It’s safe to say that after six games of the season, this is not where the Bulls envisioned themselves to be. A couple of sub-par performances and a 2-4 record isn’t what is surprising. It’s the absolutely decimated roster the Bulls find themselves with and the growing sense of desperation coming from this team.
Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis, and Denzel Valentine are all players that undoubtedly had things they needed to prove to this Bulls front office and well as the fanbase. Lauri needs to prove he is in fact the superstar that is worth building a core around. Dunn needs to prove he can be this team’s starting point guard and be able to run Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system. Denzel needs to prove that he doesn’t deserve “bust” status, that his glass ankles hold up, and that he can be a solid rotational piece for this roster. Bobby, in a contract year, needs to prove he’s worth the lucrative extension that he desires from the Bulls. It’s pretty obvious with all of these guys out, we’re not going to be getting our answer right now or anytime soon.
As far as the “on the court” product goes, again, it feels as though there are more questions than answers at this point. For one, who and what is Jabari Parker? Though Jabari is averaging 16.0 points and 5.5 rebounds thus far (actually career numbers if you take a deeper dive into it), to the naked eye he doesn’t seem to be making the impact on games as you would imagine him making. The effort plays are lacking from Jabari especially on the defensive end and it feels as though all of his offense comes in meaningless minutes.
Next, what are the Bulls going to do with Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez? Lopez it seems has gotten the boot from Hoiberg and Bulls execs, relegated to sitting on the floor by the bench and watching the 32 million dollar man, Cris Felicio, take his minutes. Holiday is the beneficiary of the injuries averaging a career best 34 minutes a game. The Bulls really need to think about making these players available and getting some kind of haul back for them. Both are in the last year of their contracts and could be a commodity to a contending team. GarPax need to think about letting Robin back into the fold in order to get his value up before February.
Then there are questions about Cam Payne. I don’t even know where to start with this guy. He’s getting starters minutes and receiving the chance to play; but do we really care? He’s had great games, like the 7 threes he hit in the second half of the Hornets victory in the UC. But we know this isn’t sustainable. My worst fear is that he plays just well enough for Fred to give him minutes moving forward and maybe, MAYBE earn himself a contract. that would be horrible. Stacey King hilariously said during the broadcast, “If you had told me Cameron Payne would make seven threes I might’ve slapped you Neil.” The man is right, I would’ve hit some person over the head with a beer bottle if they said that to me in a serious tone. Overall, it’s a nice story. But let’s not get carried away with Cameron Payne, seriously.
There are things to like though about where this team is at. Wendell Carter and Chandler Hutchison have cracked the starting lineup so we will get to see these young players play a lot and develop into the rotational players we need. Zach has impressed most of all , he is the fifth leading scorer in the NBA at 29.3 PPG and is proving he’s worth every dollar the Bulls paid for him.
This next month will be a tell-tale sign of where the Bulls need to point the arrow. If the injured players get back and the Bulls find themselves off to a start similar to the 3-20 debacle of last year, tank city is back on. But if the Bulls can somehow stay afloat until the cavalry arrives, look for big things to come. The schedule gets tough, starting with the world champion Warriors coming in for their lone visit to the UC so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
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