Once upon a time, a King ruled the Eastern Conference with an iron fist. He was a physical freak of nature, supremely athletic, cunning in the ways of basketball. For more than a decade King James won MVP’s, Eastern Conference Finals, and NBA Championships. He was the most dominate ruler in the NBA since His Airness, Michael Jordan. All that changed this summer, when King James abdicated his Eastern Conference throne, taking his talents to the dangerous lands of the West, questing in Hollywood for only LeBron knows what.
With King James gone, a power vacuum exists in the hierarchy of the East. Many contenders have been waiting to compete for the crown of Best Player in the East. The obvious front runners would be Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid. These players have elements of the athleticism and intelligence that make LeBron great. There are other young players, like Jayson Tatum and Ben Simmons, that might be competing for the title as well. My question as a Bulls fan: Do the Bulls have a player on the roster capable of being the Best in the Eastern Conference?
There are only a handful of players on the Bulls who have a chance at taking the crown.
5) Chandler Hutchison is a gigantic unknown, which means he still has the slimmest of chances to become one of the greatest players of all time. He certainly did not look like a great player in Summer League, but Hutchison has a proven that it takes time for him to get comfortable with each step up in competition. He won’t be great this year or next year, but in year three? Don’t count on it.
4) I’ve praised Jabari Parker in the past for his scoring, and damned him for his lack of defense, but the real reason for Parker still being a very loooong shot for Best in the East are the many injuries to his knees. Parker has the skill to dominate, but he no longer has the athleticism. If he can get back to his pre-injury athleticism then he might have a chance to become that transcendent talent we saw playing basketball at Simeon. Unfortunately, even if he does regain his athleticism he still has to beat out Giannis, a feat he failed to accomplish multiple seasons in Milwaukee. Jabari Parker – Best in the East? Outlook not so good.
3) Zach LaVine believes he is one of the best players in the NBA. He thinks he is the best player on the Bulls. He might be, but his knee injury calls all of those presumptions into question. While LaVine was explosively athletic in his return from ACL repair last season, he was not very efficient at scoring the basketball. He took a lot of contested shots when he didn’t need to, which made him look selfish and blind. It is this lack of understanding on the offensive end, and his poor defensive skills that doom LaVine in his quest for greatness. LaVine and Parker are opposite sides of the same coin. While Parker understands the game of basketball he is physically unable to make all the necessary plays. On the other hand, LaVine can make all the plays but doesn’t recognize when a play should be made. While it is unlikely that Parker will regain his full physical prowess, LaVine might grow in his understanding of the game as he grows in experience. Will he ever dominate the East? RokDeez Magic 8 Ball says: Reply hazy, try again.
2) Lauri Markkanen surprised the league with a phenomenal rookie season. His numbers rivaled those of young Dirk Nowitzki and Kristaps Porzingas. His all-star potential was evident on a nightly basis, but so were his flaws. Markkanen is a great shooter from distance, but he needs to work on his offense in the post. His defense was much better than advertised, but could always use some improvement. The number one skill Lauri must improve in order to claim the title of Best in the East is his ball handling. You cannot be considered one of the greatest players in the league, even as a big man, if you can’t break down the defense with your dribble. Even with dribbling as one of his weakest skills, Markkanen showed potential handling the basketball, so much so that Hoiberg experimented at the end of the season with Markkanen bringing the ball out of the back-court, just like a point guard. There is no doubt that the “Finnisher” has a bright future ahead of him in the NBA. He has a very good chance at becoming an all-star within the next couple seasons. Can he ascend to that top tier of players, the space reserved for kings? Signs point to yes.
1) The other unknown from this years draft is Wendell Carter Jr. Unlike Hutchison, Carter showed up and showed out for Summer League. He was athletic, intelligent, and charismatic on the court. It only took him one game to be dubbed the “Block Panther.” His outside shot was gorgeous. His work in the post was strong. On defense, he stayed step-for-step with smaller, faster guards driving from the perimeter. He bashed under the rim with fellow bigs, winning rebounds and drawing fouls. He displayed good vision and understanding, passing the ball to teammates without hesitation or reluctance. Wendell Carter Jr. is currently the Bulls best chance to be the most dominant player in the East. It will take a season or two for his full potential to shine, but when it does, it will shine with the power of a star. If both Markkanen and Carter reach their full potential, the Bulls could have the most dominant front court in the entire NBA. Is Wendell Carter Jr. the Bulls best chance a becoming the Best Player in the Eastern Conference? It is decidedly so.
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