It’s opening day for the Chicago Bulls! The start of an NBA season always brings me a mixture of excitement and hope, and this year, a feeling of confidence. This is the least hopeful start to a Bulls season in a long time, and I mean that in a good way. The Bulls are a veteran team, they will win games, no hope required. We’ve seen individual success from a lot of the players in Billy Donovan’s rotation, it’s just a matter of putting it all together on the court and succeeding as a team. All the Bulls have to do is look to the Sky, the Chicago Sky, for the blueprint to team success.
Like the Bulls, the Chicago Sky are a team filled with All-Stars, Olympic Gold Medalists, Three Point Champions, and former WNBA Champions, but they needed to come together, put aside their egos, and learn how to win as a team. Unsurprisingly, success for the Sky came when they focused on playing defense and taking what their opponents would give them on offense. Kahleah Copper doesn’t become the WNBA Finals MVP if the rest of the Sky aren’t turning the screws on defense and forcing turnovers. Those turnovers led to fastbreak opportunities, and no one was better at finishing a fastbreak than Kahleah F’n Copper.
Coincidentally, the Bulls success in the preseason followed a similar format to the Sky’s success in the WNBA Playoffs: Play tough defense, force turnovers, get the easy bucket in transition. The Bulls have the personnel on both ends of the floor to execute this game plan. I’m not saying they’re going to win the NBA Championship, but the blueprint of “defense into offense” will win you a lot of games.
Speaking of personnel, let’s finish up our season preview of the Bulls roster. We’ve been touching on each player on the roster and the positives they bring to the team. So far we’ve gotten through 2/3’s of the roster, with just a handful of players left to discuss.
Alex Caruso – Alex Caruso has been to the mountain top. I believe he’s the only player on the Bulls roster that has won an NBA Championship, and before you go thinking that he was just a stowaway on the S.S. LeBron James/Anthony Davis Championship boat, Caruso was a major contributor in that Lakers championship run. You can see it in the confidence with which he plays. He is a floor general, a facilitator, a scorer when needed, a dive-on-the-floor, fight-you-for-the-rebound, hard hat and lunch pail worker on both ends of the court. He brings energy off the bench. He controls the pace of the game. Alex Caruso is a very good basketball player, and he’s only getting better.
Tony Bradley – Tony Bradley is still kind of an enigma. He was dealing with a lower back issue for most of preseason, so we only got to see him play limited minutes. He came in for a couple short stints during the last preseason game and looked rusty. It might take him a little time to adjust to his new team, but what I like about Bradley is that he plays a little more like a traditional stick-to-the-paint kind of Center. Presumably, Bradley will be the primary backup to Nikola Vucevic. He’ll give opposing defenses a different look on offense and hopefully a tougher presence on defense. Bradley is still young and learning the NBA, but all he’s done over his career is improve with each season he plays, and I expect that to continue this year with the Bulls.
Matt Thomas – It is a surprise that Matt Thomas made the roster. He beat out former lottery pick Stanley Johnson for the final roster spot on the Bulls. Thomas is a shooter. He played late minutes in every preseason game for the Bulls, and never seemed to miss a shot. He reminded me a little of Kyle Korver, nailing catch-and-shoot 3’s after immediately coming off of a screen. I don’t know if he’ll play much this season, but if the Bulls ever need a bucket late in a game, I know who’ll be on the floor for them.
Patrick Williams – The Paw is no longer a rookie. Like Tony Bradley, we didn’t see much of P. Will this preseason. Williams was nursing an ankle sprain, but we did get to see him start and play limited minutes in the final game of the preseason. He hit a couple of threes, played a little small ball center, and looked more comfortable on the court. I’m not sure if we’ll see a more aggressive Patrick Williams this season, but he will be a more confident player, and maybe that’s all we need from him.
Zach LaVine – Saving the best for last. Zach LaVine is happy. He doesn’t have the weight of the entire franchise sitting on his shoulders. The load is being shared by Vucevic, Caruso, Lonzo Ball, and DeMar DeRozan. We’ve already seen a much freer LaVine. He’s been better focused on his defense. He’s scoring at a nearly impossibly efficient pace. LaVine is putting up some of the easiest 20+ point games of his life, and it’s joyous to watch. He is so focused on winning that he is literally laughing off questions about his individual accomplishments. At the start of training camp, LaVine talked about practicing like a champion, and it looks as though the Bulls have followed his example. The focus they’ve played with during the preseason, the intensity and pace, the Bulls and Zach LaVine appear to be on a mission. LaVine wants to win, and this season he has a chance to do it.
That does it for our season preview. I hope the positive vibes I’m getting from this roster can translate to the regular season. It all starts tonight for the Bulls, on the road against the Detroit Pistons. The Bulls home opener is Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans, and that is quickly followed by a Saturday rematch with the Pistons, also in Chicago. It’s all happening! I am confident that this is the best Bulls team we’ve seen in about 5 years. All they have to do is put it together on the court. Play tough D, force turnovers, and get those easy transition buckets. It’s a simple formula, let’s see if the Bulls can follow it.
Until they do, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!