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The Chicago Bulls have the same problems, because they're still the same team

Will Gottlieb Avatar
October 29, 2023

It’s unfair to come to any sweeping conclusions after just three games.

But this hasn’t been just three games. It is fair to have a short leash on this team when it’s the exact same product putting out the exact same result as the last season-and-a-half.

“It’s our third year here together,” LaVine told reporters in Detroit. “We know how this business is. We all love each other. DeMar is one of my best friends. We talk all the time. But we have to figure out how to make this thing work”

No matter how the Bulls dress it up, it still isn’t working. That conclusion again came into focus with the Bulls 118-102 loss to the Detroit Pistons.

Neither LaVine’s 51-point career-high, nor Alex Caruso’s game-winning three the day prior can distract from the fact that this team is no different than the disappointment from the year before.

This season is already *so* Bulls. A heated exchange between player and coach in the midst of a 20-point ass-kicking at home on the season opener. A players only meeting. A gutsy comeback win as the Bulls were bailed out by DeMar DeRozan, followed by yet another disappointing loss to a team they needed to beat if they want to be a Playoff team.

There has been no motion or movement or randomness or complexity implemented in the offense. Against the Pistons, they shot just 28 threes and 16 free throws as everyone stood around the perimeter watching LaVine drop in contested mid-range jumpers. It gives 2018 Bulls energy. They scored eight fastbreak points. There was no signs of growth from the young players on the roster — Patrick Williams and Coby White combined for a whopping zero points.

Not the best sign for the ‘blow it up and let the young guys run around’ crowd.

Williams, who has yet to register a shot at the rim or a free throw in three games this year, looked disengaged and disinterested. He’s not going to be afforded opportunities to create on-the-ball, so he needs to maximize what chances he has to impact the game as a role player.

He hasn’t helped himself at all.

The Bulls can’t rely on 34-year-old DeRozan to carry them every night, something Billy Donovan admitted during the preseason of last year. After expressing frustration about the style of offense, Vucevic has scored just 23 points on 9-of-26 shooting in the last two games.

Everything was a slog. And even the players know it.

“Without [Lonzo Ball] we’ve been trying to figure out what works for us,” DeRozan admitted after the game. “We show individual ways of working, but as a collective we’re still working [to find that balance] as a team. We show spurts of it here and there, but it hasn’t been as consistent as we want it to be.”

As of Sunday, it’s been 653 days since Ball suited up for the Bulls. If they haven’t changed or solved any problems over that time, it’s hard to believe they will.

The only difference between this team and last is that the defense is now cause for concern. Having given up a a 128.3 offensive rating (97th percentile) and 48 percent of the Pistons total attempts coming at the rim, the Bulls provided zero resistance whatsoever.

Clearly there is talent on the roster. But after as much time as they’ve had to work things out, they continue to underperform. And it appears to be getting worse as the rest of the league starts to lap them. After three games, the Bulls have a -12.3 point differential. They’re 22nd in offense and 24th in defense. This does not look like a team that has figured things out, let alone laid the groundwork for foundational change.

It looks like the same foundation as last year. Expect the same results to follow. That’s a fair conclusion to come to.

Monday night presents the next challenge in the Indiana Pacers — an up-and-coming team loaded with young talent that the Bulls couldn’t handle last season.

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