Just in time for the new NBA season, it’s another of my patented State of the Roster posts. Let’s break down each player on this Bulls squad, with an eye toward this season’s new newness. In no particular order:
Ryan Arcidiacono: Old reliable. I expect Arch to be the third string point guard behind Coby White and Tomas Satoransky. He’ll bring the usual hustle every time he’s put in the game. ‘Nuff said.
Cristiano Felicio: The longest tenured Bull (thanks GarPax). I don’t expect Felicio to finish the season as a Chicago Bull. He will either be a salary match in a trade package, or he’ll be cut before the end of the season to open up a roster spot.
Zach LaVine: I’m expecting an all-star caliber season from Zach. He has improved on defense, and his offense is as smooth as ever. There is a quiet determination behind LaVine’s eyes, the long stare of a man no longer hungry, but starving. This is not the kid throwing down impossible dunks at the All-Star game, this is a grizzled vet who has seen too much crap in his career and just wants to win. I think coach Billy Donovan can make that happen for Zach, and I’m pretty sure Zach knows it.
Coby White: Coby is the fulcrum for this Bulls season. As the lead ball handler, White will have an enormous effect on every game. How well White adapts to his new responsibilities will probably determine how well the Bulls play as a team. That’s an awfully large burden to place on a young combo guard, but that’s where we’re at with this team.
Denzel Valentine: I was a little surprised when the Bulls re-signed Valentine. I am not surprised at all to see him spend all of training camp injured. I don’t know what to expect from Valentine this season. I suspect he’ll have to work hard in practice to get into games. I also suspect this is his final season as a Bull.
Daniel Gafford: Gafford is my favorite Bull right now, and it has nothing to do with his play on the court. His game is pretty simple, you know what you’re getting out of Gafford. We’ll see if Donovan finds lineups that can work with Gafford’s energy and above the rim play. Right now he’s a back up big with limited potential.
Luke Kornet: The worst thing that happened to Luke Kornet’s career was Jim Boylen’s blitzing defense. He was too slow as a perimeter defender to be useful in that scheme. If he gets any playing time this season, he might have a chance at redemption in the more flexible defensive system the Bulls are currently running. Getting that playing time may prove difficult on a team stacked with about 8 front court players.
Chandler Hutchison: Steady improvement, that’s what Hutchison has always been known for. From his days as a high school hooper, to his years in college, to the last couple seasons as a pro, Hutch has steadily gotten better. And this season he is poised to break out. He looks quicker, stronger, faster even; speed, a trait they always say cannot be taught, and yet Hutch is faster. He has been taking defenders off the dribble with a surprisingly quick first step, which he never had before. His shot looks better than in years past, and his three pointers are falling. Hutch proved last season, in his limited time, that he could get to the rim and draw fouls. This season he has to prove he can finish at the rim, or at the very least, hit a high percentage of his free throws. If he breaks out this season, expect the Bulls to hang onto him. His size, length and versatility are exactly what the Round Table are looking for in players. I think Hutchison will be the surprise story of the season for the Bulls, and if he plays well, it could make Lauri Markkanen that much more expendable.
Lauri Markkanen: Speaking of Lauri, let’s get into it! The Bulls and Markkanen failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension, making this a “prove it” season for the Finnisher. If Lauri plays well, he could become one of the most coveted free agents next summer, and he will most certainly become a very rich man. But that’s a big “if”. Three seasons into his career, and we’ve all been left wondering who Markkanen really is? As wishy-washy as his play has been over his short career, I don’t know if he has it in himself to get that money. I also hope he proves me wrong. I firmly believe that if Markkanen plays well, then the Bulls are a playoff team.
Thaddeus Young: Because of an infection in one of his legs, we didn’t get to see Young in the preseason. I am very interested to see how Donovan uses the veteran. Young is fully capable and qualified to start on this team, but will have to split minutes with Markkanen, Patrick Williams, Hutch, etc. Most people consider Young to be a trade asset right now, but I’m not so sure. With Markkanen and the Bulls unable to agree on an extension, Lauri becomes a legitimate trade asset, and possibly a more desirable one than Young.
Wendell Carter Jr: Like Markkanen, this is a “prove it” season for Carter. As an undersized center in the NBA, he already has a difficult path ahead of him. Even though Carter is the best defender on the team, he is very much an expendable asset. Much of what he needs to prove is on the offensive end of the court. If what we saw in the preseason plays out in the regular season, then Carter will be a focal point for the offense. Whether it’s playing pick-and-roll/pop with Lauri, or being a high post distributor Carter has an opportunity to really shine on offense, and he needs too. If he doesn’t start consistently contributing on offense, I don’t think he survives the season with the Bulls.
Garrett Temple: Finally out of Covid isolation, Temple is a big unknown. The Bulls signed him for veteran depth at the guard position, but I don’t know how many minutes he will get. I’m pretty certain he’ll be eased into things, and probably end up the back up to Zach LaVine.
Patrick Williams: The rookie was impressive during preseason. Nothing seemed to phase him. He will likely be the starting 3 (or small forward) over Otto Porter Jr. Like all rookies you can expect some ups and downs from Williams this season. I hope to see steady growth from the kid as he learns the league, and if everything goes right, he might become the reason the Bulls win games.
Tomas Satoransky: Sato looked spectacular in the two preseason games we saw him play. Last season he was exhausted from playing for the Czech Republic National Team during the summer, and his play suffered. This season, he looks rejuvenated and ready to go. I’m expecting a bounce back season for Satoransky, and if White proves incapable of being the lead guard, you might see Sato back with the starters.
Otto Porter Jr: Here is a man playing for another big contract. He might be coming off the bench this season, as it looks like Donovan intends to start the rookie at the 3, but whenever Otto hits the floor you can bet he will be playing at 110%. He knows there is another giant bag of cash at the end of this season if he can stay healthy and contribute. As far as the Bulls are concerned, Porter is a giant expiring contract, and whether they hold onto him and let him walk, or trade him at the deadline for picks and young talent, either option is a win.
The 2020-21 NBA season starts tonight for the Bulls. They will take on another rising franchise in the Atlanta Hawks. We will finally get some meaningful NBA basketball. I’m excited! Regardless of wins and losses, there is some real hope around this franchise, and their might even be some growth! Until we see them play, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!
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