The positive vibes keep rolling in as the Bulls have gone a perfect 4-0 in preseason action, averaging 118 points on 28 assists with 12.5 steals per game. If you look at how the Bulls stack up to the rest of the NBA in preseason action, it’s a pleasant sight:
But as we know, preseason stats don’t count for very much when the regular season comes around. Still, it’s encouraging to see our team at, or near, the top of some of these important statistics. I believe a lot of what the Bulls have shown themselves capable of in these last 4 games can translate to the regular season. It will take a lot of focus to maintain the level of high energy play we’ve seen in the preseason, but it looks like the Bulls finally have the personnel to consistently put out the necessary effort.
Speaking of personnel, it’s time to continue our ongoing series previewing the Bulls season by looking at each player on the roster and extolling some of their positive skills, talents, aspects, etc. Last week we looked at DeMar DeRozan, Alize Johnson, Nikola Vucevic, Javonte Green, and rookie Ayo Dosunmu. Today we’ve got an intriguing group of young players looking to make the league jump up and take notice. We’ll kick things off with one of the few returning players from last seasons Bulls:
Coby White – Coby White is poised for a break out season. He is perfectly suited to come off the bench and wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Last season’s experiment with White as the primary ball handler has set him up to make huge strides in this year’s offense. I expect him to thrive as a secondary ball handler with the second unit. His ability to score off-ball, and his developing skill as a facilitator, make him the perfect compliment to players like Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and DeMar DeRozan. We’ve seen Billy Donovan staggering his starters with the reserves in the preseason, and there is no reason to expect that to stop when the regular season gets going. White will have ample opportunity to play not only with the three players I just mentioned, but with guys he’s already developed chemistry (i.e. Vucevic, Zach LaVine, and Patrick Williams). White is still recovering from a torn labrum suffered early in the offseason, and isn’t expected back on the court until late November (at the earliest), but I am excited to see the young microwave scorer in the lineup with his new teammates.
Troy Brown Jr – Like White, Troy Brown Jr has a real opportunity to shine for the Bulls this season. We’ve seen from the few games he played last season, and through the four preseason games, that Brown has real potential as a “3-and-D” wing. He has been a decent perimeter and help defender his entire time with the Bulls, and has shown some flashes of being able to knocked down 3 pointers. He has to become consistent in his offense, and this is the season he’ll have a chance to really do it. With so much fire power on the offensive side of the ball for the Bulls, Brown will probably be getting a lot of open looks on the perimeter, it’s up to him to turn those opportunities into points. Regardless of his shooting, Brown’s defense is what the Bulls will be looking for, and what will keep him in the rotation.
Marko Simonovic – The Bulls 2nd round draft-and-stash rookie from the 2020 Draft, Marko Simonovic, probably won’t play a lot this season, at least not for the Chicago Bulls. I fully expect Marko to spend some time with the G-League Windy City Bulls as he develops his game. He has some solid Big Man skills, but his youth and inexperience in the NBA hurt his chances at big minutes on this “win now” Bulls roster. Simonovic has a lot of potential, and he has the luxury of time to work on improving his game.
Derrick Jones Jr – Derrick Jones Jr is another athletic, defense first wing. Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley really identified that role as a problem area for the Bulls and went out this offseason intent on fixing it. Like Javonte Green and Troy Brown Jr, Jones has a real chance to carve out a role in Billy Donovan’s rotation. He’s played some good minutes on some good teams, and looks like he will fit in nicely with the Bulls. In Jones, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso will find the perfect receiver for their perfect lobs. We’ve already seen Jones throwing down some showtime lobs this preseason, and he’s one of the reasons Stacey King has dubbed this team the “Chi Slamma Jammas”. The competition for minutes at the wing is pretty steep right now, but Derrick Jones Jr is certainly in the mix for regular playing time, if not out in front of the pack.
Lonzo Ball – I think my new favorite Chicago Bull is Lonzo Ball. I love the way this guy plays. It’s really tough to appreciate everything that he does on the basketball court by simply watching the highlights, you really need to sit down and watch an entire game of him. His basketball instincts are 2nd to none. He is regularly 3 or more touches ahead of the play, meaning he sees how a play is going to turnout even before it happens. This foresight allows him to jump passing lanes for steals, make amazing no-look passes to teammates, and know how to dictate the pace of the game when he has the ball in his hands. It’s refreshing to have a real point guard on the roster.
