Introducing Your Chicago Bulls...

Sam Smith Shares His Thoughts on Each Player on The Roster
by Sam Smith

Body

With the team and fans hoping for a playoff push, it's time to see what this Bulls team is made of..

The Bulls open the 2019-20 NBA season Wednesday in Charlotte with five new regulars, two new high level assistant coaches and aspirations of being a playoff team for the first time in three years and second time in the last five after 10 of 11 seasons of playoff appearances.

Both Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen project as possible All-Stars with the game coming to the United Center in February, rookie Coby White following an exceptional preseason has become a candidate for Rookie of the Year and Jim Boylen starts his first full season as an NBA head coach after 20 years on NBA benches.

It's just over two years since the critical trade of Jimmy Butler, and the Bulls are looking at this season with the addition of several respected veterans as the restart of the franchise's reset.

There's once again hope for a return to the playoffs, yet also uncertainty in the wake of an injury-plagued 22-win season in 2018-19.

Will it be the start of something big? Or another puncture in the balloon of fans' hopes? The next six months will be a revealing indication of whether the Bulls are on the right path or whether there's yet another detour coming.

These are the men who will tell that story:

Starters:

Zach LaVine

The likable 6-6, 24-year-old West Coast uber-athlete has mostly been known for his NBA dunking, winning consecutive championships before his serious knee injury. He's probably the most skilled Bulls player because of his shooting accuracy and explosive driving to the basket. He moved into the top 20 in the NBA in scoring last season.

Upside: LaVine should become an All-Star, which also depends on whether the Bulls are a more competitive team. He's moved his shooting range out effortlessly and has remarkably quick moves to the basket and should begin to draw more fouls. He could average 25 per game, which is a next level star.

Backslide: In the Bulls approach to have several players handle the ball, he sometimes makes risky decisions. Seemingly because of his elite athleticism, he anticipates moves and plays teammates cannot make and thus records a high number of turnovers. His alleged defensive deficiencies are generally overstated. But he is not a physical player.

Zach slams it down against the Raptors


Tomas Satoransky

The versatile 6-7 guard from Prague was surprisingly available from the Wizards even with John Wall hurt, though more for financial reasons. He's been a pro for a decade entering his fourth NBA season as a second round pick. He's a quietly intense, team oriented competitor.

Upside: He fits well in the backcourt with LaVine because of his unselfish nature as a rare look-for-the-pass-first player. He's also an excellent shooter with a studied maturity after having success overseas.

Backslide: He made four of five threes in preseason for the Bulls, recording the best percentage but taking the fewest threes. He's just an average athlete who because LaVine isn't a top defender will have to guard the most athletic point guards in the conference.

Great assist from Sato!


Otto Porter Jr.

The 6-8 swingman acquired in trade from the Washington Wizards last season is hatching from his shell as a limited corner three shooter with the Wizards. He averaged almost 18 points for the Bulls and close to 50 percent shooting after the February trade in 15 games.

Upside: He's always shot at least 40 percent on threes and with the Bulls shown more depth as a ball handler and playmaker after playing with Wall and Bradley Beal. He's been a part of four playoff runs averaging in double figures in those games.

Backslide: Porter closed last season sitting the last month with minor injuries. The Bulls are being cautious with him, already limiting his minutes and raising the possibility of reducing back to back game appearances.

Otto going against Lonzo Ball during preseason

Lauri Markkanen

The seven footer from Finland remains on the cusp of being one of the most difficult NBA players against whom to set a game plan. He's an excellent three-point shooter with unique athletic ability for his size and an earnest teammate.

Upside: He's been burdened by injuries his two seasons, always seemingly on the verge of breaking out. He had a memorable game in New York against Kristaps Porzingis and then eased back. He had a great month last season after recovering, and then again seemed to decelerate. His highs have been Olympus. Or for Finland, Ridnitšohkka.

Backslide: He's emphasized playing every game, though in the preseason he seemed somewhat tentative on offense, averaging 11.3 points in four games and getting just seven total free throws. He doesn't always seem to exert himself to an advantage inside. Boylen has asked him to become a top rebounder to help accelerate the fast break.

Lauri dribbles past Zion Williamson in preseason

Wendell Carter Jr.

The burly 6-9 center was off to an encouraging supporting role start last season before a freak thumb injury in January ended his season. He's often been overlooked, like at Duke, because of his workmanlike approach to the game, though he was a regular for USA Basketball and a top scholar/athlete.

Upside: He has a good shooting touch he's been reluctant to employ because of his unselfish, team-oriented nature. He's better as a weak side shot blocker and a good help defender.

Backslide: He's had an excess of minor injuries that limited him in preseason to just two games and 39 minutes. He's probably the most physical and top defender among the starters, though he has been susceptible to foul trouble.

Wendell with a mean dunk!


Reserves:

Kris Dunn

The sometimes-maligned point guard has fallen out of the starting lineup after two injury-marred seasons. His fate seemed elsewhere and may yet be, though at 6-3 he probably is the team's best individual defender as he works for a revival in a contract year.

Upside: His defense, especially late in the preseason, has the ability to change games with his individual pressure and steals. He had triple the number of steals in preseason than everyone but Satoransky. After some discouraging times last season, his attitude has been upbeat this season.

Backslide: He's been a poor and reluctant shooter whom defenses play off. He was two of 13 on threes in the preseason and had just a one to one assist to turnover ratio as among the team leaders in both categories.

