In the 15 days since the NBA draft lottery that graced the Spurs with French basketball demigod Victor Wembanyama, reality has begun to settle in for several teams around the league. The Chicago Bulls in particular seem to be in the midst of a mid-life crisis of sorts here, trying to straddle the reality of an impending rebuild with play-in contention like a middle-aged father trying everything under the sun to retain his last wisps of hair.
Being faced with their own mortality, the Bulls are either going to string the status quo along for as long as possible – a la resigning Nikola Vucevic – or commit to a teardown. Either road, barring a miracle, leads to the same reality that the next great Bulls team is not this one.
That said, who is? Chicago’s active roster has nine players under 26 years old but ranked 19th in average roster age at 26.7 this past season – in no small part thanks to their biggest stars sitting above (or well above) that threshold. How many of these guys can be legit contributors down the line?
With a lackluster young core and no clear to championship contention, which members of this roster will still be on the next great Bulls team?
Starting with the elephant in the room, in an ideal world Lonzo Ball leads this list. But with the expectation that the 25-year-old point guard’s career could be over after a series of surgeries following a knee injury in 2019.
Earlier this year, he received cartilage transplant surgery, a relatively new procedure to avoid knee replacement. No player has returned to the court following the operation, although I sincerely hope Ball is able to return and be the same steadying force a guard he was pre-injury.
On the other end of the spectrum, Coby White seemed to have made himself real money as a restricted free agent this offseason, improving his defense and three-point shooting despite playing fewer minutes. As a restricted free agent, the Bulls have the right to match any offer. Keep him. Unless there’s a godfather offer from someone else, White provides some stability at guard that is missing without Ball.
Finally, you have two first-rounders with different levels of pedigree. Dalen Terry showed enough to get more run next season as a two-way swingman that could end up being the ideal rotation player if he fills out and the shot develops. Patrick Williams has shown promise since being selected fourth overall in 2020, albeit without enough consistency to justify a bigger role. He – and potentially White – stand out as potential leaders of the next good team in Chicago, given their prospect pedigree and athleticism.
It’s not much here, but it’s a start. If Chicago is able to successfully flip their best assets now into pieces that could help White, Williams, and Terry down the road, the Bulls may still have a chance at cobbling together a genuine contender sometime in this decade.