To continue our 2022-23 season recap for the Chicago Bulls, let’s next take a look at each player and their performance this season, starting with the Big 3 in this column.
The Big 3
If you throw out October and November, when LaVine was still working his way back from off-season knee surgery, he had an All-NBA season. He averaged 24.5 points or more every month after that and shot over 50% overall and 40% from 3 multiple months as well. He finished the season averaging 24.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game on 48.5%/37.5%/84.8% shooting splits. His stats after the All-Star break give a reason for optimism: 27 points and 4.7 assists on 53.2%/39.4%/87.8% splits.
He had the second-highest eFG% and TS% of his career. And he had 39 points to lead the comeback against Toronto in the play-in. But then he struggled mightily and shot 6/21 against Miami as the Bulls were eliminated. It’s been somewhat of an issue with LaVine, less the past few seasons than in his early years but still one, the inconsistency. LaVine also struggled with turnovers, averaging 2.5 a game. Again, better than in past seasons, but still, there is one more level for LaVine to reach if he wants to be considered the best SG in the league.
If he can be used a little more off-ball as a catch and shooter (he’s very good at it), can improve his assist-to-turnover ratio, and get some more calls (he doesn’t get enough free throws for how much he attacks the rim like Stephen Curry and like Derrick Rose once upon a time), he can make a case for best SG in the league and get an All-NBA nod. His on-ball defense has dramatically improved, but he still occasionally falls asleep off-ball. Either way, I feel good about LaVine as the man on this team for now.
DeRozan wasn’t expected to replicate his 2021-22 season when he was an MVP candidate and got second-team All-NBA (he should have been first). But he had another great season, making it back to the All-Star game (though as a reserve, not a starter). He finished the season averaging 24.5/4.6/5.1 on 50.4%/32.4%/87.2% splits. The shooting splits dipped very slightly, but the main difference from 2021-22 was the PPG dropping from 28 to 24.5, though he took fewer shots per game this season.
DeRozan was great in the fourth quarter again, but not as elite as he was in 2021-22. DeRozan’s RAPTOR rating offensively dipped but improved defensively, though I would attribute that more to defensive intensity improving as a team than one player. Either way, DeRozan had a great season, but not as great as the year before.
The Bulls will probably shop him to see if they can find a better fit by Zach LaVine because the fit offensively isn’t great without a Lonzo Ball type of point guard, and he’s 34. But if the offers aren’t satisfactory, they won’t hesitate to keep him as he’s still got it.
Vucevic had the exact same averages as he had in 2021-22, with 17.6 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. What was different this season was that his efficiency was higher. While the advanced numbers defensively were better last season, his improved effort was part of the reason the Bulls ended the season with the 5th best defensive rating in the league without Lonzo Ball and with Patrick Beverley only arriving in February. His shooting splits jumped from 47.3%/31.4%/76% to 52%/35%/83.5%. He was closer to the All-Star version of Vucevic, who arrived in Chicago in March 2021.
There were still times when we wanted more from Vucevic, like the Orlando Magic game, where his missed free throws cost the Bulls the game. And while he did play all 82 games, a great feat today, he is 32 and going into unrestricted free agency, so his situation will be quite interesting as a good center who packs a lot of offense. The Bulls would like to keep him.
It really was the terrible start that doomed the Bulls, 11-18 halfway through December. The second thing that cost them was their 6 game-losing streak right before the All-Star break, but DeRozan missed most of that stretch. The Big 3 played west most of the rest of the season, contributing to a 30-23 finish to the season and a 15-10 record after the break.
So while there are definitely changes needed for the Bulls, especially with Lonzo Ball unlikely to return, there is some cautious optimism to be had if the Bulls are forced to keep the Big 3 intact.
Regardless of their mostly positive play, they still were the 10 seed; changes must be made unless they can add a great role player or 2, with the big 3, specifically the two older guys in DeRozan or Vucevic; LaVine is, still young enough to be a building block.