Continuing our 2022-23 Chicago Bulls season recap, after reviewing the Big 3’s season, we check on the role players and coach.
Alex Caruso was named to first team All-defense this season, as he led the league in deflections while averaging 1.5 steals per game 0.7 blocks per game. He was a big reason the Bulls finished 5th in the league in defensive rating this season. He played in a career-high 67 games, starting 36 of them. That hurt the Bulls down the stretch in 2021-22 that he only played 41 games. His numbers offensively went down (7.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.0 APG in 2021-22 to 5.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.9 APG) as he took less shots per game but his efficiency actually increased (from 39.8%/33.3%/79.5% to 45.5%/36.4%/80.8%). Without a doubt some contenders tried to trade for him at the deadline, as he’s still under contract for two more years at just $9.5 million AAV. He is one of the Bulls most valuable assets, and if the Bulls choose to try and contend next year, will be a big part of that plan. He had a fantastic season, with a +6.1 RAPTOR defensive rating per 538.
Williams had his ups and downs this season. Which is to be expected of a player who came into the league somewhat raw and had most of his second season robbed by a freak injury. He took on the toughest or second toughest defensive assignment every night with Caruso, and often held his own enough. Williams averaged 10.2 PPG, 4 RPG, 1 steal, and 1 block per game. There were times when he needed to be more assertive; when he was aggressive he was playing great, but when he played passive and was scared to shoot, he was a net negative on the court. He did shoot pretty well; 46.4% overall, and 41.5% from 3, though on just 3.5 attempts per game. He definitely needed to be more consistent on the glass as well, being the PF and only getting 4 rebounds per game won’t cut it. Overall, I still think the Bulls should believe in The Paw, if we consider this to be his year 2, but the 2023-24 season will be make or break for him.
White has been inconsistent throughout his tenure with the Bulls. He was drafted to be their future point guard, but it became apparent that he was more of a combo scoring guard. The Bulls seemed to find a good role for him as 6th man with Lonzo Ball as the starter, but with the injury, White had to step up a lot this season, and boy did he. The raw numbers might not show it (career low in PPG at 9.7, second career low in APG at 2.8) but his assist to turnover ratio was at its best, and he shot a career high from the field at 44.3% and second career-high in 3FG% at 37.2%. He was the X-factor for the Bulls offense when one of the big 3 struggled or the rest of the team didn’t score enough, and hit some clutch threes for them, including against Miami in the play-in. I’d venture to say he should have played even more. He also was no longer a complete negative defensively. He earned himself a nice extension as he enters restricted free agency, and could even be the Bulls starting point guard opening night of 2023.
Dosunmu had a sophomore slump, not taking the leap we were hoping for following a stellar rookie campaign where he was named to all-rookie second team. Only his FT% increased, all his other numbers dropped (he averaged 8.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG). His percentages also dropped to 49.3% overall which isn’t bad, but 31.2% from 3 after shooting 37.6% his rookie year really hurt. It’s likely he was rushed into the starting point guard role too soon, hurting his confidence somewhere through November. He now enters restricted free agency, where I bet he will return to the Bulls on a team friendly deal. He still was a plus defender for the Bulls. He made a lot of mistakes that were uncharacteristic of him from watching him at Illinois and from his rookie season, so I’d bet he bounces back to at least an average offensive player who is a very good defender. But I wouldn’t count on him as point guard of the future.
Beverley arrived following the trade deadline and helped the Bulls finish the season somewhat better, with a 15-10 record. The Bulls lineup with Beverley, Caruso, LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic had the best net rating in the league in that period, at +14.7 in 267 minutes before the play-in. Beverlley’s shooting splits weren’t pretty, but he seemed to hit timely shots for the Bulls. He also did the little things, averaging 5 RPG as a 6’1″ guard, 3.5 APG, 1 SPG, and 0.7 BPG. At the very least, if Beverley doesn’t return, he helped fill some of the void of not having Lonzo Ball, helped revitalize the Bulls culture that faced a lot of adversity with multiple losing streaks earlier in the season, and mentored the younger guys.
Drummond was definitely an upgrade over Tony Bradley and Tristan Thompson, but outside of games against smaller teams or bottom-tier teams, his flaws were exposed. Low IQ plays on both ends were littered between the good plays of crashing the offensive glass or getting steals and fast breaks. He averaged 6 points and 6.6 rebounds a game on 60.6% shooting. You’d like that number to be a little higher. He wasn’t exactly a rim protector, but against teams that didn’t spread the Bulls out he played solid defense. His best game may have been the play-in game against Miami. The Bulls should explore a more consistent rim protector, but they could do worse than Drummond.
Derrick Jones Jr:
DJJ made some big defensive plays for the Bulls, like the clutch block in Philadelphia to finally defeat Joel Embiid. He played a lot of small ball 5, and the Bulls did pretty well in those minutes. He shot 50% overall and 33.8% from 3, and averaged 5 point and 2.5 rebounds per game. His versatility is a valuable weapon for the Bulls. He is expected to opt into his player option, and at $3.5 million, he is a decent bench piece if the Bulls can use the MLE on some wing shooters.
Terry did not get much playtime this season, and spent quite a bit of time in the G League. He flashed occasionally defensively and attacking the rim, but his jumpshot and handle definitely need a lot of work. Funny enough, he could be the ideal Lonzo Ball replacement if he can quickly develop those parts of his game, but he needs time.
Green missed most of this season with injury after being a pleasant surprise last season. His numbers were down across the board but he was still mostly the same energy guy. We’ll see if the Bulls retain him, as he and DJJ are quite similar in playstyle. For the minimum, no reason not to bring back a great defender and dunker.
Jones took Goran Dragic’s roster spot after the veteran was bought out to sign with Milwaukee. Jones won G League MVP, averaging 26.1 PPG and 7 APG. He’ll likely get a training camp deal and fight for a bench role, but we’ve had a G League MVP before, and it didn’t end up working out with Antonio Blakeney.
Taylor was signed to a two-way deal after the trade deadline, replacing Malcolm Hill. He is in the same mold as Green and DJJ as an undersized forward who is a hustler, defender, and can hit the glass. He’ll get a chance to earn a training camp deal at summer league.
Simonovic will get one more chance at training camp, as he has played well at the G League level, but the uphill battle for overseas 2nd round picks is a steep one. Don’t expect much from him.
I never liked the Donovan hire from the start, but he did fine in year 1 and was on track to have a fantastic year 2 before the Lonzo Ball injury. Year 3 was a failure all-around, and a chunk of that blame goes on Donovan. I personally would have liked to see him fired, but I have to be fair, he did a lot to have the Bulls 5th in defensive rating without Ball. 24th in offensive rating is obviously a problem. His rotations were good at times and bad at times; I liked that he switched it up with the bench and starters midway through the season, and didn’t stick with one rotation the whole year. And he definitely prevented the locker room from falling apart after the disastrous Minnesota game and 11-18 start, though the players didn’t seem as into him this season. The play-in games were the epitome of Donovan; great adjustments against Toronto, with the defensive matchups and running the offense through LaVine, but in Miami he inexplicably took out Coby White and Andre Drummond when they were humming down the stretch and didn’t put in Patrick Williams to guard Jimmy Butler when he was using his size on Alex Caruso. All in all, Donovan enters a make or break year, regardless of his contract extension before this season.