It’s a list! The lazy bloggers way of adding content without thinking too hard about it. That being said let’s get into the who and why of The 5 Bulls Players I Can’t Wait to Watch! (and yes, I’m counting down)
The Honorable Mentions
Jerian Grant – still fighting for the dream, but can this NBA legacy step up and finally make it a reality?
Cristiano Felicio – New contract, new expectations. Is he the Bulls future starter at center?
Zach Lavine – The new face of the franchise. Can he fill the void left by Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose? Will he return from injury with as much athleticism as he had while winning dunk contests? Can he grow as a defender?
5. Denzel Valentine
Denzel Valentine’s game is that of an old, cagey veteran. Not a great comparison considering he was, according to Bulls Brass when they drafted him last year, “younger and more athletic” than other players on the roster. At certain points during last season I thought I was watching a young version of Old Dwayne Wade (NOT a compliment). Denzel did not show explosive athleticism or the best on the ball decision making, but there were positives in his game and room for growth. What I really like about Valentine is his ability to take and make big shots. He has a flair for the dramatic and is never afraid to show up more established NBA players. I find this a very entertaining aspect of his game. Valentine does not shy away from competition on the court. I hope he can take his brash enthusiasm and “old man at the Y” game and establish himself as a key contributor on Baby Bulls 2.0
4. Paul Zipser
Zipser, the name alone exudes a cool James Dean could only dream about. He catapulted into the Bulls rotation, and Bulls fans hearts, midway through last years luke-warm campaign. With decent outside shooting and a willingness to drive to the hoop, Paul Zipser displayed surprising athleticism and fluidity in his game. Another brash young Bull, Zipser played some decent defense and showed consistency in his shooting. I am excited to see how Zipser will grow his game this season. Will he slash to the rim? Can he develop a post game? Will he put Lebron in the spin cycle? Will he put up 70 points in a game? Will he secure a lasting peace in the Middle East? At least one of these things might happen this season: He defies expectation. And this is why I can’t wait to watch Paul Zipser.
3. Kris Dunn
The new “Point Guard of the Future.” Kris Dunn has been much coveted by the Bulls front office for several years. He was a stand out defender in college and seems to have kept those skills in his rookie NBA season. Dunn’s offensive struggles in Minnesota have been well documented and I will not dwell on them here. What I want Dunn to do in Chicago is run Hoi-ball. Be the catalyst for the offense, facilitate the ball, and make Coach Fred Hoibergs offense work. Dunn needs to make smart decisions with the basketball and just get it to the scorers. If he can do all of these things, he could develop into a Rajon Rondo type ball player. Nuff said.
2. Lauri Markkanen
Much has been said by basketball experts about Lauri Markkanen. All agree he is an excellent shooter, most think he is a liability on defense, and some think he’s the next Dirk Nowitzki. The little bit I’ve seen from him in Summer League (and that Fiba Euro-league thing he played in these last few weeks) has been encouraging. He CAN shoot the basketball. He makes difficult shots over long defenders. He hits wide open jumpers from all over the court with impunity. He can put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop. He has multiple ways of finishing at the rim. He is a VICIOUS DUNKER!!! Lauri Markkanen has a plethora of tools in the offensive work belt and he will be a very important part for the Bulls as they rebuild the franchise.
1. Bobby Portis
This is the make or break year for Bobby Portis. He has shown flashes of potential on the court, but his game and his playing time have been wildly erratic. Bobby should be the starting power forward or center on this team. In the last two seasons, he should have distinguished himself in one, or both, of those positions. He should have earned a consistent spot in the Bulls rotation. He hasn’t done these things, and his time with the Chicago Bulls is running out. Lauri Markkanen is poised to replace Bobby Portis, and everyone knows it. But Bobby is a fighter and has shown the ability to step up when under pressure. I believe in Bobby Portis as an NBA big. I think he can be a competent rotation player in the league. The question is, will he be able to convince the Bulls of that? Let’s see how he answers the challenge.