Chicago Bulls and the Future: Draft, Free Agency, and Projected Lineups
The Chicago Bulls’ rebuild effort hasn’t gone unnoticed by many; Chicago tanked hard and fast during the 2017-2018 season. The Bulls roster and coaching staff has been completely changed since the Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Tom Thibodeau eras. Chicago’s future remains bright with young talent and the great equalizer of the NBA... cap space. The Chicago Bulls can re-gain their former glory and here’s how they can do it.
With any great team, you need the players to match the system you are trying to run. Successful teams have players that fit their system and are confident and competent whenever they touch the ball. Fred Hoiberg has already heard from the critics (myself included), but I see a lot of potential in this Bulls team and they have the young pieces to make it work. Before we can talk about how the players fit into the system and why the system can work, we should review the system Hoiberg has attempted to install over the last couple years.
Hoiberg’s offensive schemes are an almost 180 degree turn from Thibodeau. Hoiberg wants high pace, early offense offensive attacks; while Thibs would rather lock up on the defensive end of the court and grind it out. Last year the Chicago Bulls shot 31.1 3-point shots a game. That ranks 7th out of the 30 teams in the NBA. Hoiberg wants to space the floor, get quick shots, and keep that ball moving fast.
Players in Place
The Bulls’ current roster reflects Hoiberg’s offensive philosophy. The Bulls also had some great pick-ups in the 2018 NBA Draft, but we will discuss those players later in the article. Players who are apart of Chicago’s long-term plans are Zach Lavine(23), Lauri Markkanen(21), Kris Dunn(24), Bobby Portis(23) and possibly Denzel Valentine(24). As you can see, the oldest pieces of this core are Dunn and Valentine at the age of 24. These players will have time to grow with a young coach and a coincidently-weak eastern conference.
Lauri Markkanen led Chicago in scoring last year at 15.4 points per game and shot over 36% from 3-point range, in his rookie season. The Bulls snagged Markkanen with the 7th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. While Lauri plays as more of a power forward than a center, seven-footers who also happen to be knock-down shooters are valuable in the NBA. Having a big man that can space the floor will be important to the success of Hoiberg’s offense. Markkanen shot over 36% from the field last season, for reference, Joel Embiid and LaMarcus Aldridge both shot around 30%. Lauri has also impressed on the defensive end. Markkanen showed his skill both defending his own position, and switching onto guards. Markkanen’s youth and high skill level combine for a lot of potential. Here’s a video of Lauri locking up Steph Curry:
Kris Dunn had a strong year with Chicago after a rough rookie year. Dunn averaged 13.4 points, 6 assists, and 2 steals last year while shooting 42% from the field. Dunn really pops off the court when you watch the Bulls play. High-energy defensive player, who hit a lot of clutch shots for this squad throughout the year. 2 steals per-game ranks Dunn tied for second highest average in the NBA last season. Dunn tied with the notable defenders; Paul George, Eric Bledsoe, and Jimmy Butler. Honestly, I love this kid. I love his competitive fire, his energy on the floor, his athleticism, and most importantly—his work ethic. In the long run I see Dunn being a high-speed orchestrator surrounded by shooters, who will hold down the defensive backcourt on the other end.
Zach Lavine came to the bulls with Dunn and the pick that became Markkanen in the Jimmy Butler trade. Lavine had limited time due to injury, but performed as-expected upon return. There are two things everyone knows Zach Lavine has: Unreal athleticism (see dunk contest), and a deadly 3-point shot. Lavine shot 39% from deep in his last full season and was averaging around 19 points a game before he was injured last season. I don’t think Lavine will be the star that takes Chicago back to the promised land, but I think he will be a valued starter in the red and black for years to come.
Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine are both young talents the Bulls hope to develop. Portis has been more impressive than Valentine up to this point, but both their careers have just began. Portis has proven himself to be a double-double guy on a nightly basis when he gets the minutes. Portis has also expanded his range to the 3-point line, which has opened up chances for him to score in multiple ways. Valentine has proven to be a lite-version of a stat sheet stuffer. He doesn’t excel in any category, but is competent in most. Valentine leaves some to be desired with his athleticism, but has proven to be a reliable playmaker on the wing with a solid deep ball. Valentine shot 38.6% from deep last year. For reference, Devin Booker and Chris Paul both shot right around 38% as well. These two guys have a lot of work to do, but can be important pieces to the Bulls’ future.