Kris Dunn during preseason

Thaddeus Young

The 12-year veteran is the senior member of what still is one of the league's younger teams. He was one of the leaders of an excellent Pacers team the last three seasons. The Bulls are his fifth team as he's played the most playoff games on the roster, averaging double figures in 51 playoff games.

Upside: He's one of those players who doesn't have a specialty, but gets results as a so called "hustle board" guy. He's mostly started in recent years, but as a team guy also plays the support role getting the charges, steals and deflections coaches admire.

Backslide: He is, like Dunn, more of a defender than shooter, limiting the offensive production of the reserve group, especially if rookie White isn't immediately productive.

Thad Young during preseason

Luke Kornet

He's the tallest player on the roster at 7-2, though spread thinly over his frame. He played on and off with the Knicks and their G-league team the last two seasons after being in the Will Perdue Vanderbilt big man tradition. His father, Frank, played for the Bucks in the 1980s.

Upside: He's one of those modern seven footers who's better from 25 feet than two feet. But he also moves well to be able to help in pick and roll coverage and is adept passing.

Backslide: He's not a big rebounder for his size and not physical, though he does hold his position reasonably well.

Luka Kornet during preseason

Ryan Arcidiacono

The little-train-who-could guard continues to push beyond his expectations as a high school player who surprisingly became a college star and college star who wasn't even supposed to be in the NBA. He adds to the defensive component of the second unit as the team leader in charges taken last season who'll be challenged by Young.

Upside: He'll make the most remarkable hustle plays throwing his body everywhere and rarely staying down. His ability to ignore apparent pain is unusual in this NBA. He's a better three-point shooter than he's shown who probably should shoot more, but sees himself more of a point guard who organizes the team and is unselfish.

Backslide: He wasn't supposed to make the NBA because of his lack of elite athletic ability. He makes up for it with his scrambling, but he can be victimized against isolation players.

"Oh what a move!"


Denzel Valentine

The 6-4 fourth-year swingman is the odd man out to start the season as he returns from missing last season after ankle surgery. His health has been good, though he got a later start to avoid problems and it pushed him back some. He's also in a contract season after he seemed to break through late in his second season.

Upside: He's an excellent three-point shooter and good playmaker who should be able to help in the Bulls current style of play with multiple ball handlers.

Backslide: He's somewhat less athletic, which raises questions about defense and the speed the team hopes to employ. Though with the historic fragility of the roster and the NBA in general he should get some opportunities to emerge.

Denzel Valentine playing in preseason

Chandler Hutchison:

The second-year small forward has been set back once again with injuries and did not play in the preseason after missing the last part of last season. He has moments of athletic ability when he resembles Bulls great Scottie Pippen with his long strides and athletic grace.

Upside: At 6-7 with natural athletic ability he looks like he would fit with the style the Bulls want to play. He was coming on last season with a double/double just before being hurt.

Backslide: His minor injuries have mounted, which is discouraging for a young player. He'd hoped to gain some confidence in Summer League, but was hurt again and seemed still to have issues finishing at the basket on drives.

Chandler Hutchison during preseason workouts at the Advocate Center

Shaquille Harrison:

The hustling guard who hooked on with the Bulls last season after being released by the Suns is the rare NBA player to have been listed below his actual height, which was revealed to be 6-7. Like Dunn, he has the ability to disrupt games with his defense and ability to make steals.

Upside: He's a favorite of Boylen, who lobbied for him to remain on the roster amidst the changes in the summer. He had four steals within minutes in the first Summer League game, a unique ability to react to the passing lanes and harass ball handlers like the Clippers' Patrick Beverley.

Backslide: His poor shooting makes it difficult to keep him in games long. He seems poised to play some with Dunn, which could be a singular defensive backcourt with offensive deficiencies.

Shaq Harrison working out at the Advocate Center

Cristiano Felicio:

The 6-10 center is entering his fifth season with the Bulls after an obscure tenure in small leagues in his native Brazil. He's played sparingly and in the G-league.

Upside: He's been a loyal and dependable teammate despite not playing much. He's always been an eager learner and had some moments as a help defender.

Backslide: His offense has been limited with a reluctance to shoot that has become more prevalent in recent seasons.

Felicio vs the Pacers during preseason

Rookies:

Coby White.

The 6-4 uniquely coiffured North Carolina product has been known for his speed as he broke prep scoring records and quickly became a one-player fast break for the Tar Heels.

Upside: He was one of the league stars in the preseason, second in scoring among rookies to the now injured Zion Williamson in averaging 19.2 points and 43 percent shooting on threes. He's developed as an off the ball scorer with range.

Backslide: He's not much of a facilitator, though his scoring probably is more vital to the Bulls. He shot poorly in Summer League and then brilliantly in preseason. So which one is he really?

Coby White with 29 Points vs Atlanta


Daniel Gafford

The second round pick who comes in the tradition of Bobby Portis is an active 6-10 with a limited shooting range, which was Portis as a rookie. He played two seasons at Arkansas and was a top SEC defender.

Upside: He's got a nose for the ball and good hands with what seems like an ability to develop a good mid range shot. He can bring some athleticism to the backup center role. Despite being eighth in minutes played in the preseason, he was second in free throw attempts and tied for the team lead in offensive rebounds.

Backslide: He starts the season out of the regular rotation, though his activity could be needed soon. But he was easily the team leader in fouls committed, which is not unusual for an energetic rookie.

Gafford can dunk...

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

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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