We’re in the dog days of the NBA offseason, where much of the excitement centers around guys playing in pro-ams, the Drew League or wherever else. The Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell trade situations are adding a bit of intrigue to NBA August this year, but those negotiations currently seem to be at a stalemate.
A number of Bulls players have been out in California this summer (RIP #InOurBuilding), with DeMar DeRozan starring in the Drew League and both Patrick Williams and Dalen Terry participating as well. I don’t want to get too much into Drew League highlights, but have at it:
Clipped together (most of) Patrick William's touches from the Drew.— Will Gottlieb (@wontgottlieb) August 7, 2022
Handle looks quite a bit tighter. Got dunked on trying to block some shots. Had some nice dunks towards the end. Didn't look fantastic all game but cool to see him in this setting and trying some new moves pic.twitter.com/CxjdqmR76Y
Williams and Terry also just took part in a workout with Paul George and others in Los Angeles.
Justin Lewis may be out for the season
In a bit of unfortunate news, rookie Justin Lewis is feared to have torn his ACL during a workout, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. The Bulls were lauded for picking up Lewis as an undrafted free agent right after the draft and agreeing on a two-way contract, and he showed some flashes at Summer League. This is just a massive bummer and an ominous sign for the upcoming season.
Speaking of 2022-23...
Early projections peg Bulls as play-in team
Last year, the Bulls held the No. 1 seed in the East nearly three-quarters of the way through last season, only to stumble to 46 wins and the No. 6 seed, barely staying out of the play-in tournament. After a mediocre-at-best offseason in which they did the bare minimum (The Athletic’s David Aldridge ranked their offseason 15th, which is honestly kind of perfect), the early projections are placing the Bulls as a play-in team for this upcoming season.
ESPN’s NBA Summer Forecast has the Bulls going 44-38 and finishing with the No. 8 seed in the East. DraftKings and PointsBet win totals currently have them at 43.5, which is in play-in territory, though these numbers have come up since opening.
There’s certainly a path to the Bulls easily beating these projections (better health, Patrick Williams taking a leap), and we still have one or more major Brooklyn trades to come, but there’s one major thing hanging over the team right now....
What’s up with Lonzo Ball?
Arturas Karnisovas’ Lonzo Ball update during Summer League was less than encouraging, especially when it was combined with K.C.’s reporting about discomfort still happening when he tried to ramp things up.
Since then, Billy Donovan tried to offer up a positive update at the end of July, telling Andy Katz at an event that Ball “appears to continue to move in a very, very positive direction”, but if you parse those words it doesn’t say anything towards the degree of Ball’s recovery. This week, ESPN’s Jamal Collier said on NBA Today that a source in Ball’s camp expressed “some confidence that he’ll be ready to go for the start of the season,” but he speculates the Bulls will take things slow.
Then, KC Johnson’s latest (that had the Lewis injury) says “Ball continues to progress, although his readiness for the start of training camp is unknown.”
Given just how long Ball has been out and all the setbacks, I’m not all that encouraged by any of this and won’t be until we get a concrete update from the Bulls about his ability to do full basketball activities. And even then, there will be concern about him holding up over the course of the season given his injury history.
Ball is so important to this Bulls roster, and his health could swing how this season goes.