Well into the off-season and approaching training camp, the Chicago Bulls seem to be shaping themselves up for a curious 2018-19 campaign. What realistic expectations should we have for such a young squad?
It’s safe to say that the Chicago Bulls have likely hit on their second #7 overall selection in as many years. Wendell Carter Jr. has surprised the league with a more than impressive Summer League stat-line. With averages of 16.8 PPG and 7.8 RPG, to go along with over 2 BPG, Carter should not be a problem. Four-year college standout Chandler Hutchison is making progress as well. The two, to go along with scoring machine Antonio Blakeney, give the Bulls hope for an improved 2018-19 year. Add in the re-signing of Zach LaVine, and these Baby Bulls should give fans reason to be excited about their continued improvement.
In the last few weeks, though, the front-office has made some moves with the team’s future in mind. Jerian Grant was traded for Julyan Stone, who was subsequently waived. Chicago then rescinded their qualifying offer to David Nwaba, making him an UFA. To top it off, they waived surprise contributor Sean Kilpatrick.
Following the moves, the Chicago Tribune’s KC Johnson had this to say, much to the intrigue of Bulls fans:
Well, that move was indeed made. Jabari Parker is back home as a Bull, and ought of a sudden, the Bulls are viewed as a playoff team by some. It’s fascinating what one player departing a conference can do to another organization’s future, but that is the LeBron James affect. In such a depleted Eastern Conference, are those expectations realistic though?
They better be.
At the very least, improvement from last season is on the horizon. The front office has said the 2018 season was one they never want to relive. Neither do the fans. Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker and Lauri Markkanen should anchor this Bulls squad with another year of NBA experience under their belts.
Chicago is in no position to take any steps back in 2019. With that being the case, the roster is simply too talented to not make a playoff run. To be clear, I’m not saying a #2 or #3 seed is going to happen. But with two (possibly three) 20 PPG players, the Bulls offense will be there. Don’t be surprised if the Bulls put up 110+ on a nightly basis. In the same breath, don’t be surprised if they give up 100+ as well. Of course, the team who scores the most points wins the game, which is music to Jabari Parker’s ears.
Defense will be a different story
While the Bulls will score a lot, they may have just about the worst defense in the NBA. To some, that may not be the worst thing in the world. After all, the object of the game is to score more points. With a run and gun offense in Fred Hoiberg’s system, Chicago will get up plenty of shots. But again, this isn’t the Warriors backcourt. The Chicago Bulls front office doesn’t seem too worried about LaVine and Parker existing on the same floor defensively, but it will be a problem. Simply put, when Jabari Parker is quoted as saying “they don’t pay players to play defense” that tells you just about everything you need to know about the Bulls defense for this coming season.
Expectations should be heightened
Even with all the questions surrounding their defense and inexperience, the Bulls should still have heightened expectations. The Bulls re-signed Zach LaVine due to the star potential he possesses. Add in the addition of Parker to LaVine and Markkanen, and you have a young core that must have continued improvement. With a stacked 2019 free-agent class approaching, it is vital the Bulls start cashing in on their investments. It sure looks as if the work has been put in this summer by one player in particular:
In a LeBron-less East, there are no excuses for the Chicago Bulls to not be in contention for a playoff spot. While the predictions of some that say the Bulls will compete for a #4 seed are a tad too optimistic, Chicago should be looking at a #7-#8 seed heading into the year.
Not only will this improvement help younger players confidence, but it will also tell impending free-agents that Chicago is only a piece or two away from contention. Will that be enough to sway a star to finally come to Chicago? Who knows? But you got to start somewhere, right?