Why they waited this long is anyone’s guess, but the Chicago Bulls made the Goran Dragic signing officially official on Tuesday afternoon.
First reported on July 3rd, the Dragic addition came as a major surprise across the league. Not only had the 13-year veteran been consistently linked to joining his Slovenian friend Luka Doncic in Dallas, but the Bulls were already stuffed at the guard position. The organization only doubled down in the backcourt during the draft, too, as they selected high-energy youngster Dalen Terry with the No. 18-overall pick.
However, there is no denying this Bulls roster went into this summer in need of locker room veterans. Alongside Andre Drummond (who, albeit, is a surprisingly young 28 years old), Dragic will provide a level of playoff experience and on-court composition that this group can use as they look to take the next step in their Eastern Conference contention. Not to mention, with the status of Lonzo Ball’s knee remaining very cloudy, Dragic at least supplies head coach Billy Donovan with a steady hand to plug-and-play at the top of the key.
So with this announcement finally made, I thought we might as well check in with where the current roster stands. Training camp is roughly one month away, and the chances are the group that appears on paper today is the one that will be in uniform on opening night.
Your current 2022-23 Chicago Bulls roster:
Zach LaVine (SG)
DeMar DeRozan (SF)
Nikola Vucevic (C)
Lonzo Ball (PG)
Alex Caruso (G)
Patrick Williams (PF)
Ayo Dosunmu (L)
Coby White (M)
Derrick Jones Jr. (F)
Dalen Terry (G/F)
Javonte Green (F)
Andre Drummond (C)
Goran Dragic (PG)
Tony Bradley (C)
Marko Simonovic (PF/C)
Justin Lewis* (F)
The roster looks pretty darn similar to last season, which is exactly what this front office said they wanted heading into the summer. However, the Dragic and Drummond free-agent signings do – in theory – give the Bulls more reliable options off the bench, particularly when we consider names like Troy Brown Jr. and Tristan Thompson sat there last season. And, of course, Terry is another attractive rookie to throw into the mix.
The problem with this is that the Bulls didn’t fix what many would consider their glaring holes after last season. While Dragic is an adequate catch-and-shoot threat, he isn’t some high-volume marksman from downtown. Likewise, even with Drummond showing some progress in his new reserve role over the past couple of seasons, nobody would consider the new backup big man a notable rim protector. Even Terry, whose two-way potential is tantalizing when we consider where the Bulls grabbed on draft night, isn’t someone the Bulls should expect to fix any issues in the short term.
Now, if we want to search for a silver lining, the rebounding should be much improved. Drummond can single-handedly fix some of the obvious problems in that department, as he continues to be one of the NBA’s best rebounders on both sides of the ball. He will surely come in handy for a Bulls team that lacked size and ranked a lackluster 17th in rebounding percentage in 2021-22.
The other problem – if you want to call it that – is the Bulls’ crowded backcourt. Again, this team is set up to be deeper than last season, which we can all agree is a good thing after how many names appeared on the injury report last season. However, not only could this logjam make figuring out the best rotations difficult, but it also means there is still a potential problem when it comes to wing defense and size in the frontcourt.
The Bulls allowed their opponent’s 9th-most points in the paint last season. The return of a healthy backcourt of Ball and Caruso should help fix some of their defensive issues, but we’re still talking about only a couple of defensive options down low. A lot of weight will fall on the shoulders of Patrick Williams, who is just 21 years old and coming off a season where he appeared in a total of 17 regular season basketball games. Sure, Derrick Jones Jr.’s seven-foot wingspan might be of assistance at times, but it’s still head-scratching that the Bulls decided to re-sign the six-foot-six forward instead of searching for a more traditionally-sized backup power forward.
If we want to get technical, I guess we could say Marko Simonovic and Tony Bradley have the size the Bulls might covet at times this season. The big fat juicy problem, though, is that neither has proven they can eat consistent minutes at the NBA level, so … yeah … bummer.
I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer. I have plenty of optimistic thoughts heading into this season, especially as it pertains to LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic playing even better as the core three. But I still have some significant question marks about where this roster stands as a whole, and I thought I might as well vent some of those here.
With that said, the last thing I’ll say for now is the Bulls’ second two-way slot does appear to be available. While earlier reports did suggest the front office extended Malcolm Hill a two-way qualifying offer, there appears to be a chance they have pulled it, or Hill decided not to sign it. In other words, Justin Lewis out of Marquette is currently the only official two-way contract heading into training camp, which means there could be an open competition for the second slot next month.
Could that be a potential spot for another big man? What about Javon Freeman-Liberty, who the Bulls did announce they signed ahead of Summer League (I’m assuming to an Exhibit-10 contract of sorts that would run through training camp)? Whatever the case may be, it’s always fun when we get a little competition in the practice gym! Training camp can’t happen soon enough.