A new era of basketball has arrived in the Windy City. The days of Derrick Rose mesmerizing Bulls fans every night are long gone, and so are the days of former Bulls like Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler. Instead, a new wave of young talent has arrived in Chicago, as young guns like Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen have given Bulls fans some promise for the future. The Bulls are in a two-year playoff drought, but added depth and even more future potential to their roster in the off-season. However, will their flurry of off-season moves be enough to launch them back into the postseason?
2019-20 Chicago Bulls Season Outlook
Key Additions: Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky, Luke Kornet
Key Subtractions: Robin Lopez, Wayne Selden, Walt Lemon Jr.
Draft: Coby White, Daniel Gafford, Adam Mokoka
Before we dive into their free agency moves, I have to say that the Bulls did an excellent job in this year's draft. It was a general consensus that the Bulls were looking to draft a point guard with the 7th pick, and when Coby White from North Carolina was available, it was inevitable that he was Chicago's man. The Bulls were 27th in scoring last year and dead last in three-pointers made, so drafting a bonafide scorer and great shooter in White was an excellent move. They followed that up with a very underrated second-round selection in Daniel Gafford from Arkansas. Gafford was projected to be taken in the middle of the first round in the 2018 draft, but elected to stay in school one more year, which likely caused him to slip a bit. He reminds me a lot of Mitchell Robinson from the Knicks with how explosive he is, how well he can run the floor, and his impressive presence around the rim. He probably will see little to no time on the floor this year, but could play a nice backup role to Wendell Carter Jr. in the future.
Instead of using their cap space to lure one big piece to the Windy City, the Bulls elected to sign two veterans: Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky. Young will likely back up Lauri Markkanen and brings a lot of playoff experience with him, playing on playoff contenders like Indiana and Philadelphia in the past. He's a pretty reliable offensive player from everywhere on the court, and on the defensive end he averaged 1.5 steals per game with the Pacers last season. He's also very versatile and can defend numerous positions, which is something the Bulls definitely needed in this offseason. Satoransky was a bit of a surprise, as the Bulls already had White and Kris Dunn in their point guard rotation, but his size allows him to play not only point guard, but shooting guard and a little small forward as well. He received more minutes when John Wall went down with an injury last season and averaged a respectable 8.9 PPG and 5 APG, while shooting around 40% from three-point land. Through his and Young's signings, the Bulls' needs of three-point shooting and defensive versatility were quickly fixed, and these signings give them a much needed boost to their bench.
With the current rotation the Bulls have right now, this team looks very promising on paper. I don't believe that last year's record indicates how good this team was, especially since most of their players were either hurt for most of the season or were acquired at the trade deadline. When healthy, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen are both scoring machines, and they can give you buckets from anywhere on the court. Otto Porter Jr. had a quietly good stint with the Bulls after being traded from Washington, averaging 17.5 PPG on 48% three-point shooting in the 15 games he played for Chicago last year. Wendell Carter only played 44 games last season, but he showed promise as a double-double threat with elite rim protection skills. Kris Dunn is one of the better on-ball defenders in the league, and if he can improve on the offensive game, him and White will be a very good point guard duo. Younger core pieces like Chandler Hutchison, Ryan Arcidiacono and Denzel Valentine are all returning as well, and will be fighting for rotation minutes. This is also Head Coach Jim Boylen's first full season, and after receiving his fair share of criticism last season, it seems like the players have embraced his tough style of coaching and are willing and ready to go to battle for their coach.
Final Outlook on the Chicago Bulls
Like I said before, this team had a bad record last season, but that was partly due to injuries to basically every key contributor. Everyone, especially LaVine and Markkanen, come into the 2019-20 season healthy and ready to rumble, and I think that the Bulls are going to catch a lot of teams off guard. The only real contributor they lost was Robin Lopez, and bringing Young and Satoransky in provides a lot of mentorship and leadership to a primarily young team. I'm expecting a big change in the scoring output for the Bulls, a top-15 finish to be exact. With the core pieces that they have in place right now, I'm not expecting them to contend for a championship, but that idea seems very possible in a couple of seasons, and I think that they'll be fighting for a 7th or 8th seed in a more competitive Eastern Conference. I have them slated for a 38-44 record led by huge years from Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, which is a huge improvement over last season's 22-60 record.