The Chicago Bulls have a really good chance of making the playoffs

From left, the Chicago Bulls' Denzel Valentine, Lauri Markkanen, and David Nwaba celebrate a 3-point field goal late in the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at the United Center in Chicago, on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. The Bulls won, 120-114. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
From left, the Chicago Bulls' Denzel Valentine, Lauri Markkanen, and David Nwaba celebrate a 3-point field goal late in the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at the United Center in Chicago, on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. The Bulls won, 120-114. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images) /

Contrary to most peoples’ expectations, the Chicago Bulls have made some major moves and are looking to compete sooner than expected.

Just over one year ago, the Chicago Bulls shocked the world when they traded former Bulls superstar Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In return, they received two young and talented guards as well as the seventh pick in the 2017 draft. The trade signified a clear direction for the franchise as a rebuild was on its way. However, a lot has happened since then and the rebuilding process may be cut short.

The Bulls have retained all major pieces of the young core

The 2017-18 NBA season wasn’t necessarily the easiest to be a Bulls fan. Countless injuries, inefficient stretches, and close games plagued the roster and it’s young talent for most of the year. However, Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and Zach Lavine gave all of Chicago something to look forward to. All have immense potential and all indications point to them being long-time Bulls. It was a little shaky, but Chicago managed to resign Lavine with little love lost giving us an elite scorer for, hopefully, years to come.

Lauri Markkanen had a historic rookie season and, despite some inefficient stretches, showed some signs of potential stardom. With his rookie contract, he’s in Chicago until the 2021-22 season and seems content with his spot right now. Markkanen is an elite floor spacer and rebounder that’s been working on his frame and low-post defense. He’s got arguably the most potential out of the young core and he’s likely here to stay.

Much like Lavine, Kris Dunn was a little thrown off by this offseason when his work ethic was questioned. Despite the tension, Dunn is still the starting point guard of this team and knows that he holds the keys to the offense. Barring injury, he was one of the best defensive point guards in the league and was a serviceable playmaker. As if that wasn’t enough, Dunn showed flashes of being a high level scorer as well throughout his 52 games. If he can improve on his jump shot and consistency, he could be an all-star caliber point guard for the future. His contract ends after the 2020-21 season.

The front office nailed the NBA draft and are doing well in free agency

One glaring issue from last season was the lack of a defensive presence as a collective unit. The young Bulls ranked 24th out of 30 NBA teams in defensive rating with guys like David Nwaba, Justin Holiday, and Kris Dunn being the only consistent defensive threats. Drafting 6’10  center Wendell Carter Jr was the perfect pick to aid with this issue. Aside from being a very solid scorer and elite rebounder, Carter Jr is one of the best rim protectors in his class. In just 4 games in the summer league thus far, he’s averaged an impressive 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks on 60% shooting from the field and 50% shooting from beyond the arc.

Add in the fact that the Bulls were also able to snag potential draft steal Chandler Hutchinson and the roster looks even more enticing. Hutchinson was a top-tier shooter, athlete and rebounder at the college level and looks to be a great piece at the wing for Chicago. However, he may be coming off the bench with the news of the recent Jabari Parker signing.

Although I’ve already expressed my doubts about Parker’s fit with the Bulls before, I’m definitely willing to give him a shot. He’s an elite scorer and a solid rebounder that can push the ball up the floor. If he can stay healthy and can work within the system, there’s no reason for any Bulls fan to be upset. The Lavine resigning in addition to a Parker deal with a team option have been great indicators of the Bulls’ potential rise to elite status.

Guys like Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine off the bench certainly add to the depth of the roster as well. The future is bright, but how long before the Bulls become a serious playoff team?

LeBron James is out of the East and the competition isn’t the greatest

The Bulls are extremely young and have very few veterans. They are no where near a deep playoff push but that doesn’t mean they can’t sneak in as a low seed. Assuming that everyone is healthy and all of the young core improve, the Bulls have a lot of sneaky firepower.

Markkanen has been working on his frame and his already solid shot is likely to improve. Kris Dunn will come with the same defensive prowess and will have an elite shot blocker down low in Carter Jr to help him out. Robin Lopez is not expected to be starting and the Bulls will have an elite rebounder down low to take his place. Lavine and Parker get the chance to be elite scorers and can hopefully at least be able to hold their own defensively.

Teams like the Celtics, 76ers, Raptors, Wizards, Pacers and Bucks will most likely occupy the top 6 seeds. But the Bulls can potentially beat out teams like the Pistons or maybe even the Heat for the 7th or 8th spot. These are teams that the Bulls have historically been able to beat.

This year will be crucial for the future

Health and team chemistry are the deciding factors in the Bulls’ future success. The young core wasn’t able to play more than 20 games together last season. Adding in more talent is going to make that chemistry problem even more of a hurdle.

Next: Bulls release Paul Zipser and Julyan Stone

Parker and Lavine have had injuries to their ACL’s and Markkanen had back spasms on and off last season. There are so many “what if’s” but so much potential for this young team. If the Bulls can stay healthy and start to build chemistry, they’ll be a playoff team for sure. Don’t expect a deep push for at least 2-3 more years at the very least.