Last year, there was some buzz coming out of the United Center’s hardwood. The Bulls, six years removed from Derrick Rose’s MVP season and an Eastern Conference Finals berth, had a reloaded core of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo. Shooting was a major concern, but that solid three-man lineup surrounded by young players was bound to do something, right? Depending on what your definition of “something” was, the Bulls achieved, making the playoffs as the eighth seed, and scaring the first seed Boston Celtics with a quick 2–0 series lead before losing in six. No one was getting younger, but the Bulls could roll that lineup back out for another year, couldn’t they?
Wade was bought out, and paired up with King James in Cleveland. Rondo had the tall task of assisting the new “Twin Towers”—Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins—in New Orleans. Perhaps most surprisingly, Butler was reunited with Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota, in a deal that brought Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Lauri Markkanen to Chicago. Thus, the next few years will serve to rebuild the Bulls, after this past half-decade of peaks and valleys. Fortunately, losing is looking to be very beneficial for the Bulls this season, although only time will tell how low they can reach.
Currently, LaVine is the Bulls’ best player and prospect, while simultaneously nursing an ACL injury suffered in February. The two-time NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion and his new franchise are downplaying any concerns about his long-term health going forward, with general manager Gar Forman saying “until he comes in, and he’ll come in early next week and take his physical, I don’t think we’ll have any kind of timeline on it.” Fans have reason to be concerned, as they’ve seen an uber-athletic Rose tear his ACL and never fully seem to recover. LaVine is scheduled to come back around mid-November and be the focal point of the offense, but with this team, he may rest many games, just to be safe.
So far, five games into the preseason, the Bulls are a solid 3–2, with wins over New Orleans, Cleveland, and Milwaukee. These games don’t count toward much, as teams tend to kick it into another gear once the games matter, but it will be important to cherish *all* the wins Chicago gets this year. Furthermore, in LaVine’s absence, other players are showing out, like guard Justin Holiday. Holiday leads the team in scoring and steals, and had 28 points to go with 11 rebounds against Wade, LeBron, and the Cavaliers in their last game. Even more promising, rookie Markkanen had an impressive 18 points with five rebounds against Cleveland. Shooting 4-7 from three-point range, Markkanen hopes to measure up to other shooting bigs like Dirk Nowitzki and Kristaps Porzingis throughout his career.
It might not be a fun season for Bulls fans. All negatives have upsides though, as it is a great year to watch college basketball instead. Who knows, maybe one of those young NCAA athletes will don the red and black for the 2018–19 season!