3 ways the Bulls can become true championship contenders in 2022-23

DeMar DeRozan, Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago Bulls (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
DeMar DeRozan, Ayo Dosunmu, Chicago Bulls (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /
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With the Chicago Bulls fully embracing the idea of “running it back” after an injury-plagued year, fans will see a cast of familiar faces out there on the court next season. But whether or not those same faces can compete for a championship is a controversial subject amongst basketball media talking heads at the moment.

One thing’s for sure, after a free agency period that saw the Bulls only make incremental improvements through the signings of Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic, any sizeable growth is going to have to come from the inside.

The internal development of the Bulls’ young core and the continued success of Chicago’s All-Star trio are certainly priorities moving forward. But instead of just offering vague obscurities, let’s dive into the specifics of a few things that need to happen if anyone in the Eastern Conference is going to take the Bulls seriously as a threat.

If the Chicago Bulls want to become a true postseason threat, these are the three most important things that need to happen during the 2022-23 season.

Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls
Nikola Vucevic, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

3. Nikola Vucevic rediscovers his offensive comfort zone

While Chicago’s new front office pairing of Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley have proven themselves to be a vast improvement over the former incumbent Gar Forman and John Paxson, their one big failure still haunts this Bulls team in the form of Nikola Vucevic.

On paper, the decision to swing a struggling prospect and two first-round picks for a multi-time All-Star big made a lot of sense. Questions lingered about his ability to anchor an already poor defense, but acquiring enough talent to make a playoff push and convince Zach LaVine to re-sign was a clear priority for the Bulls.

What Karnisovas and Eversley could have never predicted, however, was that Vucevic’s shooting would fall off a cliff during the 2021-22 season. In the 44 games Vucevic played before the trade, he was drilling 40.6% of his 3-point attempts. He even maintained that level of play in Chicago, making 38.8% of his attempts in the 26 games he played for Chicago after the trade.

Fast forward one season and Vucevic couldn’t make anything. His 3-point percentage fell all the way to 31.4% this past season, and despite having the third most “wide open” shot attempts in the league last year, he only converted on 32.6% of his 3-pointers when left open. This is just bizarre, and probably moreso points to Vucevic being uncomfortable in the current system than it does to such a dramatic one-year decline.

Like Chicago’s beloved color commentator Stacey King was harping on about all year on the live broadcasts, the Bulls have to get Vucevic involved in the paint more often next season. He found great success during the regular season when he was allowed to bang in the paint

Fighting for baskets on the interior early is what helped Vucevic get his shot confidence up and opened up his perimeter game in Orlando. He’s never been the type of guy who can just walk out there and start drilling deep bombs from the get-go. Chicago does have a third All-Star caliber player on this team, they just have to let him play like one.

If they don’t, the Vucevic trade will go down as the big blunder that potentially closed this team’s window before it even began and costed the fanbase several years of watching an exciting prospect like Franz Wagner.