Few teams have undergone more changes than the Chicago Bulls in the past year.
The Bulls were entering an offseason of uncertainty 12 short months ago. They held the fourth pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, with plenty of options on the table. They had a new president of basketball operations in Artūras Karnišovas. They had a new head coach in Billy Donovan. It was all a mystery.
Flash forward to October 2021, and the Bulls have a completely revamped outlook. Zach LaVine developed into an All-Star, Patrick Williams made All-Rookie Second-Team, former All-Star Nikola Vučević was added at the trade deadline and the team signed established guards Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan this summer.
The Bulls open the 2021-22 season on Wednesday, Oct. 20, when they visit the Detroit Pistons at 6 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago. There are still plenty of questions about their rotation and how each player fits into the puzzle.
Here’s a look at how the Bulls’ lineup might look this season:
What will the Bulls starting lineup be?
While the five players who take the floor on opening night aren’t officially set, we do have a good guess.
LaVine and Vučević are established All-Stars and will absolutely be in the starting lineup. Ball and DeRozan, after signing big-money contracts, appear set to join them.
The fifth spot is the biggest question, but Williams looks like the ideal fit. He would be a small-ball power forward at 6-foot-7. This lineup puts the Bulls’ five best players on the floor and gives them the best versatility both offensively and defensively.
Who is the starting SG for the Bulls?
Or wait, is it going to be DeMar DeRozan? Truth be told, the NBA is becoming increasingly positionless in recent years -- and the Bulls are no different.
LaVine and DeRozan have both played shooting guard throughout their careers. Given the fact that they’ll both likely start for the Bulls, one of them will obviously have to shift to small forward to begin games. The best bet is that DeRozan, who is one inch taller and 20 pounds heavier than LaVine, will step up to play small forward while LaVine is the traditional two-guard.
Depending on the matchup, either player can shift into the shooting guard or small forward role.
Who is the power forward for the Bulls?
Patrick Williams is likely to play power forward for the Bulls during the 2021 NBA season after Chicago’s front office dealt Thaddeus Young and Lauri Markkanen in the offseason. Williams played mostly small forward during his rookie season, but he has the size (6-foot-7, 215 pounds) to compete in the league. The NBA is playing much smaller lineups than it used to, so Williams is certainly capable of hanging defensively.
Beyond Williams, Derrick Jones Jr. will likely be the primary backup power forward. Jones was acquired in the Markkanen trade after spending last season with the Portland Trail Blazers. He averaged 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in 58 appearances (43 starts). The 2020 Slam Dunk Contest winner could be an instant spark off the bench.
Who is the Bulls backup center?
Nikola Vučević will start at center for the Bulls but the team lacks depth behind him. The main backup option is Tony Bradley, who averaged 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in 42 games last season with the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Bradley signed a one-year minimum deal with Chicago in the offseason.
After Vučević and Bradley, the only other player on the roster over 6-foot-8 is Marko Simonović. The 6-foot-11 Simonović was the Bulls’ second-round pick in 2020, but he spent last season playing for KK Mega Basket in Serbia.