Chicago Bulls 2019 – The Quiet Rebuild and Resurrection

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Chicago Bulls Mascot (By nathanmac87, Licensed under CC BY 2.0, image link: flicker, cropped derivative) 

Exactly one year ago, there was ample – and rightful – conversation around the idea the that Chicago Bulls could finish with the worst record in the NBA.

They had just traded away the one marquee player they had in Jimmy Butler position, and Somewhat inexplicably included a first round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, in exchange for a second-year point guard prospect whom many people were already calling a bust (Kris Dunn), and a high-flying if not inconsistent guard coming off a major knee injury (Zach Lavine), in addition to the seventh pick in said draft. They then used that pick they acquired to draft a sweet-shooting European shooter in Lauri Markkanen, even though many people had trepidations that he wasn’t athletic or strong enough to legitimately be the “stretch four” forward that they envisioned him becoming.

And to top it all off, they were weeks away from one member of the team punching his teammate, and literally shattering a bone in the latter’s face in the process.

So how is it that, with all of this in the backdrop, and the fact that the Chicago Bulls once again didn’t come close to finishing among the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference, there are some people both inside and outside of Chicago, who believe that the Bulls might be positioned to sneak into the playoffs by the end of the 2018-2019 seasons?

 

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For one, Chicago’s gamble on Dunn and Lavine paid off. The former showed growth in his second year, and the latter did mostly the same things that he did in Minnesota, but was still a welcome infusion of talent and excitement in Chicago. They may never be a great backcourt, but they can approach “good enough.”

Even if the logic of “it worked before, so let’s try it again” isn’t always sound, the Bulls’ attempted reclamation project of former Milwaukee forward Jabari Parker presents an interesting proposition. At his best, which we admittedly haven’t seen in a while, Parker represents an athletic and dynamic scoring option who can finish somewhere around 18 points per game. In other words: he can be the team’s primary scoring option, if and when needed.

But where things really get interesting is Markkanen’s ability to shoot opens things up for a more iso-centric player like Parker. Perhaps one of the most pleasant surprises from last year’s draft, Markkanen’s combination of confidence and fearlessness in his shot made him a formidable presence in the Bulls lineup last season.

The Bulls can build off the starting five of Dunn, Lavine, Parker, Markkanen, and Wendell Carter, the latter of whom they selected with their top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Carter is your classic down-low presence, with a strong post game combined with a sneaky ability to pass it from the block, and defend down low as well.

To be fair, even with the talent they’ve assembled, the Bulls are a sieve defensively. Carter will help, but nobody is going to confuse him with Rudy Gobert’s ability to completely close down the rim to opposing offenses.

But if the Bulls were to make a return to the postseason, now might be the best time, because there might be a spot available for them. Who knows what Cleveland will look like next season? Are we sure that Miami got any better this offseason? There’s plenty of reason to think Chicago could catapult over teams like New York, Charlotte, and Detroit, and grab one of those new openings.

Such an idea would’ve been unthinkable just two seasons ago.

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