After revamping their front office by firing Gar Forman and demoting John Paxson to a new role, the Chicago Bulls are primed for a better performance this season. The roster from last season is still mostly intact, but the coaching and front office changes could instill a much-needed winning culture within the organization.
While there is no doubt that the Bulls are poised for a better year, can they rack up the wins to get them to the playoffs? The Bucks, Nets, Heat, Celtics, 76ers, and the Pacers should be playoff locks in the East. That leaves only two more spots to take. The Hawks got drastically better with the additions of Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari, along with a full season from a healthy Clint Capela. It may be a shaky year for the Raptors, but they still have two All-Stars in Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, not to mention the continuous growth of Fred VanVleet.
A Westbrook-Beal duo is brewing in Washington. Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and the Magic are not pushovers. The Bulls’ pursuit of a playoff ticket is possible, but it will be very difficult. If the team wants to make it to the postseason, their chances lie on these important factors.
A Markkanen break-out season
The Bulls have a top-heavy lineup. They just don’t have someone who can come off the bench to immediately put up the buckets. This then puts more pressure for the starters to always come up with A+ games, and that starts with a breakout performance from Lauri Markkanen.
Markkanen, a legit seven-foot stretch big, is entering his fourth year in the NBA. After a sophomore year that saw him average 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds, Markkanen did not follow through last season. His scoring dipped by four points, and his overall efficiency was just not there.
A 20-point, 10-rebound average for Markkanen should get him back in track, and if combined with good nights from Coby White and Zach LaVine, the Bulls have what it takes to hack out some surprise victories over elite contenders.
Is Coby White a starting-caliber point guard?
The Bulls’ top-heavy line-up features a very young starting five. On top of that, they have the 20-year old Coby White manning the primary playmaker position, a role where you would want every level of experience and savvy.
Moreover, White has established an identity of being a scoring guard. He has the potential to be an adept playmaker, but it’s not easy to revert tendencies as a player. We all know what we can expect from LaVine, but White’s all-around growth will be of more value for the Bulls this season.
The Billy Donovan effect
In his transition to the pros, Donovan has never missed the playoffs. Of course, that’s not very difficult when you have the likes of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, or Chris Paul on your side.
But Donovan also showed that he made the most out of an underrated Thunder squad with only a 34-year old CP3 as their bonafide All-Star. Donovan is absolutely an upgrade over the recently-fired Jim Boylen, but can he steer this storied Bulls franchise back to the playoffs?