After Key Offseason Additions, Chicago's Future Is Bright

After a dismal 2018-2019 campaign, Chicago now has the tools to make a drastic improvement this season

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  • The Bulls had a 2018-19 over/under win total of 27.5, but did not meet expectations with only 22 wins on the season.

  • The young core of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. will presumably enter the season healthy and could pose a threat in the wide-open East.

  • The team also brought in Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young in free agency. Both will provide veteran depth and should see significant minutes in the rotation.

  • Rookies Coby White and Daniel Gafford could play immediate roles as well.

Looking Back at 2018-19

The Bulls probably don’t want to look back at last season. Many expected the young Bulls to take a step forward under fourth-year head coach Fred Hoiberg, but that didn’t happen. Hoiberg was fired after a 5-19 start to the season and replaced by Jim Boylen. 

I know what you’re thinking. No, not the Jim Boylan who replaced Scott Skiles when the Bulls fired him as head coach in 2007. This is Jim Boylen with an “e.” Completely different. Coincidentally, Boylen and Boylan actually coached together under Tom Izzo at Michigan State (what a crazy world we live in). Undoubtedly, the Bulls will name some guy named Jim Boylin their interim head coach in 2028 when they fire whoever is their lameduck head coach at the time. 

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Anyways, things got off to a rough start for Jim Boylen with an “e.” The former Spurs assistant got some heat for calling two-hour practices on consecutive days after a loss complete with lengthy film sessions and conditioning drills generally reserved for preseason training. Boylen then used hockey-style, five-man substitutions to pull his starters from the game twice in a 56-point loss to the Celtics so that — wait for it — he could save them for practice the next day.

The players showed up to the facility that day, but promptly refused to practice and instead held team meetings. This is all important because this is the guy who will be coaching the Bulls this season as general managers Gar Forman and John Paxson (GarPax) decided it would be best if he stuck around despite leading the Bulls to a 17-41 record after taking over.

As for the actual players on the court, Lauri Markannen put up some nice numbers in his second season, averaging 18.7 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, but had a VORP (value over replacement player) of 0.0, which is quite surprising even on a team as bad as the 2018-19 Bulls. Zach Lavine stepped in as the Bulls main source for offense, averaging 23.7 points on an impressive 46.7% shooting while mid-season acquisition Otto Porter Jr. gave the Bulls much-needed help on the wing.

The Bulls were dismal both offensively and defensively, ranking 25th in defensive efficiency and 29th in offensive efficiency. This probably had something to do with the fact that they allowed the 6th highest effective field goal percentage in the NBA while also having the 6th lowest assist:turnover ratio.

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Expect Improvement in 2019-20

The Bulls would be an easy pick for the over 30.5 if not for the dysfunction of the front office, but then again, the total probably wouldn’t be 30.5 if it was functional. However, the Bulls are far more experienced than last year and set up to be much improved.

There’s not a lot of confidence that Jim Boylen is the right guy to lead this team, but the additions of Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young via free agency bring some veteran presence and consistency to complement the young core of Lavine, Markkanen, and second-year center Wendell Carter Jr. who will look to rebound from an injury-ravaged 2018-19. 

Expectations are that Otto Porter Jr. will have the best season of his career as well. The former lottery pick had served as the third option to the Bradley Beal/John Wall show in Washington for far too long and showed some flashes during his 15 games with the Bulls last season of the all-around type of wing player that the Bulls have been missing since trading Jimmy Butler. Porter took full advantage of the increased opportunity, averaging 17.5 points with the Bulls last season.

The addition of Satoransky, also from the Wizards, is an under-the-radar move that will pay dividends. When the team selected point guard Coby White with the seventh-overall selection in this year’s draft, it has become clear that the Bulls have deemed Kris Dunn to be expendable to say the very least.

The addition of Satoransky is an upgrade at the position held by Dunn last season as “Sato” had a stellar 3.50 assist/turnover ratio as a starter for the Wizards last season. A more consistent presence at the point guard position is going to lead to more wins for the Bulls and the expectation is that Satoransky will open as the Bulls starter. 

Note that Dunn is still on Chicago’s roster, but is fully expected to be traded before the season begins. 

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Bet The Over

The Eastern Conference is wide open, as the Bucks, 76ers, and Celtics lead the way and a whole slew of teams fall somewhere behind them. Currently, there are four teams projected to be worse than than the Bulls in the East: the Hornets (o/u 24), the Cavaliers (o/u 24.5), the Wizards (o/u 27.5), and the Knicks (o/u 28) — which means the Bulls are projected to finish 11th in the conference.

With the off-season upgrades made, a developing young core, and the expectation that the Bulls will be the 11 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls’ 30.5 over/under regular-season win total will be eclipsed. 

Bet the over. 

Note: The advice above is the writer’s opinion only and does not represent the stance or interest of BetQL in any way.