Bulls Hot Takes After 1st Month of 2022-23 NBA Season
Through the first month of the 2022-23 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls are having a hard time shifting out of neutral.
Well, that or their top gear just isn't as speedy as they hoped.
They entered Wednesday night with a choppy 6-8 record. Their bench has been helpful and their defense has exceeded expectations, but the offense has been a wreck and the starters' whole hasn't measured up to the sum of its parts.
There's time for Chicago to find its footing and change the narratives around the team, but that won't stop us from firing off three hot takes about its start.
The Light Bulb Isn't Clicking for Patrick Williams
Bulls fans won't want to hear this, but it's time to stop hoping to see stardom from Patrick Williams.
It's objectively a bummer to give up hope. I get it. Set aside the massive investment—the 21-year-old went fourth overall in the 2020 draft—if he ever became a difference-making, two-way wing, he could be the Lebowskian rug that ties everything together.
The fit makes you want to believe. The flashes of lockdown defense and effortless scoring make you want to believe. But none of that matters.
Not until he makes it matter. The third season is often a pivotal point of a player's career, and while Williams' situation is a bit unique since he barely saw the floor last season, the fact remains he's statistically the same player he was as a rookie.
Back then, the Florida State product had a 10.5 player efficiency rating and a 56.2 true shooting percentage, per Basketball-Reference. Now, he's at 11.1 and 56.0, respectively.
Ayo Dosunmu Is Front and Center of Franchise's Future
The Bulls have drafted more buzz-worthy players than Ayo Dosunmu in recent years. He was billed as a floor-over-ceiling pick, and safety isn't exactly the sexiest selling point for a draft prospect.
That's why the 22-year-old slipped to 38th in the 2021 draft, while potential-rich players like Williams and Coby White (No. 7 in 2019) went in the top 10.
Dosunmu may not make a superstar turn at any point, but he sure looks like the safest bet to have the longest career in Chicago.
While Williams has plateaued, Dosunmu has raised the bar from what was already an expectation-shattering rookie season that saw him rise from the second round to the All-Rookie second team.
White, meanwhile, was posting the worst shooting rates of his career before the injury bug got to him. And Dalen Terry, if you want to include the rookie first-rounder in this discussion, can't force his way into the rotation.
All the while, Dosunmu has been tremendous stepping in for an injured Lonzo Ball (again). He helps connect this roster together, and that's far more helpful than whatever the potential of Williams and White are giving Chicago.
This Big 3 Doesn't Work
The common complaint about this core—externally, at least—has been whether its ceiling stretches high enough to justify the investment.
Well, a season-plus into the collective tenure of the DeMar DeRozan-Zach LaVine-Nikola Vučević, it seems like that question has been answered, no? Even when Chicago had it rolling last season, it couldn't level up against elite competition. None of the Bulls' best players are of the defense-first variety, and they don't have enough touches to go around to get the most out of their offense.
Where is this supposed to be headed? DeRozan and Vučević are moving deeper into their 30s. LaVine turns 28 in March, and you can only hope that his knee trouble hasn't sapped too much of his explosive athleticism (he's shooting just 58 percent within three feet, per Basketball-Reference, so stay tuned).
Could this core look better with a healthy Lonzo Ball? Probably, but who knows when he's hitting the hardwood again. Could it jump all the way to championship contention if Williams maxes out his potential? It's theoretically possible, but he has to essentially become the next Kawhi Leonard—like, this season or next.
More likely, though, this franchise might be fortunate if this Big Three delivers more than a playoff series win or two, and honestly, that's probably pushing it.
DeRozan, LaVine and Vučević logged 1,206 minutes together last season and were outscored by 1.1 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. This year, the trio has a disastrous minus-13.9 net rating across 198 minutes.