WARR contributor Josh Hicks offers his thoughts on the Chicago Bulls and the NBA
The Chicago Bulls’ new rebuilding phase is going to require a lot of patience over the next couple years.
The Bulls decided to make the transition to a clean slate after the three alpha dogs of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo joined forces last season to make an attempt to stay relevant after missing the playoffs under Fred Hoiberg’s first year with the team.
Although they succeeded in making the playoffs, Bulls management decided it was time to move forward to the younger, more athletic future it has long envisioned, leading to the buyout of Wade, release of Rondo and one of the biggest mega-trades of the offseason frenzy involving Butler.
The Bulls’ achilles heel last season was chemistry issues amongst the locker room, especially in regards to the alpha dogs and the young players. Heading into the new season, those issues seem like they are not fully resolved yet, this time between Bobby Portis and returning European veteran Nikola Mirotic. Due to an altercation at practice, Mirotic received fractures in his face, surgery was required and he is now out four to six weeks, while Portis is in the middle of an eight game suspension.
This was another blow to the face for the Bulls, especially since two of their recent requires Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine are on DNP due to significant injuries. With the Bulls lack of depth, the growing pains of this young team were exposed their opening night against the Raptors. The team lacked a defensive presence after allowing the Raptors to shoot 47 percent from the field, 45 percent from the three and get out-rebounded 49-39. However, there are two things that we can look forward to as the season progresses.
The first thing is an identity. Last season, the Bulls did not seem to have an identity when it comes to embracing a certain style of play. It was hard to determine which type of style you were going to get on a game to game basis. Hoiberg wanted a fast pace offense, but had veterans that did not always provide that.
Now with a younger team, the opportunity is being granted to not just allow his players freedom to run and be fast paced, but also embrace more of the three-point culture. The Bulls shot 32 3-point shots against the Raptors, more than last year’s averaged attempts for the three-point shooting. If the Bulls can execute this three-point shooting identity efficiently, they can keep themselves in games, making them more competitive.
Second thing is the emergence of rookie Lauri Markkanen. After being drafted by the Timberwolves and traded to the Bulls as part of the Jimmy Butler trade, Markkanen has shown signs that he has an all around game that is vital to the success of Hoiberg’s system, he can stretch the floor and shoot the three-point shot, while also having the quickness and athleticism to run the floor in the fast break. Markkanen had an impressive NBA debut with a 17 point, 8 rebound performance in 33 minutes of action.
With the suspension of Portis and injury setback to Mirotic, the first eight games will provide Markkanen the minutes needed to learn the game and grow. With his continued progression, it will add quality depth at the power forward position when Portis and Mirotic return to the lineup.
There will be a lot of growing pains this season and I do not have high expectations for the Bulls this season, but if the Bulls can develop their young talent correctly within this fast paced offense, fix the defensive issues and stay healthy, this team might be able to stay competitive throughout the season.
Joshua M. Hicks is a sports writer and broadcaster and a recent graduate of Roosevelt University, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio