Chicago Bulls: Grading the team through the first 10 games of the season

Chicago Bulls associate head coach Jim Boylen, with players, during the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. The Bulls won, 112-110. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago Bulls associate head coach Jim Boylen, with players, during the first half against the Charlotte Hornets at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. The Bulls won, 112-110. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bulls are off to a 2-8 start in the first 10 games of the 2018-19 NBA season. Outside of the overall record, how has the team looked thus far?

The Chicago Bulls have been somewhat disappointing to start the 2018-19 NBA season. Sure, most analysts expected that they’d be bad, but many fans in the Chicago area had high hopes for this young, talented team.

Obviously, after a 2-8 start, it’s not looking good for previously optimistic Bulls fans, but there are still some things to be excited about when it comes to this 2018-19 Bulls squad.

After a horrendous start to the season on the defensive end, it’s actually looked a little better over the last three games. Over the last three games, the Bulls have given up an average of 103.7 points per game to opposing teams – way better than the 119.9 points per game that they surrendered to opposing teams over the first seven games.

Not only has the defense been noticeably better during the last three games, but all three of those games could’ve resulted in wins for the Bulls if they avoided sloppy mistakes down the stretch. They lost all three of those games by a total of 11 points.

The last three aforementioned games were against the Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets – none of those teams are pushovers. They’ll all likely be competing deep into the playoffs come April/May.

If the Bulls didn’t score a measly seven points in the third quarter against the Rockets, miss two quality shots in the final 10 seconds against the Pacers and fail to successfully box out Paul Millsap before a game-winning tip-in for the Nuggets, the Bulls could easily be riding a three-game winning streak right now.

The reality, though, is that this is a young team that hasn’t spent much time on the court together yet. They can’t be expected to win every close game at this juncture of the season. The mere fact that they’ve been playing in close games and getting opportunities at the end of those games to maybe steal a win is a good sign.

Wait – did I go this far without mentioning the injuries? How could I not mention the injuries?

It’s not like the Bulls have just been slightly affected by injuries (like every professional sports team), it’s more like they’ve been completely dismantled by them.

Lauri Markkanen (possibly the Bulls’ best player) and Denzel Valentine are yet to touch the court for the Bulls. Starting point guard Kris Dunn and power forward Bobby Portis are also going to be missing a hefty amount of time due to injuries. That’s four incredibly important players (two starters) that the Bulls are trying to win games without.

The good news for the Bulls is that Zach LaVine has stepped up in a major way. Through the first 10 games, LaVine is averaging 26.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game – all career highs. Unfortunately, after an incredibly efficient first few games, his efficiency has dropped a bit as of late. He’s now shooting 46.8 percent from the field (pretty good) and 34.4 percent from behind the 3-point line (not very good).

Those numbers (especially the 3-point percentage) aren’t exactly good indicators of how efficient LaVine can be as an offensive weapon, though. The eventual return of Dunn and Markkanen should help Zach get easier looks, resulting in a better shooting percentage. Right now, LaVine is being tasked with a lot of different jobs on the offensive end of the floor and he’s having to take – and make – some extremely tough shots.

Another encouraging sign for the Bulls’ future has been the improved play of rookie Wendell Carter Jr. After a tough start to the season, which is completely understandable since he’s a 19-year-old kid, Carter has looked magnificent over the last five games. His confidence on offense is building each and every game, and his defense continues to improve.

Over the last five games, Carter is averaging 15.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.6 steals in 29.4 minutes per game.

To put it simply, Carter has played unthinkably well for a 19-year-old kid that was thrown into a starting role on a bad team with big expectations.

Despite the Bulls’ 2-8 record (and disgusting losses to the Golden State Warriors and Charlotte Hornets), the Bulls have actually looked fairly good during some stretches of this young season. Normally a 2-8 record would warrant an F or D- rating, but all things considered, this has been a decent start for the Bulls.

Is Zach LaVine a legitimate scorer?. dark. Next

Team Grade: C-