7 Bulls predictions for 2022-23 NBA season

There are predictions and then there are bold predictions.

Bold predictions are splashier. But given the nature of all sports predictions — educated guesses at best — any prediction is really kind of bold.

So label these as you wish. Bold. Safe. Whatever. Here are seven predictions for the 2022-23 Chicago Bulls season:

Zach LaVine will make his third straight All-Star team

Even after signing a maximum contract extension worth $215 million, LaVine is a polarizing player and frequent target of critics. But look for him to have a monster season after undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on the left knee that plagued him last season. LaVine is healthy, driven and focused on impacting winning by displaying two-way talents.

Ayo Dosunmu will start more games at point guard than Lonzo Ball

If you’re a Bulls fan, you hope this prediction is wrong. And that’s not a knock on Dosunmu, who stands poised to have a breakout season.

But no player on the roster duplicates the skill set of Ball, a two-way talent who impacts winning far beyond the box score. Ball hasn’t played competitively since January. Though his focus is on attempting to play this season, it’s a safe bet that his return will be played conservatively. Even if he does return, he could do so initially off the bench.

In a perfect world, Ball returns and plays his way into game shape to take over the starting job as the Bulls move towards the postseason. Meanwhile, Dosunmu will supply his steady, heady play that should feature an improved jumper and stronger floor command.

Alex Caruso will set his career high for games played

Don’t jinx things, right?

Caruso’s career-high total is 64 of 71 games in the pandemic-shortened season of 2019-20. During his first season with the Bulls, he logged 41 games as he battled a variety of ailments, including a Grayson Allen cheap shot that fractured his wrist.

Caruso would need to play in 74 games to match the career-high percentage he played in 2019-20 with the Lakers. After an offseason spent on strengthening his lower extremities, here’s saying that luck lands on Caruso’s side.

DeMar DeRozan’s scoring average will drop, while Nikola Vučević’s will rise

This is definitely not a bold prediction since DeRozan posted a career-high average of 27.9 points during his first season with the Bulls and 13th overall. To ask a player to produce another career-high in Year 14 is a tall task.

More important, if DeRozan did that, it wouldn’t be the optimal version of the Bulls. He would be playing too much hero ball. With an emphasis on ball and player movement to avoid isolation and offensive stagnation, head coach Billy Donovan wants more balanced scoring.

Enter Vučević, who sacrificed more than any player last season and delivered a lights-out preseason. The Bulls want more paint touches. They want Vučević operating as much in the post as on the perimeter. Vučević won’t rival his career-high of 23.4 points set with the 2020-21 Orlando Magic. But look for him to top the 17.6 points he averaged last season.

Goran Dragić and Andre Drummond will be shrewd signings

Both veterans will solidify a second unit that will showcase the Bulls’ depth and allow Donovan to use DeRozan more judiciously. Dragić remains an extremely crafty pick-and-roll player, while Drummond looks intent to prove he’s more than just a rebounder. Perhaps their best attribute is that either player can serve as a spot starter without the Bulls missing a beat.

The Bulls will finish 44-38 and seventh in the Eastern Conference

The anointments of the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers have happened on paper, not the hardwood. That’s not to say that both teams shouldn’t be improved. And the Eastern Conference is better, with few easy nights.

But the Bulls have continuity and depth, and players like Dosunmu and Patrick Williams could bode well for internal improvement. The Bulls won 46 games last season and, yes, starting the season without Ball is a blow. But the Bulls will still battle for an automatic playoff berth before landing in the top play-in seed. They’ll win that matchup but lose in the first round to the Bucks again.

Billy Donovan will sign an extension

Even with the Bulls falling short of Artūras Karnišovas’ publicly stated goal of bettering last season, look for Donovan to get security beyond the 2023-24 season. The partnership between management and Donovan remains rock solid. The communication and respect flows freely. And Donovan’s reputation as a players’ coach resonates loudly with veterans like LaVine and DeRozan, which ties into the continuity theme.

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