By Robert Weihofen
It is getting closer and closer to the start of another Bulls season. Training camp kicks off Tuesday at the Advocate Center as the Bulls continue their quest of the rebuild. Young players need to step up and in all honesty, it’s a make or break year for Fred Hoiberg. All that being said, let’s dive into the preview.
First, let’s look at the obvious improvements. The first flashy headlines came from the draft, where the Bulls took Wendell Carter Jr. with the 7th overall pick. The one and done versatile big-man from Duke looks to be an anchor in the post for a team alongside Robin Lopez. Carter Jr. looked great in Summer League for the Bulls and could be the sign of a budding star to add to an already young core. He has drawn some comparisons to Al Horford, and there are even some already saying he could be a career double-double man. His development in camp is going to be key for the Bulls, as they are looking to take a step forward this season in the rebuild. Training Camp will be a good time for him to get some pointers from the few veterans on the team, and also gain confidence in running the teams offense with the first unit.
The Bulls second first-round pick Chandler Hutchison showed us a bit of his game in Vegas this summer. This was a key addition needed for a team that has lacked a true Small Forward player since the trade of Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves. The four-year college player looks to make a smooth transition to the NBA and could find a starting role with the Bulls sooner rather than later. His NBA development looks like it will take a bit longer over Carter Jr. but he is still going to play a key role this season. He will likely start training camp behind Holiday and Valentine, but this could change quickly.
The other big flashy move of this offseason was made in Free Agency. The re-signing of Zach LaVine and the addition of hometown boy Jabari Parker. LaVine had an up and down campaign last year and is looking to have a strong full season back for the first time since his ACL tear a few years ago. LaVine eyes a starting role heading into training camp this year, and barring any major setbacks looks to take on a leadership role with the young team as well.
Now, let’s talk Jabari Parker. The Bulls get a hometown guy, the first since Derrick Rose, one a deal that is less costly than people think. Yes, in terms of money it isn’t cheap, but if Parker does not perform as expected he can be let go after this year, and if he goes through the roof the team can exercise their option and look to lock him up long term. Just like LaVine, Parker is looking to have a strong full season since his second ACL tear. The storyline for him is to see if he can perform at small-forward. A traditional power forward, fitting in Hoiberg’s offensive system will dictate his success.
Looking ahead to training camp, anything can happen, and different players could rise and fall during that period. Before anything happens, here is my pre-training camp starting lineup prediction:
Center: Wendell Carter Jr.
Power Forward: Lauri Markkanen
Small Forward: Denzel Valentine
Shooting Guard: Zach LaVine
Point Guard: Kris Dunn
Again, anything can change over the course of training camp and the pre-season, but this is the best bet, in my opinion, for the team to take a step forward in the rebuild and be competitive.
The last word before training camp gets underway shortly is going to be win predictions. Last season, the Bulls put together a measly 27-55 record. Most sports sites and odd predictors have them right around the same mark, or even less. I find this hard to agree with, as I see this as one of the better off-seasons the Bulls have had in recent memory. These numbers only change how quickly the young players grow this season. If they take a big step forward, it could be a sleeper team around 40 wins. Most likely though, do the young core and lack of experience, the Bulls will land between 30-35 wins.