Why it's getting easier to imagine a brighter future for Bulls

 
 
Updated 2/15/2019 8:21 AM
hello
  • Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. is making a big difference in the offense during his short tenure with the team.

    Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. is making a big difference in the offense during his short tenure with the team. Associated Press

  • Bulls head coach Jim Boylen has the team playing a more up-tempo game lately and it shows in the offensive numbers.

    Bulls head coach Jim Boylen has the team playing a more up-tempo game lately and it shows in the offensive numbers. Associated Press

OK, maybe it doesn't make sense to suggest positive thoughts about the Bulls' future a day after they snapped a franchise-record 11-game home losing streak.

But it was possible to imagine a path to better success after Wednesday's win over Memphis, both in scheme and personnel.

For starters, Otto Porter Jr. looks like a nice fit for the rebuild. It took him just four games, and one official practice, to reach a career-high of 37 points. Keep in mind, Porter spent six seasons in Washington as the third option behind Bradley Beal and John Wall.

Porter has been nearly lights-out with his shooting touch, going 11-for-19 from 3-point land so far. During his time with the Wizards, he suited up in second-round playoff games, which is two rounds farther than most of his Bulls teammates have ever been.

"On our team, a six-year player is almost like a vet, so he definitely has seen a lot," Lauri Markkanen said. "He knows what he's talking about."

Another significant change has been the style of offense. Jim Boylen wanted to stress defense when he first took over for Fred Hoiberg Dec. 3 and slowed down the pace. The Bulls quickly became the worst offensive team in the NBA.

In the last few weeks, though, the Bulls have gone back to pushing the tempo. The plan is now to get the rebound and go, which could mean the point guard, Porter, Markkanen or Zach LaVine bringing the ball upcourt. The idea is to keep the defense on its heels, create a mismatch, then get the ball to the right guy.

"It just gets us out and gets us at a fast pace," LaVine said. "Yeah, I'll take it all day. It's a lot better than slowing it down."

The numbers tell an interesting story. Over the last eight games, the Bulls are shooting exactly 50 percent from the field as a team. During that time, they rank in the top 10 in the NBA in points per game, offensive rating, even 3-point percentage.

In the four games since Porter arrived, the top scorers are LaVine at 23.5 point per game, Markkanen with 23 and Porter at 22.5. Porter is shooting 62 percent from the field, with LaVine at 55.6 percent while averaging 6.3 assists.

This isn't a bad blueprint for the future -- three equal alphas where all three can play multiple positions, score inside or out and any of the three can initiate the offense. Even Robin Lopez is having one the best offensive runs of his career, averaging 18 points on 67-percent shooting since Porter arrived.

The defense has a long way to go, but the Bulls figure that will improve when center Wendell Carter Jr. is healthy, and by adding a few veterans this summer.

"(The new offense) helps," Porter said after Wednesday's game. "You can get out and break a lot more, guys can make plays all over the floor, and we've got shooters."

One player that doesn't seem to fit is Kris Dunn. That doesn't necessarily mean Dunn isn't right for the Bulls. Maybe he should come off the bench and take on the role of being the second unit's main scorer, a job vacated by Bobby Portis.

Dunn was his team's primary offensive weapon in college at Providence. He seems to be more comfortable in that role and the Bulls have had some nice wins the past two years with Dunn being an aggressive scorer in a short-handed lineup. He just might not be the best fit in between LaVine, Porter and Markkanen.

So the Bulls might be looking around this summer for a veteran guard, maybe more of a shooter than facilitator. It's possible Ryan Arcidiacono or Denzel Valentine could end up in the role, or they could keep trying to make it work with Dunn, although he's eligible for an extension in the fall.

With just 24 games left in the regular season, it will be interesting to see if defenses adjust to the new scheme or if the Bulls keep rolling up the points.

Don't worry, there's not enough time left for the Bulls (14-44) to rise out of contention for one of the top draft picks. They'll have a good seat at the lottery.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.