2020-2021 Record: 31-41
Fun fact: There are only three players returning from last season for the Chicago Bulls. That would be Zach LaVine, Coby White, and Patrick Williams. The entire rest of the roster has been turned over and the Windy City faithful are prepping Grant Park as we speak. There are a lot of varying opinions about where the Bulls will end up in the standings, a lot of them that have me like:
— Sportsminded (@SportsMindUK) May 11, 2020
Me: “Hey Son, can we play ‘Bulls on Parade’ on repeat on my Chicago Bulls preview?”
Son: “No…. No, I don’t think so.”
Regardless of where they wind up in the standings, it won’t really affect their fantasy stock all that much. The Bulls are all in on this lineup in their attempt to earn the city a legitimate playoff berth for the first time in the last six seasons. That means the big dogs are here to play and they should get significant minutes throughout the season.
The Bulls put a competitive group on the floor around all-star Zach LaVine and didn’t even mortgage the future, so it’s safe to say that Arturas Karnisovas has a place at my table any time. Still, there are questions about their defense and their “fit” since they won’t be playing a traditional power forward (as if that were necessary in the modern NBA).
The addition of Lonzo Ball was the first domino to fall in free agency, and it was a big one. Ball brings a “three-and-d” presence that was sorely needed on this Bulls squad, but he also has above-average play-making ability when the ball is in his hands. How many “balls” can I fit into this section? Probably a lot. I like Ball’s balls. I really do.
Lonzo put up borderline 4th-round value per-game last season and borderline 5th-round value in total value. The 5th round is probably where you’ll have to snag him if you’re high on him, but most people will be more comfortable taking him in the 6th round. If your team is looking for assists, Lonzo could have a career-year with all the awesome scorers around him, so don’t be afraid to reach even towards the end of the 4th in that scenario. He’s never cracked double digits, but he could creep up to the nine-assist range if you’re optimistic.
Behind Lonzo, you’ll have Alex Caruso. While he’s a great addition in terms of real-life basketball impact, he didn’t crack the top 150 in terms of total or per-game value last season, which will probably be the case again this season even though he projects to backup the point guard and shooting guard positions.
Ayo Dosunmu can be safely ignored in any redraft league, though you should probably give him a look for dynasty. Coby White will be an interesting piece in this puzzle as it’s not really clear where he’ll slot in or how much time he’ll miss with his off-season shoulder injury. It’s possible he’s ready for the start of the season but unlikely. Once he is back, he figures to slot into a backup scoring guard role, likely at the point guard and shooting guard positions, which is a position in which he could flourish. He finished 112th in total value and outside of the top 150 in per-game value, but he’s likely worth a late-round flier for teams in need of points and threes.
Zach LaVine will almost certainly see some regression in every single statistical category. LaVine was a third-round value in both total and per-game value, but he won’t see as many shots with DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic in the same lineup most of the time he’s on the floor. I would love to say that he picks up the slack by improving on his efficiency, but he shot the ball with 51/42/85 shooting splits last season, which are all career numbers. It’s hard to see him surpassing those gaudy numbers, but hopefully, he matches them. You probably can feel free to target him in the 4th round and hope he plays every game, but realistically he’s probably best to let slip to the 5th round. It hurts me to say it, but he’s just not prime real estate for fantasy with the other big dogs in town.
Backing up the Bulls’ best player will be a “by-committee” approach, which makes a lot of sense honestly. DeMar DeRozan will likely slide to shooting guard sometimes as will Alex Caruso, Coby White, and Ayo Dosunmu. DeMar is obviously worth drafting, and we will go over that soon, and Coby is probably worth a late-round flier as noted above.
DeMar DeRozan should see a small hit in his statistics with Lonzo Ball handling the ball and cutting into his assists and with Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic eating up shots. You’d be best served to target Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine over DeRozan, but he’s probably going to be a solid middle-round “glue guy” on this Bulls squad. He’s going to contribute in every statistical category except for three-pointers. As of the writing of this article, he has an ADP on Yahoo! of 61.4, which feels about right.
Patrick Williams will shift to small forward, at times, and we’ll talk about him in the next section. Derrick Jones Jr. and Troy Brown Jr. will also see some time at the small forward position. Neither of them cracked the top 150 last season, and that’s unlikely to change as they are just role players who will come in for 15-20 minute stints.
Patrick Williams is slotted to be the starting power forward for the Bulls, and it’s really not that terrible as most people will make it out to be. His main role will be to knock down the open three-pointer and guard the other team’s best player, much like last season, so he’s not a great fantasy asset. It’s okay to take a flier on him in the last round to see if he can carve out a bigger role, but as summer league displayed he isn’t great as a “volume shooter.” He should be efficient and rack up the defensive stats, so don’t sleep on him if you’re in need of steals or blocks from the forward position.
DeMar DeRozan will surely slide to the power forward spot in small-ball lineups. Marko Simonovic is a wonderful young player and it remains to be seen what exactly he can bring to the table, but his interior passing in the summer league was impressive and he can probably slot into the backup five spot if we’re truly going to play small-ball. Mostly, he projects as a stretch four and might be worth streaming for threes any given week.
The perpetually undervalued Nikola Vucevic will start again at center for the Chicago Bulls, and I’ve been seeing him go off somewhere in the second round pretty regularly. It’s not hard to understand as he’s a center that can score from anywhere on the floor and is regularly one of the top rebounders in the league. If he slips towards the latter half of the second round, rush to snag him, but I’m not reaching into the first for the elite big man with DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine in town. He will probably average fewer points than last season.
Tony Bradley projects as the backup center in the Second City right now, but he’s extremely safe to ignore in all formats. There are a lot of rumors around the league that the Bulls are looking to add a big as their last piece to the puzzle, so we’ll have to see who that is before we can make a final determination. It’s possible that a skilled player could slot into a solid 18-20 minute role where they could do some damage in a relatively thin frontcourt.
- Will the roster gel?
- A lot of people don’t think the pieces that the Bulls put together here are going to fit, but we’ll know for sure in the first month or so of the season. It’s unlikely that the Bulls move anyone, even if it’s not going super great. This is the lineup they think will get them to the playoffs, so they will live and die by this lineup.
- Where’s the bench?
- The starting five in Chicago is stellar, and it’s hard to argue with that. However, the guys coming off the bench are a bit underwhelming. Yes, they have Caruso and Coby White, but their bigs are sorely lacking. Look for them to add another big body, but ultimately there’s going to be a lot of shifting roles for this team no matter who they add. DeRozan will play some power forward. Coby White will play some shooting guard. It’s going to be interesting.
- Will Zach LaVine get extended?
- I’m a firm believer that all of these off-season moves have one sole goal: To get Zach LaVine to sign an extension. The Bulls don’t honestly think they’ll be good enough to win a championship this year. Even the most optimistic people, like myself, think they’ll be a top 6 team at best in a strengthened East. However, if the Bulls can extend LaVine, they’ll have Zach, Coby, Lonzo, and Patrick Williams locked up for four seasons or more. Vucevic’s contract comes off the books in a few years and DeRozan’s comes off the books the following year, which is when I think the championship window may open if they can continue to attract top free agents and count on the growth of Patrick Williams into something special. This is all about getting LaVine to sign the dotted line, and he’s due for a max contract. If that gets done, and they get a playoff berth, it’s all mission accomplished.