Rejoice Bulls fans, the time has finally come. The Chicago Bulls open the 2020-21 NBA Season tonight against the Atlanta Hawks. It has been 288 days since the Bulls played a meaningful game. Quite a bit has changed since then. To recap the Bulls cleaned house with management and the coaching staff. They brought in a new Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations in Artūras Karnišovas. He hired a new General Manager in Marc Eversley. To top all of that off they brought in former OKC head coach Billy Donovan to take over as head coach of this team. These moves reshaped the future of Chicago Basketball and tonight will be our first glimpse into that. There will be a few key things to look out for in tonight’s regular-season opener.
1. Patrick Williams Starting at SF
In the 2020 NBA Draft, the Bulls selected Florida State Forward Patrick Williams. There was a lot of skepticism after the Bulls made this pick as to the type of player Williams could be. After playing in all four preseason games, Williams has shown that he has the potential to do well in the league. At only 19 years old he looked pretty comfortable this preseason.
Patrick Williams is a HOOPER.
13 points | 6-9 FG | 7 rebs | 2 blocks pic.twitter.com/HY1xxnYKPz
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 17, 2020
Williams finished the preseason averaging 11.3 PPG and was efficient when on the floor. He took advantage of his minutes this preseason showing the Bulls exactly what he can do. He seems to have impressed the team as it appears the plan will be to have him start.
Patrick Williams is listed as a probable starter in official Bulls game notes. Williams started last two preseason games and, per sources, took first-team reps at today’s practice.
Billy Donovan said he has idea of his lineup and will make it official Wednesday.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 22, 2020
We won’t know officially until later today but it appears that Williams will start for the Bulls in their season opener. This lineup would work well for the Bulls for a few reasons. Obviously, it would get the rookie some experience starting in the NBA which is always valuable. It also would bring forward Otto Porter Jr. off the bench. This would be a nice boost for the second unit.
An obvious benefit to bringing Otto Porter Jr. off bench is his stabilizing presence with second unit. Particularly since veteran rotation players like Thad Young and Tomas Satoransky aren’t available. Porter also adds shooting component to reserve group that Williams doesn’t.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 22, 2020
This will ultimately help the Bulls as they bring in the second unit with the veteran presence of Porter Jr. Keep an eye on Williams tonight as he navigates his first bout of regular-season NBA action.
2. Coby White’s playmaking ability
There’s no doubt that PG Coby White can get hot as a shooter. We saw it on full display after the All-Star break last year. However, this year we want to see if Coby can morph his playstyle to be more like a true PG. Coby needs to be the floor general and create offense for the team instead of just being another shooter. In his rookie year, he showed what he can do as a scorer but it left the team essentially running with two shooting guards. This year we want to see Coby make that jump to a true floor general. He showed flashes of what he has been working on in the offseason in his four preseason appearances.
“I want to be a point guard in this league, and I know what I got to do to be a point guard in this league."
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) December 14, 2020
We have to remember that this is Coby’s second season in the league and there’s still a lot to learn. However, Coby has been working hard this offseason and even said the game has been slowing down for him. He certainly has the potential to become a great PG in this league he just has to go out and show it. Coby appears pretty confident in his new role with the team.
Coby White: “I feel like I’ve taken a huge leap in my game, especially my decision making… shooting off the dribble, finishing at the rim… the game has really slowed down for me. I’m still learning but I feel like I’ve made a huge leap and I think I’m getting better for sure.” pic.twitter.com/RaNwOSAIeP
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 2, 2020
Be sure to watch how the offense flows through Coby in this first game. Last year the majority of the offense came from SG Zach LaVine. The Bulls want to try and change that and it starts tonight.
3. The big men upfront
Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. and Forward Lauri Markkanen have to step up this year. They have both shown flashes of being great players but they haven’t been consistent. Markkanen finds himself in a show us what you can do kind of year as he failed to reach a contract extension with the Bulls this week. He needs to show that he can be a consistent player in this league and that he deserves to be around long term. While Markkanen was disappointed that a deal didn’t happen he’s still fully committed to the team.
Lauri Markkanen: "Disappointed I didn't get a deal done. But it happens and we're moving on. I'm 100% committed to this team." pic.twitter.com/E9hncugG61
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 22, 2020
He knows that he needs to show what he can do on the floor in order to stick around in Chicago beyond this season. Keep an eye on Markkanen not only tonight but throughout the season. As I said, he has shown flashes of being great but can’t maintain that beyond a couple of games.
Carter Jr is the next focus in tonight’s game. Billy Donovan attempted to open up Carter’s game by having it step back to the three and shoot. It didn’t work out so well this preseason.
Wendell Carter Jr. is 1-for-16 from 3-point range in preseason.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 19, 2020
While his 3-point shooting didn’t go as planned it doesn’t sound like Wendell plans to stop shooting threes anytime soon and the coaching staff looks to be okay with that.
Despite his preseason shooting slump, Wendell Carter Jr. still has that go signal to take open shots ✊ pic.twitter.com/84PofDTW55
— Bulls Nation (@BullsNationCP) December 16, 2020
While this will be a new aspect of Carter’s game compared to the last two seasons. Keep an eye on how his shooting as they open up against the Hawks.
The Bulls are back
There is plenty to watch for as the Bulls open the 2020-2021 NBA season and there will be all season. The roster hasn’t changed much and the Bulls are banking on Donovan’s coaching skills to improve this roster. It will be exciting to see how this team plays under a competent head coach. The future of Chicago basketball is bright for the first time in a while. We can thank this man for that!