Chicago Bulls: Defense key for making next big jump

Chicago Bulls (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
Chicago Bulls (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bulls already have weapons on the offensive end in Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, but they need to improve defensively to take the next step.

The Chicago Bulls are pretty good right now. They got some good young talent spread across their roster and they recently added some veterans to polish them. They show promising offensive firepower with Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen sharing the load. They even have two good young defenders in Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. who individually can lock up their assignment.

So while they have promising pieces that in theory have the tools to be a playoff team, why have they not yet?

Simply it’s that they’re all pretty young and they haven’t gelled together defensively. Carter Jr. was injured for most of the season and Porter Jr. was acquired mid season, so their ideal lineup hasn’t necessarily had the chance to play all together.

Before the Bulls acquired Porter Jr. they were at the bottom defensively, however by the end of the season, they were 25th in defense. Although that’s still pretty bad, it’s an improvement right?

However, that stat might be a little misconstrued as after the All Star break, most teams know if they’re contenders or not, so depending on that situation, some teams may not play their best guys in an attempt for better lottery odds. Regardless, it does show improvement on the defensive side.

I’ve heard the argument that the Bulls can simply outscore other team and don’t need defense. While some teams have been able to do that, the Bulls aren’t those teams. They were ranked 29th in offense last year, with LaVine healthy for most of the season, which is really really bad. Even with two 20-plus points per game scorers on their team, it’s imperative to improve their defense significantly to even have a chance to make the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.

However, with another year in Boylen’s system and with two new point guards in the mix, the Bulls will be more towards the middle of the pack offensively. That’s still definitely not enough for a playoff push.

So this year focus should be for LaVine and Markkanen to become average defenders, which the acquisition of Thaddeus Young may help with their development. Right now, they are below average defenders and it’s hurting the Bulls. If they could even be average, it takes pressure off Porter Jr. and Carter Jr., which in turn improves the teams overall defense.

Even with only focusing on those two, that will drastically improve the teams defense as a whole. Most of the other players on the roster are average defenders, but by focusing on the two players that play the most minutes defense, it will impact the team so much more.

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At least for this year, a realistic goal the Bulls should aim for is to be a top 15 offensive team and a top 20 defensive team. While that’s not enough for the playoffs this year, it shows improvement and that this current roster is capable of improving to a point that they can lead the Bulls to a playoff spot in the future.