2018-19 Season Preview Extravaganza | Who Will Step Up And Lead The Bulls?
Key Players Acquired: C Wendell Carter Jr. (draft), F Chandler Hutchison (draft), Rawle Alkins (draft), F Jabari Parker (free agency).
Key Players Lost: G Jerian Grant (trade), G David Nwaba (free agency)
There was plenty of room for optimism in the Bulls’ 2017-18 season, but not too many wins. The team ended the season with a record of 27-55 and finished 13th in the Eastern Conference.
It was a developmental year for the Bulls and in that mission, they were successful. Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis both had career years and rookie Laurie Markkanen looked like a player who could have a very successful NBA career.
Dunn and Portis are two players who didn’t show much in their initial time in the league but have since become quality rotation players. Dunn averaged 13.4 points and 6.0 assists in 43 starts for the team and demonstrated high-quality defending as well, racking up 2.0 steals per game. Portis had a rough start to the season after he was suspended for punching teammate Nikola Mirotic (who was traded midseason), but ended up turning in a great year, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds, and shooting 35.9 percent from three.
Conversations about the Bulls will certainly be dominated by Zach LaVine. The former Wolves draft pick was solid after returning from an ACL tear, but didn’t put up the numbers he did the previous year. However, LaVine looked healthy, and with a full offseason to recover and get back into better game shape he could be in line for a big year.
The Bulls brought in Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison in the draft, both of whom will be rotation players, with Carter as a potential starter, and signed Jabari Parker in free agency, completing the construction of a young core they certainly believe in.
The Big Question:
Who will lead the team on defense?
The best defenses in the league come on teams that are made up of experienced players who are used to playing together. That does not describe the Bulls. Though Chicago has some players with impressive athleticism and physical skills, they are a super young roster with many new acquisitions that are expected to play large roles. That doesn't bode well for their defensive performance right off the bat.
What the Bulls need is for one of their younger players to take the next step on defense and develop into an anchor that the whole team can rely on to lead them on that end. Carter Jr. could certainly become that player, but he's also a rookie, and rookie big men often take some time to develop. The bones of a solid defense are there, but they need to be fleshed out. It'll be interesting to see how that happens this season.
How Do The Wolves Beat Them?
While the Bulls have talent, they don’t have experience. For the Wolves to beat Chicago they’ll need to rely on superior execution and smart gameplay.
The Bulls have a lot of firepower on offense, but it remains to be seen how effective they’ll be on the other side of the ball. The Wolves, especially Karl-Anthony Towns, should be able to feast on an inexperienced defense comprised of players who haven’t spent a ton of time playing together.
I’ll admit I’m a little higher on the Bulls than some. I have them finishing with the No. 9 or 10 seed in the East, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they sneak into the eighth seed. I absolutely love Carter Jr. and Markkanen as a frontcourt, and I think the combo of Parker and Portis on the wing could put together some very interesting looks, especially on offense.
There are a lot of options for this team to go small, which is great for where the NBA is headed, but I’m a little concerned about what they’ll do when teams play them big and physical. Time will tell, but I think the Bulls will be a very fun team to watch, even if my win prediction is too high.
Describe This Team In 15 Words Or Less
These young guns will find themselves in many shootouts this season.
So When Can I See Them?
You can catch Bulls at Target Center on Nov. 24. What a fun event for your Thanksgiving weekend! The Wolves will visit the Bulls on Dec. 26. Holiday road trip, anyone?