The Bulls are currently sitting at 1-4 after a blowout loss to the Charlotte Hornets Friday afternoon. Any bright spots? Not really. I guess you could say Jabari Parker had an efficient game off the bench. 19 points on 7 of 14, but was a -18 for the game. Let’s just act like this game never happened.
There have been two major stories for the Bulls this season. Injuries and Zach LaVine. Let’s start off with Zach LaVine.
Bulls gave Zach LaVine a 4yr/78 million dollar deal this offseason. The Bulls drew some criticism for the move, but I loved it. Lavine just turned 23 this past March. Not only is LaVine extremely young, but he’s extremely talented. A supreme athlete with the ability to handle the ball, combined with a smooth jump shott, he has a skill set that is rare to come by and boy has he shown us that he is worth every penny.
He started the season doing something only the goat Michael Jordan has accomplished as a Bull. He started the season with four straight 30 point games. Scoring in every way you can think of. Including today’s blow out loss, Lavine is averaging 29.8 shooting 53.7% from the field, 42% from the three point line, and 83% from the ft line on 9 attempts per game. The talent is there with Lavine. The scary thing is he’s extremely raw, and once he’s able to play with more control, your looking at a guy that can potentially be a 25ppg in this league.
Defensively, we know is his weakness. Not only his, the the Bulls as a whole are bad defensively. Yet, he is aware of this and is putting more effort to be a better defender. That’s all you can ask for. Signing a big contract, Lavine is showing he is committed to getting better as an overall player, which sets a great example for the young Bulls roster.
Let’s talk about the second major story that the Bulls have annoyed. Injuries. Coming into the season Lauri Markkanen was ruled out 6-8 weeks. Dunn and Portis have been ruled out for 4-6 weeks with MCL sprains. Dunn getting injured after his first game back and Portis who was averaging a double double before getting injured after 4 games. With such a young team, you want the players to play with each other as much as possible to gain experience and chemistry and these set backs will affect them. Not the start we wanted, but could this possibly be a blessing in disguise? I think so.
The Bulls weren’t ready to compete for a playoff spot this season. The team is still young and your rim protector is a rookie who will only get better with time. The Bulls have taken the right steps since trading Jimmy. We got back three starters in Dunn, Lavine, and Markkanen. We drafted a complimentary player next to Markkanen in Wendell Carter who has shown flashes of someone who could become an elite rim protector. We’ve made the right moves, but were still missing a great wing player.
Even though we signed Jabari, he doesn’t seem to be the answer at the wing spot. He knows how to score, but you can’t rely on him defensively. My visions for Jabari is to come off the bench, lead the second unit in scoring which is needed for this team. So how do these injuries help the Bulls out long term?
Missing those key players, we know it’ll be a struggle to win games. What it also does is let Zach LaVine take on more responsibility offensively and get better at being a play maker. Gives an opportunity for guys like Chandler Hutchinson to play more and get comfortable playing in the NBA. The biggest thing it helps is by raising our chances at landing a top draft pick.
Next years draft is loaded with guards and wings in the lottery. With the likes of RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, Nassir Little, and Sekou Doumbouya all projected to go high in the lottery, the Bulls would have a great shot at finding a long term wing to play with Dunn, LaVine, Markannen, and Wendell in the starting lineup. If the Bulls want to compete in this league for years, they will need an elite wing to do so and one of those guys could be the answer.
When the over/unders were released before the season, the Bulls average was right around 27.5 games. I was willing to bet all my money that the Bulls would win at least 30 games. We won 27 last year purposely trying to tank. Then I realized, what is the point of winning 30+ games, missing the playoffs, and getting a lower pick? Yes, winning more games shows the development of the team, but I don’t think we have a roster that I’d be comfortable with for the foreseeable future. We are still missing a couple of pieces, and having that wing that can do it all is what we need most. Someone to provide scoring, but also someone we would be comfortable with defending some of the elite guards and wings in the NBA.
Wins and losses shouldn’t be the key factor on how we judge this Bulls season. The things we need to look for are how Fred Hoidberg coaches the team, how our young players develop, and how hard we compete on both ends of the floor. If we could pay attention to that, while still losing games, and landing a high draft pick, it’s a win win situation for everyone.
Be patient everyone. Trust me. We are heading in the right direction. We’ve made the right moves. It’s going to be a long season, but pay attention to the positives and we’ll get through it.