4. Lonzo Ball’s absence holds Chicago in purgatory
You’re probably sick of hearing about it at this point, but the effect it had on this year’s roster is simply too large to ignore. In what is probably the most obvious and well-covered issue here, Lonzo Ball’s injury hit the Bulls extremely hard this season. Ball provided exactly what Chicago lacked at the time, and no matter what the front office tried, they just couldn’t seem to fill the void left in his absence.
Lonzo’s combination of elite defense, strong three-point shooting, and excellent basketball IQ made him invaluable to the team, giving the Bulls a perfect point guard to complement its offensive stars in Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. This construction proved to be effective, as the Chicago Bulls have gone 22-13 in the 35 games that Lonzo Ball has played with the team, but the UCLA product’s knee injury has sidelined him for over a year, and it is uncertain when he will return.
The unfortunate consequence of this injury is that Ball, a once incredibly promising prospect who has had a tumultuous career but was starting to find his footing in the league, may never come back the same as he was. Additionally, the Bulls are now left with a 4-year, $80 million contract that is halfway over but has only 35 games to show for it, as well as a second-round pick being forfeited due to tampering.
We can’t say the front office completely ignored this issue, as the Bulls were able to fill the point guard position with defensive-minded players like Patrick Beverley and Alex Caruso. However, the offense began to stagnate when run by these two, which would not have happened with Ball as the floor general. If Lonzo had come back to the team earlier in the season, as initially predicted, the Chicago Bulls would have been in a much better spot and could have even avoided the play-in tournament again.