Going into the 2017-2018 NBA season, there seemed to be very little reason to be optimistic for the future of the Chicago Bulls. During the previous season, they traded away two of their most consistent players, Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott, for a handful of underdeveloped, underwhelming players. To make matters worse in the offseason, they then go and trade All-Star Jimmy Butler for two injured players, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, and a draft pick, who ended up being Lauri Markannen. To all basketball fans and analysts, this was the most obvious rebuild in NBA history. It was also a head scratcher considering they had just made the playoffs and it looked like they were going to take down the top ranked Boston Celtics in the first round until Rajon Rondo got injured.
Going into the season, FiveThirtyEight projected the Bulls to win 27 games with the third worst record in the NBA. As of April 10, the last day of the Bulls’ season, they are 27-54, with their chances of getting another win pretty slim. They will finish with the seventh worst record in the league.
The preseason and early season got off to a rocky start with players out due to injury and a couple of players getting into a fight, which resulted in one being held out temporarily and the other being traded. These early struggles drove a stake into the morale of any fans who were still holding out hope.
However, despite internal problems, these players still came together and played as a team, even squeezing out a seven game win streak before Nikola Mirotic’s trade. Young players proved their worth through various points in the season, but no star shone as bright as rookie Markannen. Being the only player who could score early on in the season, with the most promising players out due to injuries, Markannen was able to develop quickly and impress much of the NBA. He joined an elite group of historic rookies in the second to last game of the season, including Bulls legend Michael Jordan, in the 1000/500 club. He even placed second in the NBA Skills Challenge to Brooklyn Net Spencer Dinwiddie, which showed his versatility.
After Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine finally returned from injury midway through the season, Markannen’s production slowed, but it gave him an opportunity to develop other parts of his game. These three showed on multiple occasions that they are more than capable of leading this young team and working together to be the next big three in the NBA.
After the All-Star break, management made the decision to reduce some of the better player’s minutes to put a bigger emphasis on losing and getting closer to the top pick in the NBA draft. I expected it to happen eventually, so I wasn’t too disheartened when they started losing left and right. There were a handful of games that they only dropped the lead in the 4th quarter and it seemed like they lost the game on purpose. If that’s the case, this team gives me a lot of hope.
The way I see it, this team over performed this entire season. With highlights such as strong performances from young players and the seven game win streak, there’s a bright future ahead for this young team. Management’s biggest focus needs to be on developing these young players, making the right moves in the draft, and, in my opinion, sticking with Fred Hoiberg as head coach. As long as they keep moving in the right direction, people will continue to run with the Bulls.