The Chicago Bulls have just completed their most promising season in more than half a decade.
A 46-36 record was the franchise’s best since the 2014-15 season, and their first-round game with the Milwaukee Bucks was their first since the “Three Alphas” faced the Boston Celtics in 2016-17. DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine instantly looked like one of the most dynamic scoring duos in the league, while Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso anchored an impressive defense when healthy.
Add to that a rebounding campaign from Nikola Vucevic and continued development from Patrick Williams, and there’s reason to believe the Bulls can take another step forward this season. But will this step be big enough to really compete in the Eastern Conference? Scottie Pippen doubts it.
The Bulls legend – who partnered with Dick’s Sporting Goods earlier this week for a sports equipment donation in Chicago – spoke with NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer on the Bulls Talk Podcast. During that conversation, Pippen offered his thoughts on the organization’s massive roster overhaul. Although he praised the team for its regular-season success last year, he still believes the franchise is stuck in a similar position when it comes to playoff potential.
“I thought last season they definitely made acquisitions that made them better. Throughout the regular season they definitely looked a lot better,” Pippen said. the firepower that they needed from an offensive standpoint. But I think the playoffs kind of fell back into the niche they’ve been in for 10 to 15 years. They’re just not a team built for the playoffs.
Other teams continue to improve. Milwaukee is always going to be strong. Miami. So even the improvement they are making is a drastic improvement, other teams are also making moves. So they really don’t give them a chance to close the gap.
Just as I’m starting to build my optimism for Year 2 of this core, one of the greatest players to ever don a Bulls jersey douses me with ice water! Thanks Pip!
The most annoying thing is also that – although Pippen has made his fair share of wacky comments in recent years – this seems like a perfectly justifiable position to take.
Indeed, Pippen basically echoed my main concerns about the Bulls’ path. There is no doubt that the team is much better, but to what end? Do they have what it takes to take over the East, especially after an offseason where they made minimal improvements? Building a competitor is a process, and I am ready to complete this process. But the lack of current assets and a true superstar could hamper the speed of this process, especially when the league’s best player is arguably in your conference.
“When I watch the game right now, the Milwaukee Bucks are going to dominate in the East,” Pippen said. “Until you find an answer for Giannis, I think the Bulls will be a middle of the road team because he’s the most dominant player in the game right now. And, unfortunately for them, he’s playing to the east, he is the target they must circumvent.
Again, though I wish Pippen was just a Bulls cheerleader… the guy makes fair points!
There is no doubt that everything in the East will go through Giannis Antetokounmpo for the next few years. The conference is also the most competitive in quite some time, which has opened up an even tougher path for the Bulls to climb the ladder.
That said, I think Pippen can have a little more faith. The road may have its obstacles, but I prefer that the organization is able to take several bites of apple. Establishing yourself as a playoff-caliber team means you’re more intriguing to big stars and top free agents. Not to mention, it just puts you in a better position to take advantage of the other team’s shortcomings. So come on, Pip, get back on the bandwagon! You are always welcome!