Predicted finish: 12th in the East (3rd in the Central, 26 in the power rankings)
Last seasons conference finish: 11th in the East
Last year the Chicago Bulls had one of the worst coaches in recent NBA history and it showed. Now with a proven commodity like Billy Donovan, this team has potential to be the surprise team in the east just off competency at the coaching spot alone. For me though, I’m skeptical. I don’t think they have the point guard of the future on the roster, Zach Lavine is obviously not a number one and barring massive flip years from Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr, this team doesn’t have much high-level talent. Coby White, Markkanen and Carter all have the potential to be good but I’m not sure I see a future All-Star on this roster. To me it’s a ton of potential to be good but no one is really great. Patrick Williams has the possibility of being interesting however asking a guy who didn’t start in college to carry an NBA team feels unrealistic (to put it lightly) in year one. Like in the Knicks preview, I said this season is about finding who’s a part of the future going forward and getting a good draft pick in the stacked 2021 draft. I know Bulls fans have heard that same process for years and want change. To me, this roster just isn’t going to be the one that provides that for them.
The big question for the franchise: What is the future of Zach Lavine?
Zach Lavine is older than you think (26 in March) and coming to the end of his deal quickly with next year being his last. As someone who is quietly six years older than Williams, five than White and four than Carter, Lavine’s timeline feels different than the one in Chicago and I’d imagine he knows that too. If I was Bulls management, I’d be shopping him around the league because his skill set would be valuable to a ton of teams around the league. There’s so many Orlando and Philadelphia’s out there who need help as playoff potential teams with scoring the basketball and stretching the floor. If this team was closer to a playoff one I’d be in on keeping him but if their best, everything goes right scenario is like the seven or eight seed, it still would feel like he isn’t long for Chicago. He’s a great talent and I would get keeping him, especially if he takes another leap this season to All-Star. However at 25 I feel like we know what he is and I’m not sure that guy makes a ton of sense on the Bulls after this season.
One move I want to see them make: Trade Satoransky, Young and Porter for assets if possible
In line with my wanting them to move Lavine is the hope they move Satoransky, Young, Porter and any other veteran taking a young guy’s minutes. If I’m the Bulls, I need to find out if for example Coby White is my point guard of the future. Satoransky taking those minutes or reps in a close game just doesn’t help me going forward, particularly since so many contenders are desperate for the point guard help he could provide. The same goes for Young and Markkanen and Porter and Williams, their minutes on this team just flatly feels unnecessary in 2021 so we may as well see what we can get on the open market. With such a loaded top fiveish of this draft, knowing what positions you need will be integral to finding a young star and so I think that’s where the Bulls should have their eyes.
Offseason Grade: C+
The reality is since this team didn’t really sign or lose anyone of note, how this offseason will be remembered will largely rest on the pick of Williams. Donovan of course has the chance to be a good hire but I don’t think he’s franchise altering. Williams maximizing the potential he has could be though and that’s what has to excite Bulls fans. He may not have the floor of Deni Avdija or Obi Toppin but his ceiling is right there with anyone in the draft and you have to respect that type of swing from a management team in its first draft. If Williams hits, this offseason was an A+. If not, it was a C. Until we have some idea on him though, it’ll be hard to grade this as anything other than a C+.
Young player I’m excited for: Wendell Carter Jr.
I loved Carter coming out of Duke and frankly, I think since then the Bulls have done their best hatchet job of him succeeding. Now with Donovan though I’m optimistic. My pro comp for him coming out was Al Horford, guess who won two national titles with Horford at Florida? By the end of year three we usually have a strong idea of who a player is and right now it’s not looking great for Carter going into that decisive season. However, for really the first time in his pro career he’s set up for success and that has me excited. Hopefully now he can hold up his end of the bargain and just stay healthy.
Just like it seems every year, some people are really high on the Bulls. For me, I just don’t get it. Their veterans are below average, Lavine just isn’t a star and the young players on their roster don’t seem like stars to me either. That’s why I think it’s another long year in the Windy City. With at least 11 teams not including them in the East that think they’re playoff teams, getting around so many of them for the playoffs for this roster will be tough. I just see a stronger benefit for them in moving on from Lavine and their veterans, drafting high in 2021 and coming back revamped. Right now it seems like their fans and some in the organization want to be in the 7 through 10 range in the conference and to me, that’s NBA purgatory and not a real win for a franchise missing that one defining piece to be truly good again.