Was signing Lonzo Ball a mistake by the Bulls?

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

Reports have been coming out that Lonzo Ball will miss the remainder of this season and undergo another platelet-rich plasma injection in his troublesome knee to help subsidize the pain. With this information coming to light, it’s time to reflect and review on the Lonzo Ball experience for the Chicago Bulls.

In the summer of 2021, Lonzo Ball and the Chicago Bulls came to an agreement for a contract worth $80 million contract over four years. At the time, Ball had a streaky first four years in the league, bouncing from his hometown Lakers to the Pelicans as a part of the Anthony Davis trade.

Chicago and Ball seemed like a match made in heaven, with Chicago being a place for Ball to start and find consistent minutes without the threat of a trade and Ball being the perfect sharpshooting defensive guard to put next to Zach LaVine.

We all know the story of what happened next, Ball and Chicago got off to a great start together, leading the Eastern Conference throughout the 2021-22 season up until his unfortunate knee injury that is still bothering him to this day.  As of this present moment, Lonzo Ball has played 35 games in his tenure with the Bulls with the record standing at an impressive 22-13.

In contrast to tweets not too long after the initial injury stating he would play again soon, every medical update in regards to Ball has become bleaker and the future becoming more uncertain than ever. With interviews coming out with Ball stating that he was unable to run,  “Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump,” and that the pain was not just related to basketball activities, “even going up stairs and stuff, it’s still painful.”

With such a small sample of games played and the colossal injuries Ball has succumbed to, the question arises — was the commitment to Ball really beneficial for the Bulls? And what does the future hold in store?

Was the signing of the young guard truly worth it for the Chicago Bulls?

Why the Lonzo Ball signing was a bad idea

Let’s get the obvious reason why out of the way, injuries. Everyone knows it, everyone is upset about it and everyone is hoping for a swift and healthy recovery.

Injuries have plagued Ball ever since he entered the league as he has only played more than 55 games in a season once, so the Bulls knew it would be a risk signing the young PG. However, absolutely no one, not even the biggest of pessimists could have forecasted what the young guard has had to go through this past year.

The real question arises when you discuss the price tag the Bulls paid for what they have gotten in return so far. There’s no doubting his impact when he plays, however, $80 million over 4 years, for a return of 35 games, unfortunately underwhelming so far.

As discussed in the opening – the injury updates surrounding Ball have been inconsistent and concerning ever since the injury, making this a huge cause for concern for the remaining two seasons of his contract.

Why the Lonzo Ball signing made sense on paper

Long before the homecoming of Patrick Beverley and the drafting of Ayo Dosunmu, the Bulls were in need of some defensive tenacity alongside Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic. In the summer of 2021, the Bulls addressed that need by signing Ball and his former Laker counterpart, Alex Caruso. At the time of the signing, they both fit the age timeline of the roster with them being 24 and 27 respectively, allowing space for them to grow with the team around them.

Furthermore, as little as he has played, there is no denying the chemistry Ball has with LaVine and DeRozan on the court — additionally, when he did play, he was playing the best basketball of his career.

Plus he and the aforementioned other signing of 2021, Caruso, were a destructive defensive backcourt duo when on the court — with them producing slightly under seven deflections and over four steals per game, producing over 20 points off of turnovers. Hopefully, Beverly and Caruso can mimic the prior success of Ball and Caruso and lead the Bulls to the playoffs.

Was the Lonzo Ball signing worth it in the end? 

In hindsight — no.

Looking through extremely rose-colored, and more than likely fictional glasses, if Ball can somehow be healthy for the remaining two seasons of his contract — then, yes.

I am still leaning towards that the contract was indeed worth it, just for what Ball brings to the floor and how seamlessly he fits into any line-up the Bulls can roll out. I believe the best-case scenario, injury-wise, for Ball moving forward, is looking at someone like Joel Embiid.

With Embiid having missed the first two seasons of his career and only played 31 games in his rookie season, things were looking bleak and similar questions arose around his ability to stay on the floor, just as Ball is hearing now. Ever since Embiid’s rookie season – he has consistently played more than 50 games each season, I don’t know about you, but if Lonzo can get to that, it would be a huge success for the Bulls and Ball.

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