Trade away Jimmy Buckets, give away the steal of the second round in Jordan Bell, jaw breaking issues in practice, shipping Dwyane Wade out of town. The list goes on, but some of these events may wind up for the best or maybe not. Time can only tell.
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But what about right now? Okay, not going to sugar coat it. The Bulls are still in the worst tier of teams in the league. Maybe the worst team, maybe 27th out of 30 as it stands now. So really, let’s stop beating around the bush. We all know this is a rebuild. Let’s judge this team moving forward based on being a rebuild, seeing what is promising for the future.
First, the lottery odds. Right now the Bulls will have the 3rd most ping pong balls to land a top selection. Even a 3rd pick would be okay, but like every year, there seems to be a ton of hype built around a small handful. Until the tourney, who knows. Even a top-3 pick could turn around the franchise and it seems like most chips are on the draft square.
Lauri Markkanen, the seven foot tall 7th round pick out of Arizona is easily the biggest reason to get excited about the future of this team. Some say he was the most NBA ready as a shooter out of this draft. Showing good decisions and an accurate release, Markkanen has been the real deal. At only 20 years of age, Lauri is the future of the franchise.
Denzel Valentine is starting to get into his groove and show that high basketball IQ that fans have been waiting to see. Right now, Valentine leads the team in 3p% on a healthy shooting volume. A nice improvement over his rookie campaign where he was either injured or missing team chemistry to make much of an impact. If Denzel stays healthy, there is little reason to believe he wont continue improving.
What happens when the Bulls sign an undrafted rookie, and he winds up energizing the team on nearly a nightly basis? Antonio Blakeney might be a flash in the pan, but his resume might suggest otherwise. The next question is, how often does a former McDonald’s High School All-American go undrafted? At 21 years old, the Bulls might have one of the best low-risk development projects in the entire league. The Bulls currently have him on a two-way contract, meaning his salary is dependent on whether he plays in the NBA or in the development G-League. It could be incentives driving his effort, or it could be the real deal needing proper development and coaching.
83.6 million dollars. That’s dead last in the league for payroll. Okay, so yes, the team doesn’t have the best reputation for spending. But when you’re that low and next season the team will also have the lowest payroll burden when factoring in how many players will be on contract, the Bulls wind up with arguably the most flexibility in the entire league. Depending on how you measure cap flexibility, even if the Philadelphia 76ers, who have a lot of re-signings in 2018, that’s just one other team.
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Where did Kris Dunn come from? He was hyped as rookie last season. He also made rookie mistakes up the wazoo. As a sophomore, things have changed. Dunn’s health is getting on track. His conditioning and game-to-game preparations have been honing in on the skills that made him a fifth overall selection last year. Like Valentine, Dunn in 2017/18 is a noticeable improvement. Currently 3rd in the league in steals per game, he is doing it on both ends of the floor.
Last but possibly not least. The great hype of that Minnesota trade. Zachary LaVine. His chapter in a Bulls uniform has not been written yet. But we’re going to get an early peek of what is to come in the not too distant future after being cleared for contact. Zach LaVine may never recapture his full athleticism to same extent as before tearing his left ACL. However, he was so explosive that even a shell of his former self is likely to be a very productive player on a young team. After all, he’s only 22 years old himself.