The Chicago Bulls finished their season with a record of 31-41. This placed them as the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference, just one seed back from making the play in. Coming into the season there were not too high expectations for this team. The roster was very young and had the potential to break out and be a playoff-caliber team, but were likely still a ways out. The disappointment lies within their not being much improvement after the big swing they made at the deadline.
Was the Vucevic trade worth it?
After the 2021 trade deadline, expectations were high for this Bulls roster. They had made the big swing by trading Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and two first-round picks in exchange for All-Star Nikola Vucevic and Al-Farouq Aminu. Those two first-round picks come in 2021 and 2023, with top-four protection on them. Due to the Bulls’ record this past year, they will only have a 20.3% chance of the pick landing in the top four. Because of this, the pick will more than likely end up with the Orlando Magic.
This deal was supposed to vault the Bulls into a wide-open bottom of the Eastern Conference playoffs and definitely secure them a spot in the play-in games. The Bulls now had two All-Stars with a solid young core around them. Injuries affected the team, but that is not an excuse due to almost every team in the league dealing with injuries this past season.
Due to them not making the playoffs, a lot of people will look at this trade as a loss for the Chicago Bulls. This is not the case. The excitement that swept over Bulls fans is something that should be noted even though success did not immediately follow. For almost a decade, fans had to struggle through the previous front office never making moves to actually better the team and only making moves to better the future. This move signified that Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley are ready to start winning. The move showed that this was a complete culture change and that alone makes this trade a win.
The Vucevic trade was the highlight of the season by far. While still disappointing the Bulls will go into next season with higher hopes. The All-Star duo of Zach LaVine and Vucevic only saw the floor together fifteen times this season. They will now have an offseason to learn how to appropriately play off of each other. While these two are the core building blocks of the team, the Bulls will also look to the development of their younger players.
Patrick Williams showed great promise in his rookie year. When his name was called on draft night, he was one of the most scrutinized picks of the night. He proved the doubters wrong with his many flashes of exciting two-way potential. Also, Coby White is a great scorer that any team would love to have. He is more of a shooting guard, but good scorers tend to stick in the league regardless of position.
The Bulls will have a difficult decision ahead of them regarding the upcoming free agency of Lauri Markkanen. Besides that, they do not have many free agency decisions to make.
A Hopeful Return to the playoffs
The most likely offseason plan for the Chicago Bulls is to try to sign a couple veterans and run it back with the same team. The young players will have another season of growth while Vucevic will have a whole offseason to get become familiar with the Bulls’ systems. While being a playoff team should not be the ultimate goal, it would be a huge accomplishment for a team that has not made it to the postseason since 2017.