Due to the relative lack of success across all Chicago professional sports teams lately, it feels like an eternity has passed since we’ve seen a team worth watching on our televisions back at home. The Chicago Bulls are perhaps the best of the bunch right now, but will have to do better than another 40-42 record if they want to win the fans back over.
Now that the NBA preseason has rolled back around, they’ll get the chance to do just that. We’ll see if an offseason of continuity and scheme changes is really all it’s cracked up to be, or if the Bulls are bound to crumble in the face of adversity once again.
After one game of preseason action, it’s hard to say which of those looks more likely. The Bulls did come out strong and gave fans many reasons to feel reinvigorated ahead of the 2023-24 campaign, but still lost a 102-105 game to a Bucks team without its star trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard, and Khris Middleton. That being said, these three silver linings may have made losing the exhibition game worth it in the end.
Despite a loss in the preseason opener, the Bulls looked like a much better team than what we saw last year.
1. Coby White appears poised for a breakout
Entering last night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, it was still unclear just who would receive the starting point guard nomination. Billy Donovan says the role is still far from filled, but if last night was any indication, the job is Coby White‘s for the taking.
Bumped back up into the starting lineup, Coby did not waste the opportunity to prove he could be the floor general this team needs. White shot 6-for-10 from the field and led Chicago in points, assists, and steals while also reeling in the second-most rebounds. We already knew Coby was capable of filling up the points column, but what impressed me most was his ability to drive and dish to create good looks for his teammates, as seen in the clip below. If he keeps playing like this, the Bulls have a real chance to raise their ceiling in the East.
2. Billy Donovan finally has Chicago shooting the ball like it’s 2023
They arrived at the party half a decade late, but it appears the Chicago Bulls are finally willing to become a three-point shooting team. The Bulls came out of the gate hot, firing 12 three-pointers in the first quarter alone and finishing with a grand total of 35 — a mark they only eclipsed seven times last season. Patrick Williams particularly stood out, hoisting up a team-high six long-range bombs and knocking them down at a 50% clip.
This was a huge step up from taking 28.8 and 28.9 three-point attempts per game in 2021-22 and 2022-23, respectively. Both of these outings ranked dead last among all NBA teams in threes taken per game. However, if the Bulls managed to take 35 or more threes per game, that would launch them back up into the top ten most trigger-happy teams (according to last year’s averages).
3. The Bulls actually look happy to be back on the court
The Bulls have suffered a barrage of criticism regarding the coaching staff, the front office’s decision-making, the lack of major moves made over the offseason, and the overall lack of talent on this roster all summer long. I can’t say I’d blame the team for coming in sluggish if they also bought into this bleak outlook.
Fortunately, that did not appear to be the case. The Bulls’ veteran leaders look unphased while White and Williams showcased a level of confidence out there on the court that we’ve never seen from them before. Even as the third-string and two-way contract players came to take things over in the fourth quarter, the energy and optimism never died down. That much was obvious when Quenton Jackson slammed the ball home to cut the lead down to two points with just seconds remaining.
Although this unit ultimately choked the lead away in the end, you could tell that energy and optimism never faded even as the starters hit the bench. For the first time in a very long time, this Bulls roster feels like an actual team working toward a common goal. It’s far too early to tell if they have the capacity to exceed their expectations this summer, but I do know we won’t be getting a half-baked effort from this Chicago Bulls team.