Is it time for the Bulls to ditch the Lonzo Ball experiment?

Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports)
Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports) /

The last time Lonzo Ball played was on January 14, 2022 against the Golden State Warriors where he put up 15 points and 3 assists with 4 three-pointers made in 24 minutes of play. During this game, he tore his meniscus which was originally expected to heal in 6-8 weeks. However, Ball has now missed 101 games for the Chicago Bulls and his team has gone 45-56 in that span after limping to a 46-36 record last year and struggling even more this season. The impact that Ball had while he was on the court was tremendous, but the lack of clarity regarding his injury status has Bulls fans worried about the future of his career.

Over the year that Ball has been injured, there has been very little transparency with the public. Last September, he put out this video saying that he was not able to run or jump ahead of his surgery and was unable to play. Then in January, Lonzo posted a video of him dunking, which gave Bulls fans some optimism that he may return.

However, it has since been rumored that the point guard may not return in the near future, and K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago said that he is likely out for the season. Currently, Ball is in the second season of his 4-year, $80 million contract with the Chicago Bulls after coming over in August 2021. Considering the fact that Ball is the fourth-highest-paid player on the team and is not expected to come back on the court, it may be worth it to find potential suitors for the 25-year-old.

The Chicago Bulls should be worried about when Lonzo Ball will return and if he will be the same player he was before the injury.

The Chicago Bulls are currently in a compromising position as a team that is built to win now but has recently fallen out of being a play-in team. There have been many calls for Chicago to begin a rebuilding process, as the team has some strong young pieces and it could be worth a reset.

Lonzo may not fit in with that dynamic, because while he is young, he has dealt with injuries his entire career. Ball has played just 252 games in his 5+ years in the league, missing 45% of potential games. Ever since the Bulls dynasty in the ’90s ended, Chicago players have been plagued with injuries, and it may not be worth the risk, especially considering the high price point that Ball comes with. Chicago is currently nearing the luxury tax, and it could be worth it to move Lonzo if they choose to start over.

If the Chicago Bulls were looking to move Lonzo, it could be difficult for them to find interested franchises, as the point guard is a high-risk move considering the lack of availability. However, there are likely teams that will be willing to take the leap because of the impact that Ball brings to the table. In Lonzo’s 35 games, he was a top 3-and-D player near the top of the league in many different stats:

  • 42.3 3PT% (5th among players with at least 250 three-point attempts)
  • 1.7 steals per game (3rd among players with 30+ games played)
  • .136 defensive win shares per game (94th percentile)
  • 3.2 deflections per game (7th in NBA)

Last season, Lonzo showed the league what he can develop into, which is an all-NBA level defender, a top-tier three-point shooter, and a solid passer. Ball may not be a top-scoring threat, but he has all the tools that a winning team desperately needs. The only unfortunate aspect of his game is that he has struggled to stay healthy.

Overall, the impact that Lonzo Ball had on the Bulls through his first 35 games with the team was undeniable. However, there is no indication of whether or not he will return anytime soon. These unknowns could lead the Chicago Bulls to move him this offseason, but it will be interesting to see if another team is willing to take a chance on the point guard. If Lonzo can come back soon and plays at the level he was at last season, he will be an extremely valuable player to his team. However, that is a big assumption that the Bulls would be unwise to rely upon.

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