Chicago fans are always hungry for success, especially with the Bulls.
It has been two decades since the Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen era and almost a decade since the 2010-11 season when Derrick Rose was the league MVP and Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer aided Rose in making a trip to the NBA Finals.
Man, it blows my mind it has been that long since the Bulls have had a high level of success.
I’m not trying to burst anyone’s bubble, but this isn’t the year Chicago will find itself hoisting the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy or an Eastern Conference Championship banner.
However, I believe this will be the first time in three years the Bulls will be back in the playoffs with those kind of achievements being reasonably looked at down the road as long as John Paxson and Gar Forman can get their act together.
We’ll save the Paxson/Forman mess for another post.
But for this one, the Bulls have a solid group of young talent and veterans that could play more than 82 games this season.
Here is why?
Mix of youth and experience
If you look at winning teams in NBA history, the rosters are always a mixture of talented young gunners and poised veterans.
It is very seldom, if ever, that a group of mostly young guys or a core of grizzled pros make long runs. That’s why I like the Bulls to take the step into the playoffs this year.
Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen are 24 and 22, respectively, and are prime for breakout, NBA All-Star caliber seasons. LaVine is easily dropping 20-25 points a game and Markkanen is doing a little bit of everything in terms of spacing the floor, taking it inside, making smart passes and rebounding.
Coby White is 19.
Wendall Carter Jr. is 20.
Daniel Gafford is 21.
Denzel Valentine is 25.
Kris Dunn is 25.
Otto Porter Jr. is 26.
Tomas Satoransky is 27.
Thaddeus Young is 31.
In the mix of the Bulls’ top 10 players, five players are under 25, two are 25 and only one is older than 30. In professional basketball that means, the Bulls are fast, agile, athletic and will not be outran down the court.
On the other hand, it also means inexperienced compared to teams with rosters full of mid-20s to mid-30s who have been there and done that.
This is where Satoransky and Young were huge offseason additions to add with Porter Jr. All three have played tons of basketball. They have turned heads in the NBA whether it was by coaches for more playing time or media outlets for extra shout outs and highlights.
All three of them have displayed court leadership skills. The most important part is they’re not Alphas where they think they run the show and the game goes through them like say a LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving or Jimmy Butler.
With the team-first leadership mentality of Satoransky, Porter Jr. and Young paired with the youthful talent and skill of LaVine, Markkanen, White, and company, the Bulls have the blueprint for fun, entertaining, successful basketball.
It was displayed in Wednesday’s 127-125 preseason loss to the New Orleans Pelicans as the Bulls had seven players in double-digit scoring. LaVine led the team with 28 points, Porter Jr. scored 16, White had 13, Markkanen 12, Young 11, Satoransky 11 and Valentine 10.
Who is in the Eastern Conference?
I don’t want this to seem like a by default opinion or an ‘If someone has to get in’ idea, but let’s face it, there isn’t a ton of top teams in the east.
The only locks to make it to the postseason in the Eastern Conference are the Milwaukee Bucks, the Boston Celtics, the Brooklyn Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Indiana Pacers.
This leaves three spots between teams such as the Bulls, the Detroit Pistons, the Miami Heat, the Orlando Magic, and the Washington Wizards.
Why couldn’t the Bulls finish with a better record than the Pistons, the Heat, the Magic and the Wizards?
The Pistons are one dimensional with big guys inside — Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin — and not a lot of shooting. The Heat is putting all of their eggs into the Jimmy Butler basket which has proven to fall in Chicago, Minnesota, and Philadelphia. The Magic are relatively young but promising and the Wizards can never seem to stay healthy.
OK, Washington’s best player, John Wall, can not stay healthy for a full season.
If the injury bug doesn’t find Chicago, it has the stars, young, experience and talent to be better than them.