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updated: 10/5/2017 7:07 PM

Bulls show some positives, but have no margin for error

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  • Bulls guards Jarell Eddie (31) and Denzel Valentine celebrates after after Eddie sank a 3-point shot during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Tuesday. The two-game trip to open preseason taught us a few things about the Bulls. For starters, the goal is constant ball movement, and they are still waiting to see if Kris Dunn is an NBA-caliber point guard.

    Bulls guards Jarell Eddie (31) and Denzel Valentine celebrates after after Eddie sank a 3-point shot during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Tuesday. The two-game trip to open preseason taught us a few things about the Bulls. For starters, the goal is constant ball movement, and they are still waiting to see if Kris Dunn is an NBA-caliber point guard.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Chicago Bulls' two-game trip to open preseason featured a few surprises.

First of all, they won a game, rallying from an early 16-point deficit to beat New Orleans on Tuesday. The following night in Dallas, the Bulls were competitive most of the way, but outscored 44-11 in a pitiful fourth quarter.

"There is going to be a lot of adversity this season," guard Justin Holiday said after the Dallas game on bulls.com.

"It was good for us to go through this and hopefully we can learn from this now because I'm sure this won't be the only time this happens. We have to tell the young guys to keep pushing."

The Bulls will play their first home game Friday against Milwaukee. It's still early and the rebuilding Bulls don't plan on winning many games this season, but here are a couple of take-aways from the start of the preseason:

Not a Dunn deal: With Cameron Payne on the shelf after foot surgery, newcomer Kris Dunn figured to have no competition for "point guard of the future."

Not so fast. Jerian Grant actually started at point guard against New Orleans and looked pretty good.

Grant produced 16 points and 14 assists in the two games, playing just 20 minutes per night.

Dunn, meanwhile, lived up to his reputation as a poor shooter, going 1-for-9 from the field at Dallas, though he did dish out a team-high 6 assists.

Dunn has good size and he's a strong defender, but coming off a poor rookie season in Minnesota, there is some pressure to prove he's an NBA-caliber starter. Grant has already made this a battle.

Lopez has value: Robin Lopez continued last year's trend of being a solid, steady contributor. Early in the Dallas game, the Bulls went to him in the post against Dirk Nowitzki and Lopez drew a couple fouls. He's also knocking down the foul-line jumper consistently.

His future here is unclear. If the Bulls could get a mid-first round draft pick in return, they might trade him away. At the same time, Lopez is 29 and could conceivably keep his current role if the Bulls manage to improve relatively quickly.

Octoberfest rolls on: During last season's playoffs, second-round pick Paul Zipser got playing time and first-round pick Denzel Valentine didn't. Not much has changed.

Germany native Zipser was solid in the first two games and continues to look like someone who has a chance to be a valuable piece in the rebuild.

Valentine remains a 3-point threat -- he went 4-for-7 against the Pelicans -- and is still getting comfortable with NBA competition.

Ups and downs ahead: The Bulls are trying to incorporate the 3-point shot as a significant weapon and rookie Lauri Markkanen might help with that when he returns from a sore back.

More often than not, the Bulls' chances of being competitive in games will depend on whether their outside shots fall. The Bulls shot it well against New Orleans, then went 7-for-29 against Dallas.

"We let our lack of shot making affect us on the other end," coach Fred Hoiberg said after the Dallas game. "And then we came back and tried to get it back individually, but you can't do that."

It seems clear Hoiberg is trying to sell this group on constant ball movement, which can generate open looks and opportunities for everyone on the floor.

When that formula clicks, the Bulls will have a chance to stay competitive this season. They had seven players score in double figures against New Orleans.

When the shots don't fall, things can get ugly in a hurry, as the Dallas game demonstrated.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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