For the first time in three years, the Bulls have a lineup that could compete with the top tier of the Eastern Conference. After three dismal seasons, the firing of Jim Boylen, and an aggressive 2021 offseason, the Bulls believe that their lineup could get them back to the postseason for the first time since 2017.
Five years ago, the Bulls placed a bandaid on their rebuild project with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, which furloughed the problem to the following four years. The team’s trade of Jimmy Butler translated into Zach LaVine, who made his first All-Star appearance last year after being snubbed in 2019. With the addition of Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan, the team believes that they are a top-4 team in the conference.
Today, we take a look at how we got to our current competitive team. The Bulls went from being one of the worst teams in the league to a potential playoff contender. These are the Bulls’ starting lineups in the past five seasons.
2017/2018 Starting Lineup: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen, Robin Lopez
After realizing the band-aid of Rajon Rondo, Jimmy Butler, and Dwyane Wade wasn’t going to help the Bulls contend, the team ultimately tore it down. Rondo did not return in free agency, while Wade joined the Cavaliers after contemplating retirement. As for Butler, he was dealt to the Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the 2017 No. 7 overall pick, which was used on Lauri Markkanene.
While the T-Wolves made the playoffs for the first time since 2004 in 2018, the Bulls sank to 13th in the conference. LaVine played in only 24 games, while Dunn averaged 13.4 points to give the team hope for their deal. In his rookie season, Markkanen averaged 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds, while shooting 36.2% from three-point range. At the time, the team felt there were building blocks for the franchise moving forward.
2018/2019 Starting Lineup: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Justin Holiday, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr.
The Bulls struggled all year and won just 22 games with their young lineup. At the time, the Bulls thought they had found their solution at point guard. Dunn played well, averaging 11.3 points and 6.0 assists. Dunn played just 44 games, so the team thought part of the struggles were due to injuries.
Otto Porter Jr. played just 15 games, Markkanen played 52, and Carter played in 44 games. The struggles were labeled as a lack of consistency in the starting rotation. In reality, the lineup never developed, as you can tell in the future seasons.
2019/2020 Starting Lineup: Tomas Satoransky, Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr.
Some could say that LaVine snubbed an All-Star appearance in 2020. The All-Star Game was held in Chicago, but due to the team’s poor overall performance, he was overlooked. The Bulls finished with 22 wins, but LaVine averaged 25.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists. However, outside of LaVine, the team lacked talent.
Dunn showed he was a steady defensive guard in the league, but lacked the offensive skills. Satoransky was no more than a backup point guard that was thrown into a starting role. Markkanen took a step backward in Jim Boylen’s first-year starting as head coach. As for Carter, he averaged 11.3 points and 9.4 rebounds but played in just 43 games. Overall, the starting lineup lacked consistency as multiple members were frequently injured.
2020-2021 Starting Lineup: Coby White, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Patrick Williams, Wendell Carter Jr.
Last year, the Bulls believed that White could be their point guard of the future. Due to his lack of defensive awareness, and inconsistent shooting, it was realized that he is better suited for a sixth man. The same goes for Markkanen, who fell out of first-year head coach Billy Donovan’s rotation.
Despite missing the playoffs, the 31-41 squad had some positives. The team acquired Nikola Vucevic, who averaged 21.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in 26 games. LaVine averaged 27.4 points in his first All-Star appearance. Finally, the No. 4 overall pick in 2020, Williams, started 71 out of 71 games and made the All-Rookie Team.
2021/2022 Starting Lineup: Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, Nikola Vucevic
The Bulls decided to not just make a splash, but multiple splashes in the year 2021. The team traded away two first-round picks to bring in Vucevic at the NBA Trade Deadline. Vucevic, a two-time All-Star with the Orlando Magic, brings a diverse need at the center position. Vucevic is a decent outside shooter, and one of the best overall passing big men in the league.
Then, in the offseason, the team worked a sign-and-trade deal with the Pelicans to bring in point guard Lonzo Ball, who is coming off a career season offensively. Ball is also a stellar defensive wing but brings a need for a facilitator to the team. The team also signed-and-traded for DeRozan, a former four-time All-Star, who is coming off a season where he averaged at least 20.0 points per game and over six assists per game.
The cost was hefty, a first-round pick, as well as fan-favorite Thad Young. However, DeRozan will bring instant offense along with All-Star Zach LaVine. Patrick Williams is an elite defensive big that should take a step forward in his sophomore season. Overall, if the pieces click, this team could compete for a top spot in the upper in the conference.