The Future Has Arrived in Chicago
If there is anything for Bulls fans to look forward to this season, it is that Chicago may have one of the best young cores in the league. The team’s trio of budding stars are just 19, 21, and 23, respectively. This sort of foundation and potential is critical for competing down the line and luring free agents.
While Chicago’s 4-11 record doesn’t reflect the promise that I’m speaking of, but others around the league are beginning to take notice. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens recently said of the Bulls, “Their young core is maybe being under-discussed.”
Let’s explore this young Bulls team a little more closely:
Wendell Carter Jr. is a pup at 19 years old but after a passive start to the season he has made huge strides. He has earned the Al Horford comparison that draft experts gave him before he entered the league.
WCJ’s defense prowess has been impressive so far this season, and his offensive game has gained confidence with each and every game. Carter Jr is active on the boards on both sides of the court, and he is establishing himself as a rim protector, averaging two blocks a game.
For the second straight year in a row the Bulls seventh pick has a chance to make the All-Rookie First Team. At this point, I’d be surprised if Carter didn’t get the nod. WCJ may not be the guy in crunch-time but he is a great third or fourth option, especially if the Bulls land another player to add to the nice young trio they have in place already. Chicago can be set up nicely down the road.
Lauri Markkanen has yet to play a regular season game so far this season, and according to team reports, he is still weeks away from doing so. In his second-year following an All-Rookie First Team nod last season, Markkanen is the centerpiece of the Bulls rebuild.
Last year, Markkanen became the first rookie Bull since Elton Brand in the 1999-2000 season to score over 1,000 points and snag 500 rebounds. He also broke Kirk Hinrich’s 2004 rookie three-point record with 145 made attempts.
For perspective, the only other players to accomplish the 1,000/500/140 feat last season were LeBron James and Dario Saric. The sky's the limit for the 7’0’’ Finnisher.
Zach LaVine is making a strong case for winning the Most Improved Player award this season. His 25.9 points a game is the 8th best mark in the league. And though he’s just 23, LaVine looks all the part of a true All-Star.
It also seems to be forgotten just how little LaVine has actually played in his career. he was Injured for half of his third season, and played just 24 games of his fourth year. Still, LaVine is on the verge of being two years younger than Jimmy Butler was when he earned his first All-Star selection back in 2015.
I initially believed LaVine was simply the best player on one of the worst teams. Afterall, someone has to score. But it appears as if LaVine’s game has really taken a large jump, ushering in a coming out party season. A throw-back type of player who would rather cut and take it to the rim than chuck up the long ball, LaVine is showing he can be effective in the land of the long ball.
Once Markkanen rejoins the team and the Bulls get Bobby Portis and Kris Dunn back from injury, the Bulls will should start winning more games. The pieces on Chicago’s roster will most likely be too talented to land a lottery pick in this loaded upcoming draft class. Yet that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a shake up to better the team before this summer.
I believe the Bulls should go after a veteran like Charlotte’s Kemba Walker. Adding him will most likely see the end of players mentioned above in Portis and Dunn, along with others to make the money work for both sides. But the addition of a player like Walker would show the league and players that the Bulls have a foundation set up for years to come.
Along with a much-needed coaching change, this team can be in a position to land one of the big fishes set to be available, something Bulls fans have been waiting for since, well, ever. Hey KD, forget New York and LA, why not Chicago? Just saying, think about it.