Back-to-back wins prove the Chicago Bulls have massively improved

Alex Caruso, Derrick Jones Jr., Chicago Bulls (Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)
Alex Caruso, Derrick Jones Jr., Chicago Bulls (Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports) /

If you told me before last night’s game against the Hornets tipped off that Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic would combine for just 33 points on a horrendous 11-for-43 from the field, I honestly would have made other plans for my evening. Instead, I was treated to a masterclass from the Chicago Bulls’ bench that left me feeling for the first time in a long time that this squad can genuinely compete.

With the starting five not getting things done, the Bulls’ bench stepped up to provide an incredible 49 points to Charlotte’s 28. Down key rotation members Andre Drummond and Coby White, the role players in the second unit already had their work cut out for themselves entering the game, but that didn’t prevent them from achieving a blistering hot scoring mark that outpaces even the NBA’s highest-scoring bench.

The Bulls played a 9-man rotation, with Goran Dragic, Javonte Green, Derrick Jones Jr., and Alex Caruso all registering critical minutes. Green led the entire team with his 17 points scored while also serving as a defensive menace with 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. Meanwhile, Dragic contributed an impressive 16 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds while Jones Jr. put up 10 points and 5 rebounds, with a game-high +22 plus/minus to boot.

When you factor Drummond and White back into the equation, it’s obvious to see there’s a wealth of talent on this team that Chicago hasn’t had in a long time. We must also consider the fact that Ayo Dosunmu will eventually be returning to the bench once Lonzo Ball has finished his rehabilitation, further strengthening the rotation.

If the bench’s early performance proves to be sustainable, the Chicago Bulls will be far more dangerous than anyone’s expecting this season.

An offseason of continuity seems to have had a great effect after all, as the Bulls are winning games as a team instead of on the shoulders of one particular player’s heroics. As great as DeRozan and LaVine are, counting on them to carry a subpar supporting cast through the playoffs is simply unrealistic.

After notoriously struggling to defeat the NBA’s best teams last season, the Bulls have already compiled a few noteworthy victories this season. Chicago has started 3-1 against playoff teams from last year, defeating the Celtics, Heat, and Nets.

This can largely be attributed to the improved bench, as the Bulls have made no changes to their starting five over the summer. After all, directly upgrading from Matt Thomas and Tristan Thompson to Dragic and Drummond is a pretty significant improvement. The stats support this claim, as the net rating of Chicago’s bench has dramatically leaped from -0.4 last season to 6.1 (second-best in the NBA) through the team’s first nine games.

If Goran’s bold assertion proves to be more fact than fiction, the Chicago Bulls could very well be a dark horse to secure home-court advantage against a lower-seeded team in the first round of the playoffs this year.

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