Ironically, the play that made me a Lonzo believer was actually a 3 second clip of a Bulls practice scrimmage from one of their promotional behind the scenes YouTube videos. In the clip, Vucevic dribbles the ball from the low post along the baseline out to the perimeter, tossing Lonzo a head level pass on the wing. As soon as the ball touches Lonzo’s fingers he zips a second pass to a backdoor cutting DeRozan on the weakside baseline. DeRozan finishes with a dunk. It was so quick, so amazing, and so perfectly timed, I had to rewatch that 3 seconds more than a dozen times in order to fully understand what happened.
You see it wasn’t just the volleyball style touch pass that was so amazing, it was everything else that Ball did to make that play happen. As I rewatched the clip, I realized Lonzo created that play out of smoke and mirrors in about 1.5 seconds. As Vooch was dribbling toward the perimeter Lonzo made eye contact with DeRozan letting him know to cut. As Vooch passed the ball, Lonzo shifted his focus back to the top of the key, setting up what looked like an ordinary swing pass, tricking the weakside baseline defender into shifting his focus in the exact opposite direction of where DeRozan would be cutting. Lonzo then no-look volleyball touch passed the ball to the empty space under the basket DeRozan would eventually occupy. DeRozan arrived just in time to receive this incredible pass, dunk, and ho-hum trot back on defense. 2 points. All that happened in 3 seconds.
When I say it’s refreshing to have a real point guard on the roster, I mean it’s a sweet tea in the middle of steamy Chicago August afternoon kind of refreshing.
That’s it for this weeks look at some roster positives. I plan on wrapping up this roster preview series on Wednesday morning before the Bulls season opener. Before I go, I purposely held off publishing this post this morning with the hopes that I could write this addendum.
CONGRATULATIONS 2021 WNBA CHAMPIONS, THE CHICAGO SKY!
The Sky put Chicago on top of the world with their thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Phoenix Mercury this afternoon. It was a true team effort from the Sky, getting huge buckets from Candace Parker, Allie Quigley, and Stefanie Dolson down the stretch. Azura Stevens had the tough assignment of guarding the Mercury’s All-Star Big, Brittney Griner, for the entire series. Stevens and Dolson did just enough to slow the Griner down when it mattered the most.
If Lonzo Ball is my favorite Bull, you better believe Courtney Vandersloot is my favorite player on the Sky. She is one of the greatest point guards in WNBA history, and her performance in this playoffs was nothing short of amazing. She was a rebound short of her 2nd triple-double of the post season this afternoon, and only the 2nd woman in WNBA history to even record a triple-double in the post season. She finished the Finals averaging 11.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 12! assists per game. Vandersloot controlled the pace of the entire series. Anytime the Sky needed a play to settle themselves down or stop a Mercury run, she was there to make it happen. I just spent a couple paragraphs praising Lonzo’s foresight and play, Sloot has all of that and the hardware to back it up.
And I’ve saved the best for last, WNBA Finals MVP, Kahleah F’n Copper. If you don’t know this woman’s name by now, you better remember it from here on out. Copper is a bad MOTHER- Shut my mouth. Her play in transition made the Mercury pay for every one of their turnovers and mistakes. She was awesome on the offensive boards too, and just found all sorts of ways to score at the rim. Phoenix had their hands full trying to cover her, routinely resorting to * ahem * aggressive physical contact (cheap shots) to try and get her off her game. It didn’t work.
Congratulations to Sky Head Coach, James Wade, who had a very REAL press conference after becoming champion of the world. If you have some time, it’s worth watching not only Coach Wade’s presser, but the post game presser with the Sky’s big 4, Vandersloot, Quigley, Parker and Copper. I don’t think a single sports cliché was used the entire interview. The story of how this team came together, from Parker telling Vandersloot about James Wade in a club in Spain years before he was even a head coach, to Copper and Dolson coming over in the trade for All-Star Elena Delle Donne, to the fateful meeting of Vandersloot and Wade in a cafe in the suburbs, and the return of Candace Parker to her home town team, the Sky really do feel like a team of Destiny.
As I sign off for this post, I just want to say not only congratulations to the Chicago Sky, but also, Thank You! It’s been a long time since Chicago has had a champion in basketball. The Sky won with both their defense and offense, and it was entertaining the entire way. This Sky team is truly a worthy successor to the ‘90’s Bulls. They represent the best in Chicago sports. I can’t wait for the REPEAT!!!
Until they do, thanks for reading and GO SKY!