2019-2020 Record: 22-43
- Billy Donovan (Head Coach)
- Artūras Karnišovas (VP of Basketball Operations)
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The Chicago Bulls had a disappointing season by anyone’s measure, as they had a promising group of talent on paper and couldn’t quite translate that to success on the court. The Bulls front office took the heat and a massive shake up ensued. For the first time in almost a decade, Bulls fans have some hope for a franchise that has been reeling since Derrick Rose suffered a catastrophic knee injury in the closing minutes of a first round 2012 playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Head coach Jim Boylen is out in favor of Billy Donovan, who is coming off a near-historic upset of the Houston Rockets in his last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Vice president of basketball operations, John Paxson, and general manager Gar Forman are out. Artūras Karnišovas, who built something out of nothing with the Denver Nuggets, is the new vice president of basketball operations. Marc Eversley, who helped the Philadelphia 76ers go from a joke to a real contender, is the new general manager of your Chicago Bulls.
As far as the roster goes, the Chicago Bulls will most likely look to stand pat. They’ll be banking on a rebound from star forward Lauri Markkanen, the return of Otto Porter Jr. from injury, and the continued development of Zach LaVine in a leadership role. The emergence of Coby White will also play into the franchise’s plans, as they see whether or not it’s time to add some veterans or blow it up for a rebuild.
The Chicago Bulls also hold the fourth pick in this year’s draft. They should be able to add a very nice piece to their squad to help.
Coby White should be the de facto starter on opening night. He showed some brilliant flashes last season, particularly after the all-star break. Among rookies, he also ranked 8th in scoring and 6th in assists despite ranking just 13th in minutes per game. Billy Donovan was primarily brought in to be a developmental coach for the young talent on this roster, so the speculation is that Coby will have a VERY long leash. Coby isn’t a guy I’m targeting aggressively, but he’ll make an interesting flyer in later rounds of most drafts with his ability to put points up in bunches. If he can improve on his 39/35/79 shooting splits and prove he has the ability to consistently distribute the ball, he’ll far surpass his average draft position in most scenarios. If you’re in a points league, consider bumping him up a bit on your big board.
Behind Coby is last year’s starter, Tomáš Satoranský. While the eye test may have led some fans to believe he had a disappointing season, he actually did better on most of his per-36 numbers compared to his previous season. His value really comes from being consistent and efficient, so he’ll be a popular waiver wire pickup and someone you should keep an eye on throughout the season. He will still get ample run even if Coby gets 30+ minutes per game with his ability to play and defend the 1-3 positions with his wiry 6’7″ frame.
The odd men out are crowd and coach-favorite Ryan Arcidiacono and steals specialist Kris Dunn. “Archie” can safely be avoided in all formats, though he’s a treat to watch if you like players in the NBA that hustle. Dunn is currently not under contract. More on that later.
Returning for his fourth season for the Chicago Bulls will be budding star Zach LaVine. Zach is a fantastic player and, even though I’m a critic, he really did impress me last season. His ability to score is elite, as are the 45/38/80 shooting splits. He stole the ball a lot more last season, but had a pretty much average LaVine season with a nice uptick in scoring that coincided with increased usage. I usually use Yahoo! as a starting point in my rankings and they had him as number 18 in 9-category leagues at the end of last season.
I think that’s lofty, but he’s someone I would definitely consider targeting as the early rounds are coming to an end. He was very vocal about his dislike of Jim Boylen’s coaching style, so the move to Billy Donovan can only help him out.
Behind Zach LaVine is truly a huge black hole for these Chicago Bulls. Denzel Valentine, who showed flashes of promise in his sophomore season, returned from a full year absence last year and had a few promising games. However, he isn’t currently under contract and hasn’t proven he can stay healthy. A scoring punch or nice perimeter defender should be what the Bulls target in the upcoming draft, which I will cover below.
Is this the triumphant return of Otto Porter Jr.? One can only hope. Either way, we have to assume he’ll pick up his massive $28.4 million salary for next season, a sum he’s hardly earned in his combined 29 games the past two seasons for the Chicago Bulls. If he can return, it will be a boon to a very weak position for these Chicago Bulls.
In the 2018-19 season, which was split between the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls, OPJ scored with a true shooting percentage of .569%. That’s very good, and most of his value comes from being an offensive threat without sucking up a ton of usage. That would prove useful next to players like Zach LaVine and Coby White, but he needs to stay on the court. If he can stay healthy, he’ll be a solid mid-round guy and you’ll see him rostered on a lot of winning teams. At this moment though, that’s a huge if.
Behind OPJ is another hole the Bulls will look to fill through the draft. The subpar peformance of athletic swingman Chandler Hutchison simply will not cut it. Kris Dunn, Tomáš Satoranský, and Thaddeus Young all saw time at this position last season, but it remains to be seen if that’s a winning formula. I’m in the camp that it can’t be.
