Yes, the Bulls are finally at full strength (sans Denzel Valentine who is lost for the season). The young trio of Zach Lavine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, are finally getting enough playing time alongside one another to develop chemistry.
As the Bulls embark on a five-game road trip, spanning the course of 10 days, continued growth, should be the focus.
A lot of times in the NBA players bond the most when their team embarks on a road trip. The Bulls road trip might have come at a perfect time for the team. With Bobby Portis returning from an ankle injury the previous game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Bulls are now at full strength. Chemistry is finally starting to form amongst the core trio of Markkanen, Lavine, and Dunn, a scoring hierarchy has seemed to form with Lavine as the 1st option and Markkanen as the 2nd. Kris Dunn has provided excellent play as the lead guard and has done a great job of getting his teammates the touches they need.
Now with the trade of Justin Holiday, Chandler Hutchison is called upon to start for the Bulls at the small forward spot, giving the Bulls a starting line up, all under the age of 25.
The Baby Bulls will find their game put to the test on this road trip as they play five teams in the playoff hunt for the Western Conference. Head coach Jim Boylen has spoken about the Bulls needing to be tougher and come out with an edge. Lavine has echoed his statements, and with a team as young as the Bulls are, the other NBA teams, are looking to push the Bulls around. Part of the growth that needs to be displayed during this trip is not allowing that to happen.
That particular attribute will be easier for some members of the team than others. Robin Lopez who is the elder statesmen of the team should have no problem leading by example of not being a pushover. Bobby Portis as well as Kris Dunn, who are two scrappy players who always play with a fire lit under them, should also help in the Bulls toughness department. But the more mild manner Lavine might need to be the one to step up and set a physical tone, for the rest of the team to follow. In the NBA when the team’s best player goes, the team often follows.
Another growth hopefully displayed on this trip would be Boylen’s new offensive wrinkle, in my previous article I talked about how Boylen’s slow, grind it out offense, is handicapping the team. Hopefully, this new offensive wrinkle is allowing the team to play at a faster pace, playing to the strength of his players, and allowing the Bulls to shoot more 3’s. The lost to the Brooklyn Nets, saw the Nets shoot 46 3’s compared to 18 for the Bulls. In today’s game 18 3 point shot attempts is simply not going to cut it, as the Bulls sit dead last in 3 point shooting, which is more so by design of Boylen’s offense, rather than the players shooting abilities.
Boylen may want to think about giving Wendall Carter Jr. the green light from distance. The rookie big man has the ability to knock down that shot, and if he is given the opportunity to get comfortable with the NBA 3 point line, will allow Carter to draw the opposing team’s center out of the paint, opening up the lane for Lavine, Dunn and the other Bulls. As we’ve reached the halfway point of the season, one thing is clear, these Baby Bulls still have plenty of games left to continue to grow into an eventual championship contender.
Photos: @chicagobulls @clutchpoints