an outstanding sixth man at both ends of the floor. Defensively, he is one of the best defenders in the league at this point. If you look at advanced stats, he would be deemed the best defensive point guard in the league. One thing that was evident during preseason action was that Caruso is an excellent communicator, a role the Bulls dearly missed last year on defense. Offensively, he has a high basketball IQ and spectacular court vision. He knows how to distribute the ball well, which is something the Bulls’ point guards lacked in 2020-21. At just over $9 million per year, Caruso will prove he is a steal for his price tag.
More on Caruso: Caruso Signing Was An Impactful Move
The Bulls brought Tony Bradley in to help revamp the frontcourt. As a defensive-oriented big, Bradley will be the complementary backup center to Vucevic. The 24-year-old is known for his shot-blocking ability and rim protection. He will be able to handle any physical center the Bulls face as he measures at 6-foot-10. Bradley hasn’t received much consistent playing time, but looking at his Per 36 stats, he has plenty of potential on both sides of the floor.
More on Bradley: Chicago Bulls Player Breakdown: Tony Bradley
Alize Johnson was another offseason addition to the Bulls frontcourt. At 6-foot-7, Johnson is undersized at the power forward position, but his stats do not take a hit due to that. He is a ferocious rebounder and his game is influenced by famous ’90s Bull Dennis Rodman. In the preseason, Johnson was hauling in nine rebounds in 13 minutes of play. Though he saw little playing time with the Pacers, he saw plenty of action with their G League team, where he simply dominated. Johnson is ready to take the next step at the NBA level.
More on Johnson: Chicago Bulls Player Breakdown: Alize Johnson
Derrick Jones Jr.
The Bulls acquired Derrick Jones Jr. from the Portland Trailblazers in a three-team trade that sent Lauri Markkanen to the Cleveland Cavaliers. A six-year NBA veteran, Jones Jr. uses his athleticism able to cut and jump as well as LaVine. On the defensive end, he is an above-average player. Jones Jr. brings some playoff experience to the bench from his stint with the Miami Heat.
More on Jones Jr.: Chicago Bulls Player Breakdown: Derrick Jones Jr.
Marko Simonovic was the Bulls’ second-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He played last season in Europe, making 2021-22 his NBA rookie year. Simonovic has so much hype surrounding him mostly due to Bulls’ front office leader Arturas Karnisovas’s history of drafting players in the second round that actually pan out. He had one of the biggest second-round finds in Denver with the selection of Nikola Jokic. Simonovic fits the European player profile of Jokic — a big that can cut and shoot the three and isn’t afraid to get a break going. He has good length on defense but there’s still room for some improvement. Simonovic actually played for the same Adriatic team that Jokic played for.
During preseason action, Simonovic displayed physical play in the paint. His three-point shot is off, but it’s important to remember there is a difference in distance between the leagues. Fans are hoping Siminovic projects out to a Lauri Markkanen-level player. While Markkanen was a disappointment, he was also a seventh overall pick making his ceiling higher. At the end of the day, Markkanen wanted seventh overall pick money but didn’t play like it. If Simonovic gets to Markkanen’s level with a few years of development, his production will come with a more reasonable price tag given his 44th overall draft slot. Simonovic could project higher, but his game may take multiple seasons to blossom. Fans shouldn’t expect Simonovic to initially receive much playing time outside of a few learning experiences.
More on Simonovic: Comparing Bulls’ Prospect Marko Simonovic To His Euro/NBA Counterparts
Ayo Dosunmu was the Bulls’ second-round draft pick in 2021. The Bulls did not have a first-round pick due to the Vucevic trade. Dosunmu was seen as one of the steals of the draft — a late first-round talent that fell the second round. No projections had him falling to the Bulls. After the draft, Karnisovas said he didn’t plan on Dosunmu being available when it was their turn to pick.
Dosunmu is from Morgan Park in the city and attended the University of Illinois, where he dominated college basketball last year. Dosunmu can gaurd 1-3, and even some 4s. He can also shoot the three and manage the ball well, too. During his college career, he had a clutch factor that fans hope can translate to the NBA. Dosunmu can shoot the three, distribute the ball and play great perimeter defense — all big needs for the Bulls.
As a second-rounder, Dosunmu shouldn’t see as much playing time as many Illini fans think he will. But out of all the second-rounders and undrafted players, Dosunmu is the most likely to work his way into the rotation. He has already turned some heads around the league with his play in the preseason. Dosunmu has always carried himself with a strong work ethic, which should help in his transition to the NBA.
More on Dosunmu: Scouting Report: Bulls’ New Rookie Ayo Dosunmu
Devon Dotson was an undrafted free-agent signing in 2020 for the Bulls. His college resume included four years at Kansas as a guard. Also a Chicago native like Dosunmu, Dotson brings a hometown flavor to the roster. Dotson’s profile is a speedy point guard who can get the ball going in transition. In the half-court offense, he can take care of the ball very well. In 2020-21, Dotson split time between minimal minutes on the NBA roster and quality minutes in the G League. With the Bulls backcourt pretty loaded, Dotson shouldn’t expect as many minutes, but he may see a small boost compared to last year.
More on Dotson: Bulls Sign Devon Dotson To Two-Way Contract
Tyler Cook is an NBA journeyman with 45 NBA games under his belt between 2019 and 2021. He has played for the Cavaliers, Nuggets, Nets, and Pistons. Cook split time with multiple G League teams as well. The forward’s name rippled around the NBA for being a top-100 recruit while playing for the Iowa Hawkeyes. He will most likely be an end-of-the-bench guy who won’t see that many minutes with the Bulls.
Matt Thomas was the last player to get a spot on the Bulls roster. The guard from Decatur, Illinois had stints with the Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz along with playing a few years overseas. Thomas provides experienced shooting depth at the end of the bench. With Coby White still out, Thomas may see some playing time early in 2021-22. When White returns, Thomas could be the guy that gets cut to keep the NBA roster at 15 players.
More on Thomas: Chicago Bulls Sign Matt Thomas
The tweet below contains a final look at the Chicago Bulls’ 2021-22 depth chart entering the season. Considering how this team is built, they should be competing for a middle-tier playoff spot.
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