The Chicago Bulls are heading into 2023-24 with many questions and storylines following the past few disappointing seasons. One pressing matter is the team’s point guard problem with Lonzo Ball still out for the foreseeable future.
The Bulls’ Point Guard Problem: With Lonzo Still Out, Who’s In?
Lonzo Can Crack Jokes but Still Can’t Play
Earlier this summer, Stephen A. Smith commented on Ball’s knee injury, stirring up rumors that it was hard for him “to get up from the sitting position.” Ball responded with this video:
He probably meant for his response video to be a funny “take that!” to Smith’s doubtful outlook on his return from injury. But Bulls fans must realize that while Ball can do one-legged squats, they won’t see him on the court anytime soon. There’s still no timetable for his return, so Chicago must turn in a different direction to answer their guard questions.
Chicago’s Guard Rotation
Based on Chicago’s offseason moves (or lack thereof), it’s safe to assume that, for now, the front office wants to give this version of the team one more chance. Next to their top offensive talents in DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls have a handful of guards who must step up if this core wants to get past the play-in tournament.
This offseason, Coby White, the Bulls’ 2019 seventh-overall draft pick, agreed to return to Chicago on a three-year, $33 million deal. White averaged 9.7 points, 2.8 assists, and 2.9 rebounds last season on a 17.9% usage rate. This was a career low in points, rebounds, and usage rate for his four-year career. A consistent plus in White’s game has been his solid efficiency, with 44/37/87 splits last year. The Bulls need to increase his usage and see his scoring go up to 13-15 PPG to get the bang for their buck. However, the lack of playmaking prowess from him isn’t very promising. Especially when putting him next to DeRozan and LaVine, who would benefit from a gifted playmaker.
In the early days of the Ball/DeRozan/LaVine/Vucevic experiment, Chicago had one of the scariest backcourt defensive pairings in Ball and Alex Caruso. Players going up against these two aggressive defenders surely had nightmares. Fresh off the 2020 championship, Caruso was ready to bring some life to Chicago’s bench defensively and be the dirty-work guy. And so far, he’s done just that. Unfortunately, Caruso is only best utilized as a spark off the bench who makes gritty plays and defends the best guards. If the Bulls gave him the starting nod, there would be limits offensively due to his lack of playmaking (only 2.7 APG for his career) and not being a real threat offensively (5.6 PPG last season on slightly below-average efficiency).
An underrated move Chicago made this offseason was acquiring Jevon Carter. Carter provided 8 points, 2.4 assists, and 2.5 boards in a career-high 22 minutes per game last season for the Milwaukee Bucks. He looks to expand his role even more with the Bulls. Carter’s advantage is his experience playing with competitive teams. Since 2021, he’s played with the Phoenix Suns during their Finals run, the Brooklyn Nets, and most recently, Milwaukee. His experience may give him a significant chance to land the starting role for Chicago this season. But there are many questions about how Carter starting at point guard raises Chicago’s ceiling. Will we see a jump in his statistical numbers with a more involved role and increased usage rate? Or is a career 5.4 PPG and 1.7 APG what we will see from him, no matter his usage?
The Bulls’ 2021 second-round draft pick, Ayo Dosunmu, is coming off a disappointing sophomore season, averaging 8.6 points, 2.6 assists, and 2.8 rebounds per game. However, unlocking his game might be the key for Chicago to solve some of their point guard issues.
Chicago’s front office saw value in Dosunmu this offseason, extending him for three years. This faith in their young guard may result in a more involved role for Dosunmu in the team’s offensive plan. We haven’t yet seen what he might be capable of with the ball in his hands more (last season, his usage rate was 14.9%). The results may pleasantly surprise head coach Billy Donovan and his crew if they can maximize his potential as a reliable scorer and playmaker. His fast-paced approach to the game could be a good match with two downhill players like DeRozan and LaVine. It would be interesting to see what more Dosunmu-Vucevic pick-and-pop action could entail for Chicago this season.