2019-20 Season Preview: Chicago Bulls

NBA.com Global on Oct 21, 2019 12:12 PM
2019-20 Season Preview: Chicago Bulls
Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine dunks as Atlanta Hawks forward Bruno Fernando (24) stands nearby during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com

OK, so our preview of this team for last season jumped the gun some. Instead of actually competing, the 2018-19 Bulls went tanking again. It wasn’t as shameless as it had been the season before as this version was driven by a bushel of injuries and a coaching change. But the anticipation was the same, as was the result. Chicago again finished with one of the NBA’s worst records (22-60, including 9-32 at home) -- and again parlayed that only into the Draft’s No. 7 pick. The brass and the coaches claim to like guard Coby White as much as they do 2018’s Wendell Carter Jr., but enough is enough. It is time for the Bulls to push forward and at least chase the East’s final playoff spot.

ICYMI

With the No. 7 pick in the first round -- and the names already off the board limiting their options -- the Bulls grabbed White. He's a chatty fellow with some leadership chops to run an offense. … Losing veteran center Robin Lopez in free agency means the locker room went down one in veteran leadership. But signing Thaddeus Young and trading a pair of second-round picks for Tomas Satoransky added back some of the same. …. Lanky Daniel Gafford, a second-round pick, showed enough in NBA Summer League to intrigue the Bulls, who imagine him as backup to Carter Jr. … The “stretch” capabilities of big man Luke Kornet enticed Chicago to sign the former Knick.

THREE POINTS

1. Hometown rep at 2020 NBA All-Star? Maybe Zach LaVine can represent the Bulls in the All-Star Game at United Center. Maybe it will be Lauri Markkanen. Either way, it’s time for both of them to take big strides in responsibility and impact. The former is a volume shooter and scorer who won’t reach his ceiling if he doesn’t dial up his defense. The latter has to stay healthy and seize opportunities to assert his game in and around LaVine.

2. Catching up to his contract. No one is saying Otto Porter still isn’t overpaid, with two years remaining on the $106 million deal he signed with Washington in 2017. But his salary wasn’t an impediment given Chicago’s payroll and his work with the Bulls (17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists) exceeded what he gave the Wizards in his first 384 games.

3. Stay healthy, young man. Carter Jr.’s rookie season was limited to 44 games by a season-ending thumb injury. He underwent abdominal surgery in the offseason, eliminating him from summer league. Then he turned an ankle in Chicago’s first workout of camp. That one wasn’t serious, but it added to Carter’s fragile reputation so far as a pro. He’s a central piece of this rebuild, but only if he’s on the court.

MAN ON THE SPOT

It’s getting late early for Kris Dunn, the point guard drafted fifth overall in 2016. Dunn was considered something of a bust as a rookie, which prompted Minnesota to deal him to Chicago in the Jimmy Butler trade. The Bulls thought they could unlock his potential, but Dunn has played in only 98 games in two seasons. He hasn’t been much of a shooter, and his defense has been inconsistent. The arrivals of White and Satoransky suggest Dunn slipping off the Bulls’ radar, though he did show up to camp motivated and in good spirits.

STARTING FIVE

Tomas Satoransky | 8.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.0 apg
Can play both backcourt spots, but logged 83% of his time at PG

Zach LaVine | 23.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.5 apg
No excuse at this point for not becoming a solid, if not lockdown, defender

Wendell Carter Jr. | 10.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.8 apg
Before injury, he showed glimpses of those Al Horford comparisons

Otto Porter Jr. | 13.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.1 apg
Small sample size (80 attempts) but his 48.8% on 3FGs was strong

Lauri Markkanen | 18.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.4 apg
The Finn-isher is eager to reach a) potential and b) postseason

KEY RESERVES

Thaddeus Young | 12.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.5 apg
Bulls like his defense off the bench and his leadership.

Coby White | 16.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.1 apg (North Carolina)
Needs to develop NBA shooting range and cut turnovers.

Luke Kornet | 7.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.2 apg
Only two Bulls averaged more 3FGAs than his 4.2 per game and shot ‘em better (36.3%).

THE BOTTOM LINE

Jim Boylen was something of a one-man culture upheaval when he took over in December for Fred Hoiberg. Some mistook Boylen’s enthusiasm and embrace of a lifetime opportunity for some sort of Joe College shenanigans. But his sincerity had players buying in late in the season. Now he and his staff can focus on the challenge facing so many NBA teams: is there enough talent and a legit pecking order? Not enough to chase .500 but better than the past two seasons.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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