The Chicago Bulls‘ failure to reach the NBA playoffs in 2022-23 marked the fifth time in six years that the Bulls didn’t make the postseason. The Bulls have not made back-to-back playoff berths since the mid-2010s. Part of the reason that Chicago stumbled to a 40-42 record last season was that star point guard Lonzo Ball missed the entire season due to a knee injury. Ball, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since January 14, 2022, underwent a cartilage transplant in March. It was his third knee surgery since being acquired by the Bulls from the New Orleans Pelicans. Ball will miss the entire 2023-24 season as he recovers. However, he expressed optimism he’ll eventually overcome his knee issues and return to action while appearing on the “From the Point by Trae Young” podcast.
“I just had a really big surgery—hopefully, the last one I ever have to get. It’s a long process. I’m already out this whole next season. When I first got hurt, we didn’t really know what it was. I was seeing all type of different doctors and stuff. I was just kind of going up and down. That was really hard for me because I just didn’t know what the next day was going to be like. At least now, I got the surgery. We got a plan moving forward. We’ve been on plan. I’m on track.”
NBA Rumors: Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, and Patrick Williams Future With Bulls
With Ball out, the Bulls’ had a revolving door at point guard last year. As predictable, Chicago’s group of lead guards ranked last in the league in efficiency. Zach LaVine, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, Goran Dragic, Coby White, and Patrick Beverley saw time as the team’s lead guard. LaVine and Caruso had the most success of the group. But LaVine is better suited for the two. Dragic, who remains a free agent, was the only quality distributor of the bunch.
White, Caruso, Dosunmu, and Jevon Carter will likely compete in training camp to start alongside LaVine. The Bulls went 20-19 in games Dosunmo and LaVine were in the starting five, along with DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, and Nikola Vucevic. However, their most successful lineup was Beverley, Caruso, LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic.
Chicago potentially has 12 players under contract for the 2024-25 campaign. Ball has a $21.3 million player option for next season that he will surely exercise. Torrey Craig holds a $2.8 million player option, while Dalen Terry holds a $3.5 million club option. Caruso has 2024-25 contract is partially guaranteed. Terry Taylor and Carlik Jones have nonguaranteed deals.
Chicago Wants to Extend DeRozan
DeRozan is entering his third year in Chicago and the final season of his contract. While DeRozan has his limitations, mainly 3-point shooting, and defense, he has been productive. The 34-year-old averaged 24.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists in 74 contests last season. He produced a shooting slash line of .504/.324/.872. It was the fourth straight year that DeRozan produced an effective field goal percentage over 50%, and he also turned in his best defensive effort.
So, while the Bulls appear willing to take a wait-and-see approach, general manager Mark Eversley said he would like to see DeRozan remain with the team long-term. DeRozan is eligible for a contract extension until June 30. Everley spoke to The Athletic on Saturday night about various topics and had this to say about DeRozan’s pending free agency.
“DeMar’s been great. He’s been terrific for this group, not only on the court but off the court. He’s been a leader. I would love DeMar to be part of this program long term. Let’s see how that plays out and what that looks like going forward. When those conversations take place, we’ll speak about that more when that happens. But we hope Deebo’s back. He’s been an integral part of this program’s success. We hope he is here long term.”
Given his age, it makes sense for the Bulls not to rush into a decision about DeRozan, as they have plenty of time. There is no telling how this season will turn out for the Bulls and the direction the organization ultimately decides to go.
DeRozan has an enormous $42 million cap hold for next season. There is no way he will get that much unless it is over two years ($21 million per year). Chicago was 37-37 in the games DeRozan played a season ago and 80-70 over the last two years.
Bulls Taking a Wait-and-See Approach With Patrick Williams
Chicago is taking a similar approach to Williams. This is the final year of Williams’ rookie deal, though he is eligible for a rookie scale extension, which runs up until opening night.
Williams had a decent year last season after being limited to 17 games in 2021-22 due to a wrist injury. The 22-year-old power forward averaged 10.2 points and 4.0 rebounds with a shooting slash line of .464/.415/.857. The following is what Eversley had to say about Williams’ ability and potential.
“I think he’s got all the physical aspects that you would want in a starting power forward in the NBA. He’s a wonderful athlete. He’s a great defender. He shoots it at a high clip from 3. He can put it on the deck. He can finish at the rim.”
“As he matures as a human being, when he starts to apply those skill sets that he learns as a human being onto the court with him — being more assertive, being more vocal, not being afraid to challenge the norm, having a voice in the locker room — that’s when I’ll really get excited about who Patrick Williams is and what he can become. And I think he’s making strides toward that.”
Eversley also talked about William’s future when he appeared on the Bulls Talk Podcast recently.
“I think it’s a really important year for Patrick, one as a player and two as somebody in our locker room to kind of complement those guys. We’ve talked a lot about people fitting in with those three. I think Patrick is going to be challenged with the same thing. But I think this year is the year where he really needs to step it up and figure it out.”
If the Bulls don’t extend Williams before opening night, he will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. That is, if they make him his qualifying offer of $12.9 million.