The Chicago Bulls will tip-off their preseason home opener against the Milwaukee Bucks after five long months without Bulls basketball. Jim Boylen will be coming into his first full season coaching the Bulls after replacing Fred Hoiberg a season ago. Heavy expectations will be placed on the coach’s shoulders as Chicago enters the third year of their rebuilding process.
Throughout the offseason, Boylen has made it clear that he would like for his club to reach the playoffs after a two-year drought.
As of now, the Bulls finally have the personnel to make that dream a reality. The continued development of their core players along with some nice acquisitions during the summer has Chicago trending in an upward trajectory.
As we approach the opener, there will be three keys to look out for during the preseason that will prove to be significant in the success of the Bulls this upcoming season.
Offense and Pace
Last season, the Bulls were one of the worst offensive teams in the league — not to mention one of the slowest. Those are mind-baffling characteristics considering the fact that they were the second-youngest team in the league a season ago and possessed a myriad of versatile athletes. Boylen enforced his outdated brand of basketball which, subsequently, compromised the players’ abilities.
As a result, Jim Boylen received a great deal of criticism for his coaching methods. Nonetheless, coming into this season, their offensive pace has been made a key point of emphasis for the 2019-2020 season.
After ranking 29th on the offensive end with a rating of 104.5 and placing 20th in the league in pace, Chicago seeks to improve that aspect of their game tremendously.
Young teams like the Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings have continuously showcased their abilities with a run-and-gun offensive style of play. It’s imperative that the Bulls use their youth when given the chance, especially when their talent level is greater than the aforementioned teams.
Throughout the preseason, I want to see this team run — A LOT. Players like Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison, Denzel Valentine, Coby White, and even Lauri Markkanen will heavily benefit from this brand of basketball. Running will lead to transition buckets and open three point shots. Let them run, Boylen!
Coby White’s Role
Over the summer, the Chicago Bulls selected North Carolina guard Coby White with the seventh overall pick. With this selection, they added an athletic combo guard that thrives in the open court with his nifty playmaking abilities and quickness. White’s greatest strength and contribution to this team will be his play in transition, which directly correlates with the Bulls new style this season.
Heading into the offseason, the front office desperately wanted to upgrade at the point guard position. With the addition of White, Chicago also acquired Tomas Satoransky via sign-and-trade, re-signed Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaquille Harrison, and former starter Kris Dunn is still in the mix. This ultimately has created a logjam at the point guard position, which begs the question: what will Coby White’s role be with the Chicago Bulls?
Standing at 6-foot-5, White has the ability to play either guard position, making him a valuable player in today’s NBA. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the UNC product will be the starter this season. However, Jim Boylen addressed the media about the point guard position and how he’ll mix up the lineups throughout the preseason.
For this season, I envision Coby White being the first man called off the bench with the duty of providing instant offense. He still lacks the necessary decision-making to lead a team that is gunning for the playoffs, but, who knows, his preseason play might say otherwise — stay tuned.
The Continued Development of Lauri Markkanen
Last season, Markkanen averaged 18.7 points, nine rebounds, and 36 percent shooting from three in 52 games.
His health will play a critical role as he enters his third year in the league. As a 7-footer, Markkanen has the ability to shoot on all three levels on the court. This provides the Bulls with a big that can stretch the floor, which is an extremely valued trait in this new era of basketball.
In year three, it’s essential that Markkanen continues his path to stardom by significantly improving. He must take the next step if the Bulls hope to reach their maximum potential.
This season, the Finnish big should average 20-plus points and around 10 rebounds. His added muscle and weight will largely contribute to easy points in the paint and more fierce rebounding.
Zach LaVine is currently Chicago’s best player, but Markkanen is the most important player on the team. If he plateaus this season and shows no improvements, then the Bulls will end up right where they started — a mediocre first-round exit team. However, if he continues his ascension to stardom, then the city of Chicago is in good hands.
Throughout preseason action, I would like to see the Bulls run their offense through Lauri, once again, as we saw in the month of February. Markkanen averaged 18 shot attempts in February while scoring 26 points a game and collecting 12 rebounds all while shooting 49 percent from the field and 38 from beyond the arc.
This 22-year-old can ball, and if Boylen continues to run sets through him, then expect a breakout year for the kid.
Bulls basketball is officially back in action.
Featured Photo: NBA.com