How Lonzo Ball being ruled out for season affects Bulls’ playoff trajectory

Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Chicago Bulls have officially ruled out Lonzo Ball for the remainder of the season following two setbacks in his knee rehabilitation.

Ball suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee on Jan. 14 against the Golden State Warriors. Team doctors initially diagnosed the injury as a knee bruise, but after further evaluation, it was determined that he tore his meniscus and he underwent surgery on Jan. 28. He’s been out ever since.

Then, he suffered a setback at the eight-week mark, forcing his rehab to be paused for 10 days. He resumed his rehab recently but felt discomfort following ramp up again, and was shut down until 2022-2023.

Potentially bringing Ball back for a late-season boost has given Bulls fans hope throughout the team’s skid in March. Ball averaged 13 points, five assists and two steals this season and was a valuable defender on the perimeter. His court vision and defensive versatility are what’s missed the most.

The Bulls’ playoff trajectory looks grim without Lonzo Ball.

The Bulls only have three games remaining in the regular season and have dropped to the No. 6 seed. They have an elite team on the back end of a back-to-back on Wednesday night and will finish against two subpar teams. Their schedule is as follows:

  • Apr. 6 vs Celtics
  • Apr. 8 vs Hornets
  • Apr. 10 at Timberwolves

These games will decide if the Bulls finish as the fourth, fifth or sixth seed. After that, they will have a week off before the first round, where they are currently set to play the Milwaukee Bucks — though that can change as well.

Ball would’ve been the primary defender on Jrue Holiday or Kris Middleton. The key to stopping the Bucks is limiting Giannis Antetokounmpo and forcing the other two stars to beat you, which is something they are capable of. Ball would’ve made life hard for one of the stars. Instead, Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams will have that job. Go through the list of the other teams — Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics — and it’s the same. Ball would’ve been able to defend one of the star guards, provide good help defense, and properly facilitate to throw the opposing defenses off balance.

Without him, the Bulls have struggled getting everyone involved on the offensive end. Their stars guards have been able to get theirs, but the role guys are often just standing around waiting for something to happen. That’s not a winning formula, as reflected in their record without Ball.

Now that it’s official that Ball will not return this season, the Bulls must figure out who is going to step up if they want to make a run in the playoffs, though that’s very much more of a pipe dream than a reality at this point.

Trending. Breaking down Bulls’ potential first-round playoff matchup vs Bucks. light