At the power forward position lies, perhaps, the season’s most important player: Lauri Markkanen. The Finnish sharpshooter was anything but impressive last season and coach Jim Boylen received most, if not all, of the blame. I personally think defenses have learned how to neutralize him by crowding his space and forcing him to put the ball on the floor, which he’s comfortable doing. As a result, the Bulls’ budding star could be in trouble.
Yet, many experts would disagree with that assessment, and we’ll have to wait and see if Billy Donovan’s system can turn things around for the 7-foot-tall, University of Arizona product. It’s possible he was never truly healthy last season, as he battled a multitude of nagging injuries. From a sprained elbow to a bruised pelvis and then a rapid heart rate, the big man had difficulty staying on the floor. And when he was on the floor, he was dishearteningly average.
Lauri will have to reverse the negative trend in his rebounding and scoring if the Bulls have any hope for the playoffs. And he’ll have to improve his 43/34/82 shooting splits as well, specifically from three-point range. If he can’t do that, the Bulls can no longer blame the coaching and will have to start looking elsewhere for their future success.
I’m a diehard Bulls fan and even I am not targeting Lauri Markannen in my leagues. If he slips towards the middle rounds, he’s a surefire value though.
Behind Lauri will be veteran big man Thaddeus Young and 7’2″ shooter Luke Kornet. Neither is hugely appealing in this situation, but considering Young has voiced his concern with playing time already, he may be on the move. If he winds up in the right situation, he may provide low end value for your team, but is not worth a roster spot to start the season.
Wendell Carter Jr. will still be the starting center, but he needs to stay healthy. He has only played in 44 and 43 games in his two seasons in the league, respectively. That’s not enough, and there’s a promising shot blocker in Daniel Gafford nipping at his heels for the starting gig.
WCJ has the potential to be a solid contributor, but he’s not going to knock your socks off. He nearly averaged a double-double in 29 minutes per game last season. He also averaged almost 4 fouls per game as well, which he’ll have to improve on. If he can stay on the floor, he’ll be a very solid low end option at the center position. He’s someone I’d keep in my back pocket if he’s available as fantasy drafts turn from mid to late rounds. If you need a center, you could do worse.
Daniel Gafford is an intriguing guy to keep your eye on as the season progresses, but leave him for the waiver wire. He has an uncanny ability to seek out the basketball for blocks. Per 36 minutes, he averaged 3.3 of them last season. If he sees extended run because Wendell Carter is hurt again, or because he finds an offensive game that works beyond the lob, he could be a boon for a fantasy team that needs blocks badly. He’ll be a popular streaming option in those scenarios regardless.
- Will Kris Dunn return?
- Dunn was fantastic last year by his standards and emerged as a defensive force to be reckoned with. He has the ability and athleticism to guard point guards, shooting guards, and small forwards. His 2 steals per game in a shade under 25 minutes is elite. The problem is that his $7.1 million qualifying offer is a bit pricey for someone who struggles to shoot the basketball. He did display the capacity to score off the dribble, in transition, and in the short range, though. His unique talents may come in handy if this team is trying to win now, which remains a question. If he returns to the Bulls, he’s worth a late roster spot on your fantasy team and can win you steals in any given week if you’re playing head-to-head.
- How will Billy Donovan affect the Chicago Bulls?
- Donovan is the new head honcho in town, and it can only be a good thing. Not necessarily because I think he’s a great coach, but because so many of the players were vocally against Jim Boylen. The change is welcome. The Oklahoma City Thunder actually ranked 21st in pace last season compared to the Bulls at 16th. The offense won’t necessarily see a huge increase under his leadership, but one thing that really impressed me about the Thunder was their defense. That really says to me that the players had bought into the coach’s system and were willing to hustle. That’s something this young Bulls team could use. Boylen was playing people out of position alot, sometimes to the detriment of playing young guys like White or Gafford. Donovan shouldn’t have that issue, so expect the young uys and the new rookie class to get a fair look. See how Lugentz Dort emerged right in the middle of the playoffs for the Thunder. Donovan isn’t afraid to play guys if they have skill.
- Who will the Chicago Bulls draft at number 4?
- The Chicago Bulls desperately need a swingman. Between Otto Porter’s health concerns and just general lack of depth at the shooting guard and small forward positions, this is the team’s single greatest need at the moment. A shooter and perimeter defener would be fantastic. I’ve actually been a big fan of Dayton’s Obi Toppin since early on. His ability to shoot the rock at a 39% clip from beyond the arc in college should translate to the NBA pretty well. Israeli-Serbian Deni Avdija would be an excellent selection as well. He’s a little less of a known commodity when it comes to how his game will translate to the NBA, but he has the ability to create offense at 6’9″ and has a high basketball IQ. If the Bulls draft either of these guys, you’ll probably see a decrease in Tomáš Satoranský’s opportunity, but it shouldn’t be enough to move the needle a lot. There’s ample opportunity for either guy. Some other guys that would be good fits would be Anthony Edwards, Killian Hayes, and Isaac Okoro. The 2020 NBA Draft is scheduled to happen on November 18th, so we’ll be watching!