The Bulls are thinking about a championship.
Though, for now, it's more likely to be in Las Vegas in the NBA Summer League starting Friday.
With first and second round draft picks Coby White and Daniel Gafford on the roster along with holdover guards Shaquille Harrison and Walt Lemon Jr. and second year forward Chandler Hutchison, the Bulls look like they'll be featuring one of the best Summer League rosters for the tournament that stretches 83 games over 11 days at two arenas on the U. of Nevada/Las Vegas campus. Teams from China and Croatia also will participate in elimination games that lead to a champion July 15. Teams will play at least five games and up to seven if they play for the championship. The Bulls won the Summer League championship in 2016 behind Denzel Valentine's game winning plays.
The headline of the 2019 tournament is the professional debut of No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson. His New Orleans Pelicans will play the New York Knicks team and Williamson's Duke teammate, R.J. Barrett, in the featured opening night game Friday on ESPN 8:30 p.m. (Central time).
The Bulls will play their first game at 6:30 Central immediately preceding the Pelicans game, also in the Thomas & Mack Center, against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers traded their No. 4 selection and many of their young players in the Anthony Davis acquisition. Thus the Lakers' roster likely will not have players who will be with the Lakers this season.
The Bulls are off Saturday for a practice. Then Sunday at 6:30 Central the Bulls face the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are not playing their No. 5 overall draft pick, point guard Darius Garland. Garland is said to be healthy, though he missed most of last season with knee surgery and the Cavs are being cautious. Cavs 2018 No. 1 pick Collin Sexton is not playing. The Cavs roster does include 2019 first round pick Dylan Windler. No. 30 selection, Kevin Porter Jr. from USC, did not play in the Cavaliers' Summer League games in Salt Lake City. He may play in Las Vegas. There is also a Summer League in Sacramento this week that precedes the larger Las Vegas Summer League.
The Bulls 8:30 Central time Monday play the Pelicans in the highlight of their preliminary games week. Though sometimes the top draft picks for fear of injury only play one or two games in Las Vegas. Thus it remains uncertain if Williamson will be available for the Monday feature in the Thomas & Mack Center on NBA-TV.
It will, meanwhile, be the first premier opportunity for point guard White, the No. 7 overall draft pick, to begin facing NBA competition and endeavor to show the Bulls the kind of player he can be.
White and forward/center Gafford figure to be the focus of the Bulls Summer League games since both could play prominent roles with the team this season. Harrison, a favorite of Bulls coach Jim Boylen, was the Bulls team leader in steals last season despite averaging fewer than 20 minutes per game. He has a chance to make the roster along with Chicagoan Lemon, who averaged 14.3 points in six games late in the season with three starts.
Hutchison will get a chance to get on the floor for the first time since his broken toe sidelined him after January 25 last season. The rookie wingman played 44 games and had a double/double in his last game before being hurt. The Bulls were hoping fellow second year pro Wendell Carter Jr. also would return after thumb surgery ended his rookie season January 15. But Carter will undergo surgery Tuesday to repair a core muscle injury. He is expected to be ready for training camp.
With both their draft picks and NBA veterans Harrison, Hutchison and Lemon, the Bulls could be presenting one of the stronger Summer League rosters.
Summer League is both for rookies to make their first impression and unaffiliated players to audition for opportunities with other NBA teams, the G-league or overseas.
Other familiar names on the Bulls roster include guard Marques Townes from the Cinderella Loyola team of 2018, Adam Mokoka, a combo guard from France who was signed as a two-way player for the Bulls this season, and guard Mychal Mulder from last season's Windy City Bulls. Tyler Hall from Rock Island and Montana State, 6-9 Jonathan Holmes, who has played in Israel and Japan and Justin Simon from St. John's and Perrion Callandret from Idaho also are among the Summer League Bulls.
White is expected to start, probably with Harrison in the backcourt. Gafford figures to start at center or power forward. Assistant coach Nate Loenser will coach the Summer League team.
The Bulls Summer League team is expected to offer the first glimpse of the Bulls' varsity plan this season to push the ball in transition with multiple ball handlers in a faster paced shooting game.
It starts Friday with Coby White.