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) /
2 of 3
Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls
Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports) /

2. Lonzo Ball remains healthy for a full season

You’re probably tired of hearing it by now, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If the Chicago Bulls wish to make a genuine run at an Eastern Conference Finals or even an NBA Finals appearance, they’re going to need Lonzo Ball in a healthy condition to do so.

The Bulls were on pace for 51.5 wins and the first seed in the Eastern Conference in the 35 games Lonzo played last year. Without him, however, Chicago posted a middling 24-23 record. That pace would have put the Bulls in the 11th seed, an embarrassing result that would not even be good enough to make the play-in tournament.

Don’t mistake this for sheer coincidence in a season disrupted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as Lonzo’s absence proved to be indicative of a much larger problem in Chicago. When Ball and backcourt partner Alex Caruso are available, the Bulls are a very competent defense capable of covering for DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic’s weaknesses. Without that ball-hawking duo, Chicago looks lost on the defensive end.

Of all the defensive impact statistics I’ve seen so far, this one from NBA University on Twitter is my favorite when it comes to shining a light on just how valuable Ball is on the defensive end.

Among all players who take on the most difficult defensive assignments, Lonzo rated as having the greatest defensive impact according to — get ready for this mouthful — Defensive Regularized Adjusted Plus Minus.

Although he’s not seen as a star in today’s NBA, Lonzo has proved he is:

  1. Capable of guarding the other team’s best player and compensating for three below-average defenders in the starting lineup.
  2. One of the best playmakers in transition in the entire NBA.
  3. Also one of the league’s best 3-point shooting threats, after just posting the 5th highest percentage from deep in the NBA.

If that doesn’t sound like the ultimate role player to you, I don’t know what would. Even calling him a role player feels like a disservice to the immense value Lonzo provides on the court. At this point, the only glaring weakness in Ball’s game is his ability to create his own shot; on this Bulls team, however, he doesn’t need to. If the Chicago Bulls want to make a serious run, it starts here with Lonzo Ball’s availability.