The Bulls are a trendy pick to be one of the league’s most improved teams this coming season, as their finish to last year and additions this offseason have people feeling, well, bullish on Chicago.
The way Otto Porter Jr. played in his few weeks with the Bulls towards the end of the last season, coupled with a full season of Zach LaVine, gives them a pair of strong young playmakers on the perimeter. Their young frontcourt with Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. has plenty of promise and while they didn’t make a big splash in free agency, the additions of Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky were highly underrated in terms of being important moves that really addressed some needs on the roster.
The Bulls offense should improve dramatically this season, simply by upgrading their point guard with Satoransky and having a full year of LaVine and Porter together. That’s a big reason why they’re projected to see a major jump in wins, but what could take them to being a potential playoff contender in the East would be as major an improvement of their defense.
The Bulls were 25th in defensive rating last year, per Basketball-Reference, and will need to be much better on that end to have a shot at one of the top eight seeds in the conference. They’ll need a commitment from guys like LaVine to do that, and the good news is that all the criticism LaVine has heard over the years about his effort on that end appears to have motivated him to put a lot more focus on that end going into the season, as he told The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry.
“I’m just tired of people talking sh*t about my defense,” LaVine said. “I’ve always been a good on-ball defender. But there’s no reason I can be this good offensively and not be that good on the defensive end. So I’m taking more pride in it. I’m pretty sure it’ll show. I’ll make sure of that.”
This would be big for the Bulls, as not only would a greater commitment from LaVine help in what he can bring on that end, but as the team’s stars, he and Porter can set the tone for the team on that end. We’ll see if this new found desire to to be better on defense actually results in a noticeable improvement from LaVine and the Bulls, but it’s good to hear him taking this kind of responsibility for his play on that end going into the season.