The Chicago Bulls open their 2020-21 season at the United Center on December 23rd at 7:00 PM CT against the Atlanta Hawks. Coming off of one of the most eventful offseasons in the NBA, Artūras Karnišovas takes over for John Paxson as Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations and Marc Eversley fills Gar Forman’s position as general manager. Additionally, Billy Donovan will be roaming the sidelines as head coach following the departure of Jim Boylen.
A feeling of excitement radiates from Bulls fans, which is something they haven’t experienced in a while. Before the season officially tips off, the Bulls On Tap writers got together to air their predictions for how the season will play out.
What Will You Be Watching For Closely This Season?
Matt Berklan: I’m looking to see whose growth was stunted by Boylen.
Buzz: I’m watching for three words: Positive. Player. Development.
Ryan Dreyer: I’m looking for how Billy Donovan gets the young players to their next stage of development while remaining competitive and how he’s able to get the most out of Lauri Markkanen’s unique skillset.
Justin Wasik: I’m looking at how Billy Donovan coaches this team. He had superstars in Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul on past teams. He doesn’t have that luxury this time around.
Rob Wegley: I want to see if Zach LaVine puts things together as an off-ball defender. He says he’s hungry to improve and show that he’s a complete player, so let’s see it on the floor.
What is Your Win-Loss Prediction for the Bulls?
Matt Berklan: 35-37.
Buzz: Between 32-40 and 35-37.
Ryan Dreyer: 36-36.
Justin Wasik: 26-46.
Rob Wegley: Color me less optimistic than Berk, Buzz, and Ryan but slightly more than Justin. 28-44.
What Does Zach LaVine’s Stat Line Look Like?
Matt Berklan: 25/4/6.
Ryan Dreyer: 25/6/7.
Justin Wasik: 24/5/4.
Rob Wegley: 27/5/4.
Expectations for Patrick Williams’s Rookie Year?
Matt Berklan: My expectations are optimistic due to Williams’ ability to hop right in during the preseason. As long as Otto Porter Jr. is here, I expect Williams to put up modest numbers. When OPJ is traded at the deadline, I expect Williams to become a guy that is top-five in his class to finish out the year.
Buzz: Not much. He will show flashes of explosiveness but struggle offensively.
Ryan Dreyer: His game reminds me of Kawhi Leonard when he first came into the league. I think he’s one of those guys that can go for a triple-double every night. But, in his first year, I’m looking more for signs of healthy development. Hustle, defense, rebounding, getting the ball where it needs to go, hitting the open shot, etc.
Justin Wasik: I think you will see improvement throughout the season. The shorter season will help Williams too, but he may fade a bit down the stretch like a lot of rookies. I think he will be a full-fledged starter by season’s end.
Rob Wegley: I think Williams comes off the bench and performs decently. Nothing too eye-popping though. Realistically, I feel like Otto Porter Jr. needs to start for trade value’s sake, but Patrick Williams showed out a bit this preseason. He’ll put up a stat line of around 11/5/3 while shooting a decent percentage from the field, but he’ll struggle from deep and keep falling for those pump fakes.
Who is Your Surprise Breakout Player for 2020-21?
Matt Berklan: Daniel Gafford. He will elevate himself to a status where he’s considered a steal of a draft pick. Wendell Carter Jr.’s disappointing play will afford Gafford extra minutes.
Buzz: I’m calling it it now for the record: Lauri Markkanen is returning to form in 2020-21.
Ryan Dreyer: I think Coby White is destined for stardom. He’s going to make his first NBA All-Star team, or, at the very least, he’s going to come up a few votes short.
Justin Wasik: If Chandler Hutchison can stay healthy, I’m really interested to see his contribution. I think he can be a 12-13 PPG, 6-7 RPG type of player. That would be huge off the bench.
Rob Wegley: Sign me up for the Tomáš Satoranský fan club. He should excel in Billy Donovan’s offense, and he’s said he was too passive at times last year. Of course, Coby White should obviously start, but watch for some clutch Satoranský moments off the bench.
Who is Your Most Disappointing Player?
Matt Berklan: Wendell Carter Jr. He will stray away from his mid-range/inside game and force shots outside, tanking his offensive metrics. That will cause him to be over-aggressive on defense and get into foul trouble.
Buzz: Otto Porter Jr.
Ryan Dreyer: I’m not a Wendell Carter Jr. fan. I think they should trade him while he still has value. If they wait too long, they’ll get nothing in return.
Justin Wasik: It’s Otto Porter Jr. for me. I’ve never been truly impressed with him as a player, and I think Patrick Williams will take some of his minutes. Also, I can foresee injuries reoccurring.
Rob Wegley: I’ll side with Matt and Ryan here. Watching preseason action, WCJ just doesn’t look like he has it all together for this season. I considered Chandler Hutchison, but Carter Jr. is my pick, too.
What Do You See as The Most Likely In-Season Transaction?
Matt Berklan: Otto Porter Jr. is traded.
BuzzOnTap: Same as Berklan: Otto Porter Jr. is traded.
Ryan Dreyer: Wendell Carter Jr. is traded.
Justin Wasik: An OPJ trade is probably the most likely if he stays healthy. If that scenario doesn’t come to fruition, I could also see a Lauri Markkanen trade granted he plays well but the Bulls are still nowhere near playoff contention.
Rob Wegley: The most logical move is an Otto Porter Jr trade. Hopefully, some contending team throws a future first-round pick to the Bulls in exchange for his shooting ability off the bench if he can stay healthy.
Weirdest Thing That Will Happen This Season
- Examples: 40-point Felicio game, Paxson breaks into the United Center to boo the team during a game, etc.
Matt Berklan: Devon Dotson will get in a game early and score 20-plus points.
Buzz: Coby White will log double-digit assists over a five-game stretch.
Ryan Dreyer: Daniel Gafford will record ten-plus blocks in a game.
Justin Wasik: Coby White will hit eight three-pointers in one quarter, breaking his own franchise record.
Rob Wegley: I’m going to stick with one of my examples. With WCJ and Lauri injured, Thaddeus Young traded, and Daniel Gafford in early foul trouble, Cristiano Felício will step up and score 40 points out of nowhere.
What are your predictions for the 2020-21 season, Bulls fans? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter:
- Matt Berklan: @ChiBerk96
- Buzz: @BuzzOnTap
- Ryan Dreyer: @Ryan_ADreyer
- Justin Wasik: @just_wasik
- Rob Wegley: @BullsGuyRob
Be sure to tune in to the Bulls On Tap podcast all season for postgame shows, news updates, player analysis, and additional Bulls commentary.