Bulls rookie Julian Phillips could be in line for surprisingly big role

Billy Donovan, Julian Phillips, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
Billy Donovan, Julian Phillips, Chicago Bulls (Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports) /

Although the Chicago Bulls did an excellent job of retaining their core free agents for their 10-man rotation this summer, the 2023 NBA preseason was always going to be an experiment of trail and error. With a total of 23 different players temporarily on the Bulls preseason roster, each reserve was going to need to show out if they wanted to avoid being cut and hold down a spot on Chicago’s bench.

Perhaps the most impressive of the bunch was Julian Phillips, the recently-drafted second-round rookie talent. Contributing 8 points and 2 rebounds in Chicago’s double overtime win over Denver, and then another 9 points in the preseason finale against Minnesota, Phillips looked far more NBA-ready than anyone expected.

This could end up being huge for the Bulls, as they’ll need to fill the void left by the free agency departures of Derrick Jones Jr. and Javonte Green if they have any hopes of remaining competitive in the East. Phillips’ wasn’t drafted to be a day one contributor, but if he continues being a versatile defender with a semi-reliable shot, the Bulls will field a much deeper roster this season.

Julian Phillips has an easier route to a spot in the Bulls rotation than anyone predicted.

Phillips’ development is especially crucial now that Carlik Jones has been waived from the roster and Dalen Terry and Terry Taylor don’t look all that good. Truth be told, Phillips may already be a more impactful than Chicago’s No.18 pick in 2022. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest to see Phillips usurp Dalen in the rotation outright.

Chicago’s rotation is rather straightforward for now. Coby White, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, and Nikola Vucevic will be the starting five with Jevon Carter, Alex Caruso, Torrey Craig, Andre Drummond, Ayo Dosunmu coming off the bench as the key reserves. After that point, however, it becomes painfully obvious that the Bulls are only 10 players deep.

In fact, Phillips, Taylor, Terry, an injured Lonzo Ball, and the empty roster space left over from cutting Carlik has to be the worst 11-15 in the entire NBA. This is bad news for us Bulls fans, but it could be a massive opportunity for Phillips to take advantage of this season.

Chicago needs a player of his archetype to step up and eat minutes this season, and if Dalen Terry continues to struggle every time he sees the court, then trading for the 35th pick to select Julian on draft night might have been a far better move than any of us realized at the time.

Next. 3 winners and 2 losers from Bulls 2023 preseason. dark