2020-21 Kia Season Preview

2020-21 Season Preview: Chicago Bulls

The Bulls hope a complete leadership overhaul can finally lift them back to respectability.

Steve Aschburner

Steve Aschburner

The Bulls have oodles of young talent as the 2020-21 season begins.

When last seen, the Bulls were … changing things up drastically. Subtraction was the function that grabbed the biggest headlines for the Bulls in their layoff since last March. Patience had run out on the front office duo of VP John Paxson and GM Gar Forman, and coach Jim Boylen (39-84 in parts of two seasons) never seemed to win over fans at all. Year 3 of what was sold as a two-year rebuild saw empty seats at United Center — pre-virus — and prompted chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and president (son) Michael Reinsdorf to act.

Whats new? New executive VP Arturas Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley got credit upon being hired for never having messed up with the Bulls. New coach Billy Donovan was an even bigger hit, it seemed, giving Chicago its first legit NBA coach since Tom Thibodeau was dumped in 2015. Donovan is installing styles at both ends that worked for his Oklahoma City teams (243-157, five postseason berths), though he’ll have to find his versions of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Paul George or Chris Paul. The Bulls might have budding stars but no proven ones.

Whats missing: Chicago will see if Coby White, last year’s rookie from North Carolina, has point guard playmaker skills to go with the shooting guard aptitude he showed in his first season. In fact, most of the rotation players have much to prove to turn alleged potential into production. LaVine won’t reach his All-Star ambitions unless his team pushes toward .500. Wendell Carter Jr. needs to show why he drew Al Horford comparisons. Lauri Markkanen will get a chance for more than catching-and-shooting. The Bulls seek all these improvements without losing their solid defensive chops — though they did lose feisty guards Kris Dunn and Shaquille Harrison.


Coby White | 13.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.7 apg
Will be given first crack at handling point guard role, despite shooting guard skills.

Zach LaVine | 25.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.2 apg
Needs to translate near All-Star scoring prowess into winning.

Wendell Carter Jr. | 11.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.2 apg
Carter is seeking deeper shots, despite shooting 19.7% on 3-pointers in his NBA career.

Lauri Markkanen | 14.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.5 apg
Took a step backward in 2019-20, now he owes the Bulls two.

Thaddeus Young | 10.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.8 apg
Veteran asset miscast last year, trade prospect to help contender.


Garrett Temple | 10.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 apg
Needed for wing defense after the departures of Dunn and Harrison.

Tomas Satoransky | 9.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 5.4 apg
Chicago’s best playmaker, but he’s facing minutes decline and could be a trade target.

Patrick Williams | 9.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.0 apg (Florida State)
Didn’t start even once in college, raising eyebrows as No. 4 pick.

Chicago Bulls, last 5 seasons

Season W L PCT OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
2019-20 22 43 0.338 105.8 29 108.9 9 -3.1 22
2018-19 22 60 0.268 104.5 29 112.8 25 -8.3 27
2017-18 27 55 0.329 103.4 28 110.5 28 -7.0 28
2016-17 41 41 0.500 106.5 21 106.2 5 +0.3 14
2015-16 42 40 0.512 104.1 23 105.5 15 -1.4 18

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions


One good thing about not overhauling the roster is that Karnisovas, Eversley and Donovan will be cooking with nearly the same groceries that Paxson, Forman and Boylen had. The bosses have the chance, then, to show clearly what they bring to the table, while trying to develop or just wring more out of the players. Grabbing the brass ring of a play-in spot would be success, but several other East losers may have improved more.

Predicted finish: 32-40.

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Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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