Bulls

Bulls stock report: Evaluating each player after 20 games

Bulls

The 2022-23 NBA regular season has reached the quarter point for most of its teams, which means — sarcastic font — it’s time to start putting some big-picture takes in print.

The Chicago Bulls, through 20 of 82 regular season games, sit 9-11, a half-game out of the Eastern Conference’s final play-in spot, and with the point differential (plus-0.3) of a roughly-.500 team. 

At this point in 2021-22, the team was off to a thrilling 13-7 start with above league average ratings on both sides of the ball. But this season has featured high highs (wins over the Celtics, Bucks and Heat), low lows, and a general feeling of inconsistency, painting an uncertain specter for the remainder of the campaign.

To get an idea of where each player in head coach Billy Donovan’s rotation stands, let’s run a stock report on the Bulls’ active roster relative to preseason expectations:

DeMar DeRozan

2022-23 Stats: 26.2 ppg, 4.6 apg, 4.2 rpg | 51.4% FG, 32.3% 3P, 88% FT

DeRozan’s scoring is down a smidge from his career-high 27.9 point per game average in 2021-22, but that is by design as the Bulls attempt to diversify their offense. He is still the NBA’s most prolific midrange bucket-getter and a foul-drawing machine with the ability to explode on a nightly basis, as evidenced by his eight 30-point games (tied for eighth in the league). 

One of five Bulls to appear in all 20 of the team's games and their leader in minutes, he remains as much a stabilizing force as he was last season, when he started the All-Star game and made second team All-NBA.

 

Stock: Neutral (but only relative to the lofty expectations he set last season)

Zach LaVine

2022-23 Stats: 20.9 ppg, 4.3 apg, 4.3 rpg | 40.4% FG, 35.6% 3P, 82.4% FT

Sixteen regular season games after inking a $215 million max contract, and the two biggest storylines surrounding LaVine have been his tenuous left knee and a late-game benching against the Orlando Magic.

The two-time All-Star’s efficiency is down across the board — he has not eclipsed 41 percent field goal shooting in six games, his 52.9 percent true shooting percentage is his lowest mark since his rookie year, and his 59 percent conversion rate at the rim (40th percentile for his position, according to Cleaning the Glass), while trending up, is still below the elite standard he has set for himself. 

Chalk some of that up to the knee trouble, which held him out of four games early in the season and has clearly sapped some of his explosiveness (a development LaVine has insisted he can mitigate or compensate for with more reps after a disjointed offseason). But his shot selection, decision-making and clutch performance — he is 1-for-14 from the field in the final five minutes of games within a five-point margin — have been suspect too.

Stock: Down

Nikola Vučević

2022-23 Stats: 15.6 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 3.1 apg | 47.5% FG, 34.4% 3P, 85.7% FT

Vučević’s 3-point shooting has floated back towards its expected level after a down year in that department in 2021-22. (Thanks to the Bulls adjusting his placement on the court more often to the corners — he is shooting 10-for-18 from there — for that development.) He also remains one of the league’s best rebounders (his 11.4 per game ranks sixth and his 11 double-doubles is tied for fifth) and a solid distributor when the Bulls decide to play through him inside.

But as far as his defensive limitations and inconsistent stroke goes, the 32-year-old is who he is at this point. The former All-Star is producing as much as can be expected in a still unideal role.

Stock: Neutral

Patrick Williams

2022-23 Stats: 9.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg | 47.9% FG, 45.8% 3P, 92.3% FT

Strip away the — unrealistic — expectations of an All-Star leap, and Williams has been more good than bad in his third NBA season. After a disastrous start, he is averaging 10.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting 50 percent from 3-point range (on 3.2 attempts per game) in 13 November games. 

While, yes, there are still phases of games in which he drifts to the background, Williams’ activity level has also notably improved in that stretch and his high-leverage minutes have increased, in turn. He is averaging 28.2 minutes per game (with seven of those coming in fourth quarters) in November after averaging 21.4 minutes (5.6 in fourth quarters) in seven October contests. A sign that he is earning head coach Billy Donovan’s trust.

Stock: Slightly up

Ayo Dosunmu

2022-23 Stats: 10.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.0 apg | 50.9% FG, 32.8% 3P, 94.1% FT

 

Dosunmu has been a capable enough fill-in for Lonzo Ball at the starting point guard spot. His speed and at-the-rim finishing have produced some scintillating sequences and he is a positive at the defensive end. 

