BY SAM ROTH | Ball State Sports Link
With opening night and our first slate of games past us, NBA basketball rears it’s beautiful face around the corner for another season.
Some fans will sleep tight envisioning Kyrie Irving gracefully dancing with the ball in the Boston green and white, others will be daydreaming about Thunder death lineups with Westbrook/Roberson/PG/Melo/PPat/Adams.
Meanwhile, the majority of NBA fans will be watching teams that aren’t realistically in the title race. Instead, we are given new faces, new team identities and promises of internal growth.
All while we look forward to next season refreshing www.tankathon.com and working the trade machine when the season ends up being more unbearable than we thought it would be.
One of these many teams is the 2017-2018 Chicago Bulls.
Handing Over The Keys To Dunn
So a rookie point guard had a bad season, it’s definitely not been the first time, nor will it be the last time. Because of Kris Dunn’s poor box score showing, people were quick to write him off last year.
But the former Friar was too good on the defensive end to be compared to the rest of the Bulls point-guard carousel. Dunn’s pass perception and high defensive IQ, matched with his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame and wingspan, had him swatting and swiping at the ball often last year.
Among guards, Dunn was able to finish with in steal percentage,second in block percentage, and fithagain in Def +/-. Who’s to say that the second year player can’t translate that athleticism to the other end next year?
Dunn showed flashes of his driving and dishing potential last year, and his jump shooting can go nowhere but up. The opportunity for him will be much bigger this year, so look forward to him learning and building confidence this season.
LaVine Embracing No. 1 Option
Just in case you forgot, go ahead and remind yourself just how special of a player LaVine is.
With Jimmy Buckets and Dwayne Wade out of town, this high flyer has big shoes to fill at the shooting guard position for the Bulls in 2017-18. LaVine said on media day: “I think I’m going to be better than I was before. I know I am a big part of this team.”
Luckily for them, LaVine has risen to the challenge by improving his efficiency as a shooter every single year. But this year provides an even bigger challenge for LaVine, as he will be expected to move up from being the third option in Minnesota to being the first option in his new situation.
The two-time dunk champ definitely has the athletic ability to thrive in this new role. It will be interesting to see how he plans to create open looks for himself without having the defensive attention Towns and Wiggins drew from him last year.
Tall, Stretchy Frontcourt?
Well before the Bulls can play with said frontcourt, they probably need to stop punching each other in the face.
It is hard to imagine what the encounter between Mirotic and Portis was, but there are a few clear things that both sides can learn from this. Bobby, punching the starting power forward will not make you the starting power forward. Nikola, do not pick a fight with the guy nicknamed “Crazy Eyes”.
When Portis comes back though, he should be in one of the more intriguing lineups the Bulls run with this year. That lineup will be any time their seventh overall pick Lauri Markkanen is alongside the aforementioned third-year player Bobby Portis.
Admittedly, the interior defense would leave something to be desired. If we want to be honest with ourselves, Mirotic and Lopez are definitely better players at this point and time. But part of the fun in being on a rebuilding team is saying “Who cares?”
The idea of having two big men on the floor who move well with the ball and off the ball, with the potential to be able to shoot it anywhere on the floor, will be too tantalizing to resist.
Their games are similar but each has niches. Portis is a little tougher and tenacious when compared to Lauri who projects as more of a graceful shot creator. Imagine the room that the aforementioned Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine would have to work in the paint due to the spacing potential of both of these players.
Here’s hoping the “unwatchaBulls” might just be watchable.