Bulls voted "Most Improved" team by NBA executives in annual survey

Lonzo Ball was also picked fourth for most underrated offseason acquisition in the survey
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

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There's plenty of good news/bad news for the Bulls in the annual 2021-22 NBA general managers' survey released Tuesday.

The vote among top team executives lists the Bulls No. 1 as likely to be the Most Improved team of this season followed by the Warriors, Lakers and Hornets. Though how much is the issue as the general managers don't list the Bulls in the top seven in the Eastern Conference this season.

That group is led by the Brooklyn Nets, the poll's favorite to win the 2022 NBA championship, followed by the champion Bucks, Miami, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston and Indiana. Indiana?

Of course, the good news is the GMs don't get much of this correct. Last year, the executives had the Bucks with the best record in the East. And though Milwaukee won the title, it finished third in the Eastern Conference. The executives last year also had the Raptors fifth. They finished 12th, and the executives never mentioned the Knicks (other than for its pizza), who finished fourth.

So there still is hope for the Bulls, which means we all should keep watching, including the top team executives. Everyone could learn something.

The Bulls have not been registering in these surveys in recent seasons for obvious reasons: They weren't particularly competitive. So at least there's some recognition from the executives that the Bulls are at least starting to turn around that giant ship in their long ocean of doubt (not the greatest metaphor, but we're all in preseason mode).

Though such things generally don't have a tight turning radius (OK, I'm done with that one).

If the Bulls were mentioned in recent seasons, it was for draft selections. Like Patrick Williams last season not receiving any votes for Rookie of the Year, but listed fourth for the best rookie in five years. That's a good pick, though in the best in five years category the GMs also mentioned Cam Reddish and Jarrett Culver. Clairvoyance tends to be ephemeral. In the 2018-19 survey, the executives picked Wendell Carter Jr. tied for second with Marvin Bagley for Rookie of the Year behind Luka Doncic. They got that one, but for best player in five years they had both Deandre Jordan and Jaren Jackson ahead of Doncic. Yeah, oops. See, they weren't sure about Luka, either.

The previous season, which was almost five years ago, the GMs had Karl-Anthony Towns best player in five years ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant. Most still have the same jobs. And in 2016-17, they guessed Kris Dunn would be Rookie of the Year and ahead of Joel Embiid for best player in five years. See, it wasn't only the Bulls who liked him.

Still, it's a fun exercise to not only begin the season, but justify having a team executive in your fantasy league.

It seems the executives were most impressed with the Bulls' possibilities because they were most surprised with what the Bulls did this summer.

Lonzo Ball, Nikola Vucevic, Zach LaVine, and DeMar DeRozan

Lonzo Ball, Nikola Vucevic, Zach LaVine, and DeMar DeRozan pose for a Bulls Media Day photoshoot.

In the category of Most Surprising Move, No. 1 was Russell Westbrook to the Lakers. But second and third was the Bulls acquisitions of DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball. See, Arturas Karnisovas doesn't keep just us guessing.

The executives this season picked the Lakers to win the Western Conference. Which, of course, they did last season as they generally pick LeBron's team to win his conference every season. It's generally also believed they do that in case LeBron decides to be a free agent again.

Durant followed by Doncic, Antetokounmpo and Embiid are listed at the top of the MVP voting, which shows everyone needs to keep scouting overseas. Doncic and Antetokounmpo were also one/two for who'd you'd want first to start a franchise. No votes for Kyrie Irving.

Memphis' Jaren Jackson was first for most likely to have a breakout season, which perhaps is only to justify them voting him ahead of Luka a few years back.

At positions, Stephen Curry is listed as best point guard, James Harden as best shooting guard (Zach didn't get a vote; OK, he's taking names), Durant at small forward, Giannis at power forward and Nikola Jokic at center. That's two of the five from overseas, and three if you count Harden's beard.

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It didn't seem consistent, but the Bulls weren't top five for best offseason moves. That order was Miami, Lakers, Nets, Rockets, Wizards. Rockets? Daniel Theis and D.J. Augustin? C'mon, they still have John Wall.

Lonzo Ball was picked fourth for most underrated offseason acquisition after Larry Nance, Patty Mills and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Jalen Green edged out Cade Cunningham for likely Rookie of the Year, though a former Bull got some love with Nikola Mirotic named best international player not in the NBA. It's uncertain if Bobby Portis was consulted.

Erik Spoelstra was selected as best coach, as he was last season when he wasn't in the top seven who got votes. Though he is a good coach. Following was Monty Williams, Quin Snyder, Gregg Popovich and Mike Budenholzer, the latter who might have been Boston coach if Durant didn't have a toe on the three-point line. No votes for Thibs this time.

And Zach did sneak in fourth behind Zion Williamson (assuming he's ever healthy), Giannis and Anthony Edwards as most athletic. Hey, let's see their dunk contest trophies!

Let's go!

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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