The Chicago Bulls won 3 out of their 4 Preseason games, with most players showing general improvement over their efforts from last season. Zach LaVine hounded ball handlers on defense, displaying quick lateral footwork and strength, as he kept his opponents in front of him. Coby White stretched his point guard muscles and showed some nice passing skills in both pick-and-roll and drive-and-kicks-to-the-corner. He has a long way to go before he’s a true NBA point guard, but it’s a start. Wendell Carter Jr has been much more involved on the offensive side of the ball, shooting much more frequently and using his strong passing skills. The movement based offense the Bulls have been running snugly fits Carter’s skill set. He’ll need to be more consistent, though, in hitting his shots if he’s going to be effective.
Lauri Markkanen has also benefited from the new offense. He has looked more like the “old” Lauri from his first 2 seasons, than the “sit in the corner and shoot threes” Lauri from a year ago. Otto Porter Jr. has been tearing around the court like a mad man, grabbing rebounds, diving for loose balls, doing a lot of dirty work. He’s a man looking for playing time so he can earn another enormous contract. Porter’s time is being threatened by the rookie, Patrick Williams, who has shown himself to be a real cool customer. Even when his smooth as silk shot isn’t falling, Williams has been able to stay on the court with his defense and rebounding.
It’s been a fun preseason. The Bulls look like a competitive team again. Not necessarily a team that will win a lot of ball games, but at the very least, just from the schemes they’re running on defense and the ball movement and player movement on offense, they look like a professional basketball team. Since Billy Donovan took over, you can tell the players are more relaxed and confident, both on and off the court. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly the Bulls get their first regular season win.
Waiting for Garrett (and Others)
Three Bulls players that are expected to be contributors this season never even suited up for a single preseason game; Free agent acquisition Garrett Temple has been self-isolating with the Corona Virus, Thad Young has been sidelined with an infection in his leg, and Denzel Valentine “tweaked” his hamstring at the start of training camp and hasn’t recovered yet. Also missing several games has been back up point guard Tomas Satoransky. The Bulls have been pretty tight lipped about their players absences, leaving social media to speculate wildly about a possible Covid outbreak among the missing players.
Training camp invitees, Noah Vonleh, Simi Shittu, and Zach Norvell Jr have (as expected) been waived by the Bulls, cutting their roster down to the required 15 players. Vonleh showed promise as a small ball big before contracting Covid and having to leave the team. Simi Shittu was the reason the Bulls won their final preseason game, putting up All-Star numbers in a garbage 4th quarter comeback. Norvell Jr hit some shots and used his length on defense. ‘Nuff said.
The Big Take Away
Nobody on this Bulls team is safe (maybe Patrick Williams?). I could easily see the Round Table trading, releasing, or not re-signing every player on this roster. Guys are going to have to step up this season, because the excuses are gone. There is no GarPax, no Hoiberg or Boylen to blame for how this team plays. The players have what appears to be a competent front office supporting them. The Round Table has retooled the training staff and built a player development department. They brought in a professional coach with tons of experience, and hired proven, experienced, coaches to join his staff. It’s on the players now to grow and win. Whatever happens this season, we need to see the players take ownership of their play on the court. We need to see that they’ve been working hard and won’t wilt during the regular season like they have so often before.
Until we get that full season of effort and performance, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!