Bulls should be much better this season, unless they're not
The start of this Bulls' season could be compared to a Pachinko machine.
Coach Jim Boylen is about to flip a ball bearing up into a grid of pins and there's no telling which way it could bounce. The regular season starts Wednesday in Charlotte.
With such a wide variety of outcomes for the Bulls, maybe it's best to preview this season with a point-counterpoint essay. In general, the Bulls figure to be better this year. But making the playoffs, being the worst team in the league and everything in between seem to be conceivable results. So here goes:
The Bulls are certain to be better this season. The younger players are more experienced, there are veterans around to lead the way and this is a pretty talented group when everyone's on the floor.
This team is more fragile than the NBA's relationship with China. It's only a matter of time before half the roster is on the sideline nursing injuries. Don't get your hopes up.
Zach LaVine scored at will in preseason, shot 56 percent from 3-point range. He's improved significantly every year he's been in the league and all signs point to his NBA All-Star debut happening at the United Center on Feb. 16.
LaVine might be one of the league's leading scorers, but he's never played on a team that's won more than 31 games. He doesn't know how to achieve team success.
Coby White was the steal of the 2019 draft. He's a confident, capable scorer who will remind Bulls fans of Ben Gordon's rookie season run to the Sixth Man Award.
White hit 3 of 30 shots from 3-point range at the Las Vegas summer league. His next slump is coming soon and it might be a doozy.
Lauri Markkanen established his blueprint for success last season when he went through a stretch of averaging 22 points and 13 rebounds. Those kind of numbers put him in the same territory as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis.
Yeah, but Markkanen's surge lasted only 16 games. He'll disappear before long and his 36-percent shooting from 3-point range isn't what the Bulls signed up for when they got him in the Jimmy Butler trade.
Otto Porter Jr. was exactly what the Bulls needed, an experienced small forward who can help spread the floor and create his own shot.
In Washington, Porter was a third wheel who was most comfortable watching Bradley Beal and John Wall shoot at will. And why is Porter getting the "Kawhi Leonard treatment" when it comes to load management when he's done nothing that resembles Leonard on the court?
Wendell Carter Jr. does so much that doesn't show up in the box score. He's the leader of the Bulls' defensive effort, can protect the rim and is the best communicator on the floor.
Sure, Carter could be good. But he's had two surgeries and a tailbone injury in 2019 alone. Keeping him on the floor is the problem.
Kris Dunn worked his tail off defensively in preseason. He's brought a team-first attitude to the new season and will surprise everyone with how much he contributes.
Dunn will be traded for a second-round pick and the next Joffrey Lauvergne before midseason. And what happened to his promise of learning how to make 3-pointers this summer?
Thaddeus Young was the perfect addition this summer. He was a starter on an overachieving playoff team in Indiana and will bring that attitude to the Bulls.
Young was also a high-motor, hustle player throughout his NBA career. That method has a shelf life.
The Bulls are finally joining the modern NBA and emphasizing the 3-point shot. They ranked sixth in the league during preseason by averaging 39.4 attempts from long range.
They also ranked 21st in 3-point percentage in preseason. If you can't make them, it's better not to launch.
The Bulls have better depth and will be able to survive injuries this season.
They have more depth than last season, but that doesn't mean it's a good supporting cast by NBA standards. And what's up with their two-way players? During preseason, Adam Mokoka seemed to follow in the great tradition of Rawle Alkins and Brandon Sampson, two guys who weren't even part of Windy City's best lineup last year.
Forty wins will make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. The bar is reachable.
And 20 wins won't make the playoffs. Just wait until the injuries start piling up.
With that, let's get ready for tip-off. The Bulls 2019-20 season: A lot could happen.