3 things the Chicago Bulls learned from EuroBasket 2022

Goran Dragic, Chicago Bulls, EuroBasket 2022 (Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images)
Goran Dragic, Chicago Bulls, EuroBasket 2022 (Photo by Marvin Ibo Guengoer - GES Sportfoto/Getty Images) /

The dark days of the NBA offseason are nearly over, and I couldn’t be any more thankful for that. Fortunately, EuroBasket 2022 has been a great diversion for many Chicago Bulls fans and has succeeded in providing entertaining basketball that’s still played at a high level — a perfect recipe that the Summer League, Drew League, and Big 3 League are all still searching for.

This year’s festivities were particularly interesting for a few reasons. Due to COVID restrictions, there hasn’t been a EuroBasket since 2017, when Goran Dragic took home the MVP award and led Slovenia to a title.

Tasked with defending his title, Dragic bit off more than he could chew as more NBA talent than ever flocked to play in the tournament and represent their home country. NBA stars like Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Rudy Gobert, Domantas Sabonis, Jonas Valanciunas, Franz Wagner, Bojan Bogdanovic, Lauri Markkanen, and many more helped put on one of the most riveting basketball events of the year.

Although the tournament finale is set to take place on September 18, we’ve seen enough to have learned a few distinct lessons from this year’s tournament.

Now that no active or former members of the Chicago Bulls remain in the running for the EuroBasket 2022 title, now is a good time for reflection.

1. Marko Simonovic still isn’t ready

After a very promising stint in the Las Vegas Summer League, many fans were starting to believe Marko Simonovic could fight his way into the rotation. Simonovic led the Bulls’ Summer League team in points (15.6), rebounds (8.8), and blocks (0.8) per game and was named to the All-Summer League Second Team after propelling Chicago to a top-three finish.

However, Marko struggled in a more team-oriented EuroBasket environment. Simonovic averaged just 8.7 points and 4.2 rebounds across six games for Montenegro. Still struggling to assert himself,  Montenegro’s lone NBA player Simonovic wasn’t even named as a starter despite being starved for talent.

If Simonovic still lacks the confidence to impose his game while playing for his own home country, it’s probably too optimistic to expect him to do it for an NBA team at this point. He still doesn’t even figured out how to play like a true backup center, so won’t I won’t be holding my breath waiting for Marko to crack the rotation this year.

2. Goran Dragic can (temporarily) fill a big role

Although Slovenia met their untimely demise sooner than expected, Dragic’s performance was by all accounts a pleasant surprise for Chicago Bulls fans. The 36-year-old veteran didn’t miss a step and served as an invaluable second fiddle to Doncic. In games where he logged 10 or more minutes, Dragic averaged 16.5 points, 4 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game and shot a solid 48.8% from the field.

As good as he was, his best games came disproportionately at the beginning of the group stage and Dragic seemed to gradually dwindle down as the competition continued on. While Dragic may make for a fine replacement while Lonzo Ball works his way back onto the court, it’s for this reason that I hope it will only be a temporary arrangement.

Dragic simply doesn’t have the stamina necessary to endure the 82-game gauntlet. If the Bulls can avoid the injury bug this season, Dragic will ideally no longer be logging 40-minute games like he just did in his contest against France.

3. Star power isn’t everything

The season hasn’t even begun yet and it seems everyone has already written the Chicago Bulls off due to their lack of a top 10 player. The common conception around the league right now is that a team needs a true superstar to win a championship…

… at least, an NBA championship, that is. The EuroBasket title won’t share the same fate though, as the tournament’s three biggest superstars were all unceremoniously defeated before even one could reach the semi-finals. Doncic, Jokic, and Antetokounmpo were each eliminated by a more well-rounded team that lacked the same level of star power.

This lesson is also easily applicable to the NBA, as we recently saw in last year’s postseason that most of the top teams were in a similar situation. The Celtics, Heat, and Grizzlies all lack a top 10 player but are in serious contention for a championship. Ironically, teams like the Bucks, Nuggets, Nets, and Mavericks who are solely dependent on one player got beaten handily in the playoffs when facing stiff competition.

The Bulls obviously have plenty of work left to do in order to continue improving, but writing them off so early would be a foolish mistake.

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