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Can the Chicago Bulls Win the Eastern Conference?

Expectations for the Chicago Bulls going into the 2021-2022 NBA season were modest. Locally and nationally the team was expected to make the playoffs but not much else especially with an early injury to Patrick Williams.

Fast forward to the All-Star break and the Chicago Bulls have already surpassed the win totals from the past 4 seasons and are at the top of the Eastern Conference. The Bulls have been decimated by injuries and COVID-19. Expectations have changed due to a breakout season for DeMar DeRozan and rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu. How far can they go?

Historic season from DeMar DeRozan

The Bulls are where they’re at because of DeMar DeRozan. His leadership has transformed the team overnight. One of the more telling stats is DeRozan’s dominance of the 4th quarter. He continues to lead the NBA in the 4th quarter scoring by a wide margin. Also managed to be 3rd in free throw attempts behind Giannis and Embiid.

DeRozan once considered the worst signing of the offseason, now is in serious consideration for MVP. Not only are the Chicago Bulls winning, but DeRozan’s numbers are also reaching historic heights. Legendary heights:

 

With DeRozan being a stabilizer for the Bulls, Artūras Karnišovas and Marc Eversley can confidently believe in this current group of players. They did not make a splashy trade at the deadline. Instead, they filled a hole at backup center by signing Tristan Thompson after he likely clears waivers.

The Bulls seem to have the pieces but the health of the team is the biggest concern. Alex Caruso is looking to be first the one back with resuming shooting/dribbling in 7-10 days. What about Lonzo Ball and Patrick Williams? Is it for sure they come back and play at 100%?

Fans have seen what Ball can do, but the real wild card is Patrick Williams. Karnisovas and Eversley refused to deal Williams at the deadline so they obviously feel very highly of the 4th overall pick. Williams has yet to show he’s the complete package and will have to get up to speed quickly if he comes back.

Zach LaVine’s health

Then there’s Zach LaVine. In the first game of the season, fans questioned why DeRozan took the final shot over LaVine. LaVine quickly settled into the #2 role on the team by delivering offense early in the game while DeRozan takes over in the 4th.

LaVine’s health is the key to how far the Bulls go this season. He has had knee and back problems for the majority of the season. LaVine saw a specialist but was cleared to play following the All-Star game. Free agency is looming for LaVine and the Bulls might have a tough decision if injuries continue to sideline their star player.

The Bulls have proven to be a stellar regular-season team. They will need to rely on DeRozan, Caruso, and now Thompson for veteran leadership in the playoffs. Before this season, LaVine had never played for a winning team. The Bulls have a tough schedule in the 2nd half and will need their reinforcements when they play the other top teams in the east.

Can the Bulls beat teams like Milwaukee and Philadelphia? The addition of Thompson won’t neutralize the dominance of Giannis and Embiid but it definitely helps close the gap. The Bulls will likely need to finish in a top 3 seed to hopefully ride favorable matchups for a deep run. Karnisovas and Eversley have made all the right moves to this point. Will this be another home run?

Written by Conor ODonnell

Conor is the editor and co-host of the WCW vs NWO Podcast which reviews WCW PPVs 96-98. He is also the editor for highly acclaimed Arena Decklist Podcast which delves deep into the Magic: the Gathering tournament scene.

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