2018 NBA Draft
The Bulls drafted in the 7th position in the 2018 NBA. Last year the Bulls acquired the 7th pick through Minnesota, which turned into Lauri Markkanen. This year, the Bulls found a great frontcourt fit in Wendell Carter Jr. Carter Jr. can contribute immediately both offensively and defensively. Carter Jr. stands at 6’10”, but has a 7’4” wingspan. At Duke Carter Jr. averaged 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Take these numbers and compare them to Deandre Ayton: 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks. While Ayton has slight advantages in points and rebounds, he played 8 more minutes each game. Not only did Wendell Carter Jr. have noticeably less minutes to accumulate stats, he played with the 2nd overall pick, Marvin Bagley III.
Now do I honestly think Carter Jr. is better than Ayton? Right now, no not really, but I am saying that they’re closer than the world seems to think. Another reason I believe people overlook Carter Jr. is the limited skill set he was able to show. Duke had recruited a Warriors-esc lineup; this naturally limits Carter Jr.’s touches. Duke also has Coach K, which means most plays with be drawn up sets or practiced motions. This restricts the freedom of the player and results in a player’s skill set being less prominent when playing for their NCAA team than a Summer League team or in the NBA.
Carter Jr. will be a great fit for the Bulls. Carter Jr. proved he can play defense, but is underrated as a scorer. At Duke, Carter Jr. show excellent skills both scoring and passing. Carter Jr. can score consistently with his back to the basket and has a great face-up game from the high post. On top of all this he shoots 41% from 3-point range, in the NBA 41% means defenses cannot leave you alone, therefore spacing the floor. Carter Jr.’s classic big man skill set combined with his long range shot will help him fit into Hoiberg’s system. One last note on Wendell Carter Jr.; he got accepted into Harvard University. Having a that kind of brain power can very helpful to a prospect trying to begin their journey in the NBA.
Bulls fans everywhere were begging for Michael Porter Jr. on draft night. I still firmly believe Carter Jr. was the right pick, but picking a center early left the Bulls depleted on the wing. They grabbed Chandler Hutchinson with the 22nd pick, a 6’7” small forward out of Boise State who can really score the ball. Hutchinson averaged 20 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game for a Boise State squad that went 23-9 last year. Chandler Hutchinson was labeled a “3-and-D” guy before the draft, but after watching a lot of his tape I noticed some freak athleticism in this guy. He has great explosiveness around the rim and has a quick first step, at least quicker than almost anyone who tried to guard him last year. Hutchinson will be able to come in and play right away for the Bulls, he is a high floor, low ceiling type player.
Free Agency, Summer 2018
The Bulls have the potential to clear up the 2nd-most cap space this summer. Unfortunately, I do not think they will make use of this. Chicago wants to stay young and avoid bringing in any players who may stunt the growth of their current young core. The Bulls first business decision will be on Zach Lavine. I think the Bulls need to re-sign Lavine because they are close to being in “win now” mode. Ultimately, it will be up the Chicago’s management. If they are ready to win they’ll resign him, if they want to try and tank and get one more guy, they’ll let him walk.
Chicago’s lack of spending this summer will mean that they will have cap space for years to come. With that being said, there’s always a way to improve your roster. Below I have a couple guys that would fit in with the Bulls nicely:
-Julius Randle PF, Randle would rotate in with the Markkanen, Carter Jr. and Portis. He’s another young guy and a 4-man rotation between power forward and center allows for all 4 to get their minutes. Competition breed excellence.
-Avery Bradley SG, Bradley would fill a hole on the depth chart and provide much needed leadership in the locker-room. Bradley has been to an eastern conference finals and performed well. Bradley can bring knowledge of how to win and the importance of defense. Both are important when breeding young prospects.
-Marcus Smart PG, Another tough defender who can teach the young guys about playoff basketball. Kris Dunn is a solid prospect, but I’m not sold on his ability to start for a playoff team. Smart can help increase the skill and work ethic of the young core and is young enough to be considered in long-term plans. Again, competition breeds excellence.
-Rodney Hood SG, Hood was a solid starter and actually had a great year in 2016-2017. Unfortunately for him, Donovan Mitchell took his spot and he was traded. Hood is a “3-and-D” guy, but still has potential to become a lot more. Would love if he signed with Bulls. Chicago has a play style that suits his game and he has plenty opportunity to improve.
Who will the Bulls sign this offseason?
I think the Bulls have a lot of potentials, but they need to play their cards right here. I write a lot of articles about teams like this and the fans of those franchises enjoy them, comment on any team you want to see next! Also, hit my profile and follow me here on HubPages, twitter, or facebook.