By: Thomas Gibbons
The 2017-2018 season begins the long, treacherous road of the Bulls rebuild. Fans did want to see Jimmy Butler go, but the Bulls hit the reset button. Now, we are about to embark on a long season ahead in which wins will sometimes cease to exist.
The Bulls roster is where you want to be at the start of the rebuild. The oldest players? Robin Lopez and Qunicey Pondexter at age 29. The Bulls average age of their starting lineup for the season opener is 25 years old. In addition, three-fourths of the roster have three or less years of NBA experience. It’s a solid start.
The Bulls start this year’s campaign tonight in Toronto. The Bulls will start Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, Paul Zipser, Lauri Markkanen, and Robin Lopez. Yikes.
In this article, Thomas Gibbons will look at a few storylines to follow this season with the Chicago Bulls.
Kris Dunn’s development is probably the biggest thing to watch for this season.
The Bulls were big on Dunn coming out of college. Remember, the Bulls were in active talks with the Timberwolves leading up to and during the 2016 NBA Draft to acquire their first round pick in a package which included Jimmy Butler. Well, a year later the Bulls have their guy in hopes he can be the point guard for the Bulls for a long time.
Dunn, 23, averaged just 3.8 points per game in his rookie campaign. Even though he appeared in 78 games, the rookie from Providence failed to produce. It was definitely unusual to see such a poor season from Dunn because he averaged 16.4 PPG and 6.2 assists per game his final year in college. Now, Dunn gets a fresh start, a new offense, and has been working on fixing his shot with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg.
The Bulls staff and fans have to see development in year two from Dunn. If he is to be the point guard of the future, Dunn has to have a very impressive sophomore season. Dunn shot a horrific 28% from three point range last season. Along with the three ball, we must see improvement in assists and running the fast break. It may sound easy what I am writing, but it’s extremely important. Hoiberg wants to grab the rebound and run. Dunn has to take a big leap in year two or the Bulls may not be encouraged enough to keep him in their future plans.
Lauri Markkanen is going to struggle, but one thing we have to see is consistent shooting.
Markanen will start at the power forward spot on Thursday night. It is going to be tough for him to battle other PF’s in the post right from the start. Markkanen has the height to be a ” stretch 4″ in today’s NBA, but the strength is a no. The Arizona rookie will undoubtedly live in the weight room next summer, but until then, he will struggle on the defensive end.
The biggest part of Marrkanen’s game is his shooting abilities. The seven footer shot a resounding 42% from three point range last season with Arizona. His shooting is what will untimely judge his rookie season. The Bulls drafted a tall, knockdown shooter with the seventh overall pick but shot 30% from three point range? That cannot be the headline in the Tribune once it’s all said and done.
Ultimately, you want to see chemistry. The 20 year old will probably be the Bulls starting power forward until the return of Nikola Miortic. It is beyond important that the rookie gels with his teammates and the arrow keeps pointing up.
Zach Lavine will be the bright spot of this season. The Bulls are not going to win a lot of games and will have a good shot at the first overall pick. But LaVine is the new face of the franchise, and will be a reason to turn the TV on.
LaVine, 22, is on schedule with his ACL recovery and has started to do some 5 on 0 drills at Bulls practice. He will be cleared for contact in November, with a return to the court probably late November. As much as he wants to get back out there, the Bulls are not going to rush the recovery process. LaVine is the face of the rebuild and the Bulls have to make sure he is 100% when he makes his Bulls debut.
The 22 year-old has improved his game and his numbers each season in the NBA. Many of you know LaVine for being an explosive dunker, winning the Dunk contest the past two seasons. Yet LaVine has also improved his shooting abilities, averaging 18.9 PPG last season shooting 38% from three.
“I want to be here for a long period of time. If it’s now or later, I know it’s going to be done either way,” LaVine said this offseason. The deadline has passed for him to agree to a contract extension, but he and the Bulls will get one done next summer.
Upon his return, the Bulls and fans hope to see the same explosion from LaVine that he showcased in his first three seasons. In what is going to be a very somber season, LaVine will draw fans and viewers to Bulls basketball.