The Bulls end to February offers hope for future as NBA Season winds down

Let’s be honest. Our beloved Chicago Bulls haven’t provided much to get excited about over the course of this 2018-19 NBA season. Currently sitting with the third worst record in the Eastern Conference at 16-44, the Bulls are out of playoff contention and probably won’t surpass 30 wins.

Fortunately, the team has gained traction in recent weeks, both before and after the NBA All-Star game. As a nod to the Bulls wrapping up a fine February, we present a look at a few of the highlights happening right now.

The Markkanen and LaVine Fireworks Show

While not exactly paying dividends in the wins column yet, the Bulls offense is improving. Head coach Jim Boylen his fostering an increasingly aggressive offense in recent months, a style of play better suited to his fast-moving shooters. The quicker pace has especially benefited Lauri Markkanen and Zach Lavine.

Markkanen struggled to find his mark when he returned from an elbow injury to the Bulls active roster in early December. Those kinks appear to be worked out as the 21-year-old has provided impressive firepower throughout February, even kicking off the month with three consecutive 30-point games. He’s averaging 25.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists and a 49 percent field goal average.

LaVine has also been red-hot on the month while averaging 23.3 points, 5.8 assists, and 5.2 rebounds. He’s currently shooting 54.2 percent from the field and 41.7 percent beyond the three-point line. LaVine is also making strides in the ball control department by minimizing his turnovers.
The efforts of Markkanen and LaVine are likely too little too late for Chicago to dramatically change course, but the dynamic duo does provide some invigorating fuel for the fans.

Robin Lopez Thrives Amidst Uncertainty

Robin Lopez’s future with Chicago has been the topic of conversation and speculation for much of the season. Many assumed he would be shipped out of town before the February 7 trade deadline. 

The move failed to materialize, and Lopez is enjoying a subsequent hot streak. The 30-year-old has posted seven consecutive double-digit scoring games on the month through February 23. He’s averaging 15.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists during the span.

Will a hot February inspire Bulls fans to come out to the United Center? Photo via Mack Male / CC BY-SA 2.0

Week-Over-Week improvement

The NBA season is an 82-game affair-a long, grueling slog in which it’s easy to lose sight of the short-term positives. A glimpse at recent weeks shows Chicago inching in the right direction. The Bulls were an even 2-2 on the week before the All-Star Game, an interval marked by wins against the Nets and Grizzlies and drops to the Wizards and Eastern Conference-leading Bucks. 

By contrast, Milwaukee went 3-1 over the same week, dropping one to Orlando, winning over the Bulls, notching a predicted victory against the Pacers, and trouncing the Mavericks. Since the All-Star break, both the Bulls and Bucks are 2-0.

Is this a truly significant observation? Maybe not, but we’re here to shine a light on the current upsides.

A Top-Four Draft Pick

It’s a cliched silver lining for the basement dwellers in any NBA season. And it wouldn’t warrant special mention if the Bulls possessed more bright spots in 2019.

We’ll go ahead and state the obvious: the worse Chicago finishes out the season, the better their chances to secure a top-four pick in the NBA Draft on June 20. 

The Bulls position on draft day will be decided by the NBA Draft Lottery on May 20. New rules impacting the lottery are in effect this year giving the teams with the three worst records a 14 percent shot each at the top pick.

Chicago stands just outside this cusp as the owner of the league’s fourth-worst record. The Bulls are in contention if they drop below Phoenix, New York, or Cleveland. Chicago has a 48.1 percent chance of winning a top-four pick if they maintain their current place in the standings.

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