Bulls star could be in line for surprisingly big role

While the Chicago Bulls successfully retained their key free agents for their 10-player rotation during the 2023 NBA preseason, it was always expected to be a period of experimentation and learning. With a roster that featured a total of 23 different players on a temporary basis, every reserve player needed to perform well to secure a spot on the Chicago Bulls’ bench and avoid being cut.

Among these players, Julian Phillips, the recently-drafted second-round rookie, stood out as one of the most impressive. He contributed 8 points and 2 rebounds in Chicago’s double-overtime victory against Denver and added another 9 points in the preseason finale against Minnesota. Phillips exceeded the expectations of his NBA readiness.

This could have significant implications for the Bulls, who are looking to fill the void left by the departures of Derrick Jones Jr. and Javonte Green in free agency if they want to maintain their competitiveness in the Eastern Conference. While Phillips wasn’t initially expected to make an immediate impact, his ability to play as a versatile defender with a reasonably reliable shot could substantially deepen the Bulls’ roster for the upcoming season.

Julian Phillips has an easier route to a spot in the Bulls rotation than anyone predicted.


Rookie Julian Phillips is making a strong first impression at Summer  League! | NBA.com


Phillips’ development is particularly important at this moment, given that Carlik Jones has been removed from the team, and Dalen Terry and Terry Taylor haven’t shown impressive performance. In fact, Phillips might already be having a more significant impact than Chicago’s 18th pick in the 2022 draft. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Phillips completely replace Dalen in the rotation.

Chicago’s current lineup is quite clear: Coby White, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, and Nikola Vucevic as starters, with Jevon Carter, Alex Caruso, Torrey Craig, Andre Drummond, and Ayo Dosunmu as key bench players. Beyond these ten, the Bulls lack depth.

In fact, Phillips, Taylor, Terry, an injured Lonzo Ball, and the open roster spot from releasing Carlik may constitute one of the weakest sets of players in the NBA, ranking 11th to 15th. While this is disappointing for Bulls fans, it presents a significant opportunity for Phillips to make his mark this season.

Chicago needs a player like him to step up and contribute meaningful minutes, and if Dalen Terry continues to struggle on the court, the decision to trade for Julian with the 35th pick on draft night might turn out to be a smarter move than many initially thought.

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