Early Takeaways from Bulls' 2022 NBA Playoff Performance

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 26, 2022

Early Takeaways from Bulls' 2022 NBA Playoff Performance

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    There was a point during the 2021-22 NBA season when it seemed the Chicago Bulls could make major noise in the playoffs.

    Unfortunately, that point is a distant blip in the rearview mirror, and Chicago's second-half swoon (38-21 before the All-Star break, 8-15) has seemingly carried over into the postseason.

    After putting up a good fight—and even swiping a win—in the first two games, the Bulls have offered little resistance against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks ever since. Milwaukee now has a crack at closing out the series in Wednesday's Game 5 after winning Games 3 and 4 by a combined 54 points.

    Let's spotlight some of the lessons learned about this squad so far.

The Roster Is Good but Not Quite Great

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    Throughout the season, it was fair to question just how far the Bulls—a lottery participant just last season—had really come in one year.

    Chicago climbed as high as No. 1 in the East, but then finished No. 6, and even that might have been inflated. The Bulls ranked 11th in the conference and 20th overall in net efficiency rating, per NBA.com. They were 1-14 against the conference's top four seeds in the East.

    It was encouraging, then, to see the Bulls put forth such a spirited fight in Games 1 and 2.

    However, Games 3 and 4 might have been most revealing in the gap that still exists between Chicago and the Association's true elites. The Bucks might have the planet's best player in Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they've also been without his co-star Khris Middleton (MCL sprain) the past two contests and still rolled over the Bulls.

Rough Patch for the Young Bulls

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    The young Bulls will be better for having experienced this playoff run.

    If you're a Chicago fan running out of patience with the youngsters, that's the mantra to keep repeating.

    Playoff basketball is a different animal, and this team's youth is learning that the hard way. Patrick Williams is shooting just 38.2 percent, and that still puts him way ahead of Ayo Dosunmu (33.3) and Coby White (31). White paces the trio in three-point shooting at a miserable 25 percent.

    Again, this experience should help in the long run, but all three fill critical roles in this rotation, and none has been able to accelerate his development on this stage.

Decision Time for the Front Office

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    There are ways to excuse the Bulls' struggles if you're so inclined.

    The absence of Lonzo Ball looms large over this team, both for his distributing and his defense. Alex Caruso was still rounding into form when a facial injury forced him out of Game 4. Williams is still making up for lost time after losing most of his sophomore season to wrist surgery. Zach LaVine is battling a bad left knee. Oh, and it's possible anyone would struggle against these Bucks, who are out to defend their throne.

    Still, does all of that account for any concerns about this club? The front office needs to figure that out quickly, because any roster led by 32-year-old DeMar DeRozan doesn't have a ton of time to right the ship.

    If the Bulls think they have enough in-house that improved chemistry and continued development of the youth can help them over the hump, then this summer blueprint is straightforward: give LaVine his max deal and search for bargains to build out the bench. If they don't, though, then big-picture pivots like parting with LaVine, trading Nikola Vucevic or flipping some youth for impact acquisitions are suddenly all on the table.