The Chicago Bulls will not be starting to 2022-23 season with a healthy Lonzo Ball. While there was a little hope throughout the offseason, Ball will be undergoing an arthroscopic debridement of his left knee next week. Ball could theoretically be ready by the start of the season if everything went perfectly, but it doesn’t look likely. Ball’s surgery is on the same knee that he had a meniscus tear in back in January. Only expected to miss a couple of months, Lonzo missed the rest of the season and playoffs. This is not the first time Ball has dealt with a knee injury. Back in 2018, Ball had his first meniscus tear in his knee, missing a chunk of the season. The Bulls were looking like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference prior to Ball’s injury. In the 35 games he played, Ball averaged 13.0 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 5.1 APG while shooting 42% from three. Following Ball’s injury, the Bulls dropped to one of the worst defensive and three-point shooting teams.
Things did not look any better in the summer when reports came out that Lonzo had not fully recovered and was still dealing with soreness in his knee. Bulls management could not give a positive answer when asked about Ball’s status on draft night. The situation looked worse in free agency when the Bulls signed veteran guard Goran Dragic. Heading into training camp next week, the Bulls will be without their starting point guard. The biggest question for the Bulls heading into the season is who is going to start at the point.
Chicago has four other guards who could start in Lonzo’s absence. Veteran Goran Dragic could be the best bet for the Bulls. While The Dragon had a solid handful of games as a member of the Brooklyn Nets averaging 7.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, and 4.8 APG, he had a great run during the 2022 FIBA Eurobasket. As a member of the Slovenian team, Dragic averaged 14.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 3.7 APG. He may not be the best to play extended minutes, but Dragic may be the best option to start for the Bulls until Lonzo returns while keeping key players as a part of the second unit. Heading into his fifth season, Alex Caruso would be a reliable starter for the Bulls as well, having started 18 of the 41 games he played last season. Caruso averaged 7.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 4.0 APG while being a pillar of the Bulls’ defense. Caruso, unfortunately, dealt with a handful of injuries last season including a broken wrist and concussion in the playoffs. While Caruso may be the best defensive option to start, he was an important part of the Bulls’ bench.
Chicago also has two younger guards that could start for the team in Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White. In his rookie season, Dosunmu played 77 of 82 games, starting 40 of those games. Ayo averaged 8.8 PPG, 2.8 RPB, and 3.3 APG. He would make All-Rookie Second Team as he was one of the key players filling in for Lonzo during the second half of the season. Several reports have noted Ayo’s offseason improvement both physically and on the court. Expected to make a jump in his sophomore season, Ayo may be the best producing guard to start in Lonzo’s place. The final guard who could start would be Coby White. White took a step back from the 2020-21 season moving from a starting role to the bench, White averaged 12.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 2.9 APG in 61 games. While White started 17 games and put up decent numbers during the 2021-22 season, he was seen as unreliable at times and has been in many trade rumors over the course of the season and off-season. Being a restricted free agent in 2023, a starting role could be White’s best bet to earn a big payday come free agency.
Lonzo’s injury will not be good for the Bulls as the 2022-23 season begins. The Bulls had a solid season, even with Ball’s injury, but could’ve been a contender in the Eastern Conference if he remained healthy all season. Chicago has tougher competition as they head into the season. With many teams in the East improving in the offseason, many have the Bulls pegged to be competing for the last few playoff spots in the East, if not competing for a play-in spot. While Lonzo does not directly influence the Bulls’ playoff hopes for the 2023 postseason, his absence will be felt by the Bulls until he returns.
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