1 Regular Season goal for each Chicago Bulls core player

Coby White, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Coby White, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Bulls
Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

2) Goal for each Chicago Bulls core player

Lauri Markkanen: Find Yourself

We got tantalized by Lauri Markkanen as a rookie. The 7-foot unicorn showed all of the tools to be a transcendent talent in the NBA. By now we’ve all heard about that stretch of 11 games all the way back in 2018-19 when he averaged better than 26 points and 12 boards per. He was also getting off over two assists per game and we were all elated the Bulls had found a special talent.

Last year was a different animal.

Hampered by injuries for the second season, he was relegated to more of a spot-up shooter’s role under Jim Boylen. All it really served to do was nuke the player affectionately known as the “Finnisher”.

Markkanen put up career-lows in points, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, and rebounds. He was scoring less and, in general, seeing fewer touches.

Over the offseason we heard talk of Markkanen wanting out of Chicago if things didn’t change. His relationship with Boylen was apparently as strained as any. So much so it was surprising to hear the two had been in contact this offseason and that led many to believe Boylen would be back for a second season at the helm. Also that Markkanen could be elsewhere.

Donovan and general manager Marc Eversley made it known they had plans to get him back on track. So far it hasn’t happened.

Through the preseason games, Lauri was third on the team in scoring at 12.3 points per game, shooting 30 percent from the field, and 31.0 percent from outside. What’s worse is he’s struggling at the charity stripe too, converting just 33.3 percent of his attempts.

In his previous two preseason stints (‘17 and ‘19), Markkanen averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. Granted, he’s raised his output in the regular season each time. But his numbers regressed last year and now the dip in preseason could be another foreboding sign of what’s to come.

He is averaging slightly more threes per game but it’s negligible. And it’s been more on par with his regular season numbers from the last two years.

So what’s the problem?

That is the $20-plus million question. Markkanen is eligible for an extension. But determining his market value has been almost impossible, despite pressure from the former Arizona Wildcat on his agent to get a deal done.

What’s plagued Markkanen has almost turned into more mental than physical. And while it was en vogue to blame Boylen for all that was wrong with the talent on this team, many will point to Boylen’s tough style being what the group needed at the time. They were young and weren’t used to being held accountable. Unfortunately, so was Boylen.

But what if Markkanen is the issue with Markkanen. Is he so in his own head trying to “figure it out” that he is pressing? Even worse is his forcing the issue hurting the team?

He’s gone from cornerstone to trade chip and back all on his rookie contract. If he truly wants that deal with the Bulls to come to fruition, he will need to find himself again. Show that feel for the game instead of looking robotic trying (and failing) to fit in. Assert himself.

That’s something our next player needs to take heed of as well.

Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

3) Goal for each Chicago Bulls core player

Wendell Carter: Know Your Role

Whereas Markkanen needs to rediscover the player scouts were salivating over in 2017, Wendell Carter needs to be the player he’s been telling us he was for the last year or so. Thus far it’s been about defense and rebounding for Carter. Coming from Duke where he shared the front court with Marvin Bagley, it was a role seemingly tailor-made for Carter’s skill set.

But, hearkening back to his days as a top high school recruit Carter has let it be known he wants to do more. He spoke of wanting a change to his “natural” position of power forward and that he will be more aggressive this coming year.

Those things go hand-in-hand. He will have to show some semblance of an outside shot if he wants to be free to play away from the basket.

To his credit, he did improve his field goal and three-point percentages in his second season. But he actually averaged fewer shot attempts and remained at fewer than one three per game. Those aren’t necessarily bad things except for when you’re trying to move to power forward at a time when those guys are typically bigger small forwards in today’s NBA.

Carter was ninth on the team in scoring through the exhibition and is being out-rebounded by Markkanen, Otto Porter, and Chandler Hutchison. That should be a bigger focus but Carter typically floated around double-digit boards last season as one of the most consistent Bulls.

His shooting could be a problem, though.

Carter is fourth on the Bulls averaging 4.0 threes per game. That’s a 571 percent increase over his career average and points to the coaching staff being open to Carter’s wishes.

The problem is he’s just 1-of-16 from deep this preseason; that’s 6.2 percent. If this were the regular season he would have been benched for continuing to shoot them. But the preseason is the perfect place for this to happen as it should dissuade further talk about position changes and expanded offense.

Hopefully, Carter keeps with his vow to be more aggressive though. His athleticism was belied by Boylen pulling him out of the paint last season, so hopefully Donovan let’s him stay closer and focus on his rim protection.

Carter is undersized, yes, but he averaged 1.3 blocks as a rookie just to see that number drop to 0.8 last season despite playing in just one fewer game.

He could also stand to be more aggressive on the boards. This, unlike the call for him to better protect the rim, isn’t a dig. Instead, this is an acknowledgement of the progress he’s already made in that aspect. This is saying he can and should do more. A more aggressive Carter on the boards means more put-back opportunities which would boost his scoring output naturally.

The Bulls were 29th in rebounding but were second in second-chance points last season. Imagine if they didn’t give up so many soft rebounds and/or Carter was turning more inside looks into scoring opportunities.