But after a strong start to the season, the 3-point shooting Dosunmu worked so hard to improve this offseason has tapered off, and his floor-reading ability is a work in progress, two factors in Donovan turning away from him in recent closing lineups. The sum is a still-promising long-term prospect whose limitations have been laid bare in an expanded role.

Stock: Slightly down

Alex Caruso

2022-23 Stats: 5.4 ppg, 3.7 apg, 3.0 rpg, 1.5 spg | 41.7% FG, 37.5% 3P, 76.9% FT

Even averaging a shade under 26 minutes per game, Caruso is the captain of a Bulls defense that continues to perform above external expectations (their 110.5 rating ranks 10th). Only one player this season has generated more than Caruso’s 76 deflections. The Bulls’ plus-18.8 net rating differential with him on the floor versus off of it, per Cleaning the Glass, is by far the highest on the team. And, for good measure, his 3-point shooting has climbed to 37.5 percent on a career-high attempt rate after a slow start in the department.

The bottom line: When Caruso plays, the Bulls are better at almost everything. That he has mostly stayed off the injury shelf so far — with the caveat that he played through an ankle sprain on Monday that isn’t believed to be serious — leaves his arrow slightly up, even if his all-encompassing impact is expected at this point.

Stock: Slightly up

Goran Dragić

2022-23 Stats: 8.3 ppg, 3.3 apg | 42.8% FG, 42.6% 3P, 69.6% FT

It was fair to question how much the 36-year-old Dragić had left in the tank after his last two seasons were muddled by injury and multiple trades. But he has been revelatory for a Bulls bench unit that has mostly been a strength.

In playing time that has been limited by design (17.8 minutes per game), Dragić has juiced the Bulls’ fastbreak attack, shot the lights out from beyond the arc, and rapidly formed on-court chemistry with most of his new teammates. As Ball remains sidelined indefinitely, he is the best true point guard on the roster.

Stock: Up

Andre Drummond

2022-23 Stats: 7.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg | 54.3% FG, 73.9% FT

Drummond, who projected to be a massive upgrade at second-unit center, has been even better than advertised, rebounding at the best per-minute rate of his career by pulling down 20.3 per 36 minutes and bringing some pop as a play-finisher.

The downside? His opportunity is likely to remain capped at 15-to-20 minutes per game for the remainder of the year, given the positional inflexibility of both he and Vučević (although Donovan proved in a loss to the Spurs in late October that he is not afraid to close with Drummond if he massively outplays the starter).

Stock: Up

Coby White

2022-23 Stats: 8.4 ppg, 1.7 apg, 0.8 spg | 40.9% FG, 34.5% 3P, 69.2% FT

After a slow start that featured inconsistent playing time, White missed eight games with a bad bruise in his left quad. In five contests since returning, he has shot 41.7 percent from 3-point range, flashed a high level of defensive activity and displayed clutch shotmaking ability in road wins over the Bucks and Jazz. His track record is that of at least the third-best outside shooter on the Bulls’ current active roster (meaning, without Ball).

 

Despite that dynamic, White had looked like the odd man out of a crowded guard room in the opening games of the season. But he has closed two of the Bulls’ last three games over Dosunmu and outpaced Dragić, who may still be shaking off a shoulder stinger, in minutes during Monday’s win in Utah. To be determined how that develops from here.

Stock: Still slightly down, overall, but moving in the right direction

Javonte Green

2022-23 Stats: 5.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.0 spg | 57% FG, 38.5% 3P, 68% FT

Green has a knack for swinging games with his infectious energy. Even sliding back to a reserve role after starting most of last season for the injured Williams, he is tied for fourth in the NBA in deflections per 36 minutes, trailing Caruso by two spots. And on a near-nightly basis, the 6-foot-4 forward thrills the United Center crowd with gravity-defying dunks.

Better yet, Green is also shooting a career-best percentage from 3-point range, albeit on low volume, buoyed by a marked improvement from above the break (he’s 5-for-11 from there after shooting 25 percent last season).

Stock: Slightly up, considering he is producing similarly to last season with less opportunity

Derrick Jones Jr.

2022-23 Stats: 5.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 0.7 bpg | 41.5% FG, 20% 3P, 84.8% FT

Jones and Green have taken turns as the Bulls’ backup power forward, with Green winning out more often of late. Jones is who he is at this point — a suspect outside shooter that, with his length, athleticism and activity level, can make occasional impact as a play finisher. It’s hard to take too much away from his play in a marginal role, but he is always ready when called upon.

Stock: Neutral

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