Bulls preseason flew by this year. If you blinked you missed it. But what did you miss?

A whole new Bulls team.

Bulls2019

Preseason is usually a poor measuring stick to use when evaluating your team against opponents. Most of the time key players are out of the lineup resting, there usually isn’t any game plan for the particular opponent in use, and the effort from veterans can be a little suspect. But preseason can be a good way to judge your team against previous iterations of itself. I can tell you without a doubt, this is the best Bulls team I’ve seen in about 3 years.

5 take aways from Bulls preseason 2019:

1) The talent and depth of the team have improved. No more relying on G-League talent to fill out the back of the rotation. Barring a large number of injuries, there should be no reason for the Bulls to have G-Leaguers on the floor this season. That means they should be able to compete with teams for all 4 quarters of the game. With actual NBA talent on the floor at all times, there shouldn’t be any of the 2nd and 3rd quarter let downs that have been so prevalent the last couple seasons.

2) Zach LaVine was bored on offense. He was hitting every shot he threw at the rim. I didn’t think it was possible for him to reach another level as a scorer, but somehow he did. He is Devin Hester levels of ridiculous right now and it’s super fun to watch. 3) Kris Dunn is a great defender coming off the bench for the Bulls. He still has a long way to go on offense, but he was a wrecking ball on defense this preseason. He was picking pockets left and right, stifling ball-handlers and forcing errant passes with his pressure. There is still a place for Dunn on this team, and more importantly, a role for him to thrive in.

 

4) Get used to three guard lineups, ‘cause Boylen used a lot of them. With the lack of wing depth on the roster, the Bulls relied on a number of three guard combinations to get through games. And it worked. Not only did the three guard lineups work, they looked good! The plethora of ball-handlers, all on the floor at once, led to great ball movement for the offense. Even if there was better depth behind Otto Porter Jr on the wing, I’m not sure Boylen still wouldn’t be using three guard lineups anyway. They fit his version of the pace and space offense, and seems to fit the style of play of the Bulls current personnel.

5) Better talent on the roster means an uptick in all kinds of statistics. The Bulls took more 3 pointers than ever before. Their passing and assist numbers were much higher than in previous seasons, and it made for a more exciting viewing experience. The games were up tempo, and featured flowing offense complemented by swarming defense. The Bulls were fun to watch (when was the last time we could say that about a Bulls team?).

That was the preseason.

As I’m sure you are well aware what happens in preseason doesn’t always translate to the regular season.

Here are a few of the things I’ll be watching for as the regular season begins.

– Can the Bulls keep the beautiful, unselfish, ball movement going when facing normal NBA defense? It’s easy to find the open man with an extra pass when veterans are dogging it during the preseason, but those same passes need to happen when defenders are closing out with gusto. If the Bulls offense gets bogged down in one-on-one battles and slow developing plays, it’ll be another long, ugly campaign. I have faith in the Bulls new Steward of the Point Guard position, Tomas Satoransky. He will keep the pace of the offense crisp and humming.

– I am eagerly anticipating a huge season from Zach LaVine. He is playing with supreme confidence on offense, and he’s giving effort on defense. LaVine has been patrolling the passing lanes, looking to swipe lazy passes, then turning those steals into fast-break points. He has a goal to become one of the elite players in the NBA, and that hunger has driven LaVine’s game to new heights. He will be really fun to watch this season.

 

– This is also an important season for the development of two of the Bulls young players; Much is expected of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr, and this would be an excellent season for both of the Bigs to breakout. Lauri and Wendell need to stay healthy, and they need to consistently contribute to the teams success. Lauri can’t disappear during games, he needs to be a presence on the court every minute he’s out there if the Bulls are going to make the playoffs. Wendell can’t ride the bench after picking up dumb fouls, he needs to be protecting the rim and altering shots. Both of these guys need to show they can consistently make a positive impact on the court, and this is the season to do it.

– Another young player to watch is rookie Coby White, he ended the preseason as one of the top 10 scorers in the league (tied for 8th with Buddy Hield, averaging 19.2 points per game). Over the last several games his shot has been falling, and he’s giving off some serious Ben Gordon vibes. He could provide some much needed scoring for the second unit.

– The final thing I’m watching for this season is wins. The stated goal for this team is to make the playoffs. That means they’ll need about 40 wins. I think they can do it. This is not a “Tank” season. The focus of this season is not development, though that should be expected to happen. This season is about winning basketball games, and competing with every team in the league. The Bulls are finally playing to win the game, and I’m ready for it.

With the regular season starting tonight against the Charlotte Hornets, I will go back to posting twice a week. You can expect general weekly updates on the Bulls every Sunday, and more specific posts about particular Bullsy things on Wednesdays. Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!