May 16, 2019, 12:36 am
Coming off of a year in which the newest Bulls core was only able to play 12 games together, this season was to be take two for the first real glimpse of Chicago’s future. The young core had even gained a rookie lottery pick member. A year of significant growth and team development seemed to be a certainty in a season of low expectations. However, injuries and more eventual tanking would once again limit the court time that the promising young players had together. Maybe next year? The future is still potentially bright, though there was enough turmoil this season to cast plenty of doubt.
2018-19 Record: 22-60
The Bulls won 27 games in the 2017-18 season. That odd season started off with Bobby Portis breaking Nikola Mirotic’s face. Mirotic eventually returned to the 3-20 Bulls and immediately led them on a seven-game winning streak. He was traded about a month later, and the Bulls tanked their way to the seventh pick in the 2018 draft.
Injuries and tanking had led the Bulls’ semi-promising young core (otherwise known as the Jimmy Butler trade return of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn) to only play 255 minutes together over 12 games last season.
No one expected the team to compete for a playoff spot this season. It was to be a year of watching those three young players grow together and hopefully also with rookie Wendell Carter Jr. (the player chosen seventh in the draft). But once again, injuries and tanking shutdowns prevented the three “core” players to spend much time on the court together (780 minutes over 35 games). Add in Carter and the total played together was just 191 minutes in 12 games.
And what’s worse, they weren’t even very good together.
And what’s even worse than that, Kris Dunn doesn’t even appear to be a member of the team’s core players anymore based on comments from the management team of John Paxson and Gar Foreman.
The four current Bulls that one would expect to start for the foreseeable future (LaVine, Markkanen, Carter Jr. and trade deadline acquisition Otto Porter Jr.) haven’t played together since Carter Jr. was already done for the season when Porter Jr. arrived. And so, for the second season in a row, little progress was made regarding the development of the young team as they finished with just 22 wins, good for fourth-worst in the Association.
The Bulls did make a significant move at the trade deadline, acquiring Porter Jr. for two players on expiring deals in Portis and Jabari Parker. Their new acquisition is widely regarded as at least a little overpaid, however many saw this as the Bulls’ “free agent move” since they’re unlikely to be an attractive destination for actual free agents for reasons we’ll get into shortly.
Here are some team ranks to help paint the picture of this squad that started 27 different lineups throughout the season:
Offensive Rating: 29th
Defensive Rating: 25th
3-Pointers Attempted: 27th
3-Pointers Made: 30th
Total Rebounds: 25th
Free Throws Attempted: 26th
Fan Attendance: 2nd
Second in attendance with a team that twice started the lineup of Shaq Harrison, Walt Lemon Jr., Robin Lopez, Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot and Wayne Selden? Yes, but the Bulls had finished first in attendance for the previous nine seasons, so you know the fans are upset.
In a rebuilding season where wins are generally worse for the team’s future than losses, it’s hard to have a truly lost season. One would hope, however, that such a season would both result in growth for the cornerstone players and also identify a surprise player or two that could play a role as the team improves. It’s hard to say that much of either of those things happened this season.
Coach Fred Hoiberg’s fourth season as head coach of the Bulls lasted just 24 games in which the team posted a 5-19 record. After multiple iterations of Bulls rosters that lacked the shooting and athleticism that management had planned on providing to Hoiberg, he was fired before truly getting a shot to coach a healthy version of this young team that shows potential in spurts.
Former Bulls assistant coach Jim Boylen took the wheel and immediately made the wrong kind of waves as his order of a long practice after a back-to-back resulted in a near-boycott by the players. He also tried to implement wind sprints, push-ups and the like into practices. These breaches of in-season protocol quickly turned the Bulls from an underachieving bottom-feeder to an all-out laughingstock around the league.
Gar-Pax, however, quickly extended Boylen’s contract and have agreed to extend him further this summer to much fan disbelief. Did the switch from the laid-back Hoiberg to the drill sergeant style of Boylen at least help the Bulls’ performance? Well, it’s difficult to compare since the players on the floor were nearly unrecognizable for the final months of the season. They did go 17-41 post-Hoiberg and there were eventually some brief stretches of success under Boylen, so there are glimmers of hope if one wants to find them badly enough.
Otto Porter Jr.
ADP: 71/35 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 113/102 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 60/39 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 56
2018-19 Averages: 56 G | 30.1 MP | 13.9 PTS | 1.9 3PM | 5.6 REB | 2.1 AST | 1.4 STL | 0.6 BLK | 1.2 TOV | .465 FG% | .813 FT%
Otto Porter Jr. is perpetually one of the players with the biggest disparities in fantasy ranks between formats. He’s been a boring yet useful 8-cat player for years, not really hurting you anywhere, but not really standing out in any category either (unless finishing 28th in steals per game does something for you). But to those in 9-cat leagues, he’s an all-around player often with the fewest turnovers of anyone in the top-40.
Porter Jr. battled some injuries this season, including a knee contusion that kept him out of 10 December games and got off to a slow start in Washington. However, after he was dealt to the Bulls on the eve of the trade deadline, Porter was unleashed on a team desperate for a solid veteran that could shoot and defend.
In his 15 games with Chicago before being shut down for the final 11 games with a shoulder injury, Porter Jr. had a shooting slash line of .483/.488/.906 and averaged 4.9 more points per game than with the Wizards. Porter expected to return after a few games from that injury, so it’s clear that he’s healthy now and that the team just held him out for ping pong balls.
The Bulls will likely have a few more capable players around him most of the time next season so his usage may not be quite as high, but if he’s going to be scoring close to the 17.6 points per game that he did with the Bulls this season, Porter Jr. could be worth that top-35 pick in 9-cat fantasy drafts.
ADP: 70/78 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 120/112 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 54/42 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 52
2018-19 Averages: 52 G | 32.4 MP | 18.7 PTS | 2.3 3PM | 9.1 REB | 1.4 AST | 0.7 STL | 0.6 BLK | 1.7 TOV | .430 FG% | .872 FT%
Those who like to draft injured players at a discount were rewarded handsomely for waiting just over a month for Lauri Markkanen to return from a strained elbow injury. Though he also missed the final seven games of the season with a heart issue for which he was soon cleared, this season was a big success for the second-year player.
Markkanen is unlikely to ever be great in the defensive categories for a big man, and his low field goal percentage at his position is a bit of an anchor so far. But there should be enough incremental improvement in those spots, as well as in assists, to allow those that draft him to simply focus on what could be a career in the 20-point, 10-rebound, 2.5-trey range with excellent free throw percentage as the cherry on the sundae.
Also, if the Bulls are able to find a point guard that can get the ball to Markkanen in better spots, we could be looking at a decade safely in the top-40.
ADP: 75/62 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 60/93 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 35/61 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 63
2018-19 Averages: 63 G | 34.5 MP | 23.7 PTS | 1.9 3PM | 4.7 REB | 4.5 AST | 1.0 STL | 0.4 BLK | 3.4 TOV | .467 FG% | .832 FT%
One of the bigger surprises of the season, Zach LaVine posted career-highs almost across the board in his first (relatively) healthy season in Chicago. He missed just two weeks with an ankle injury in December and the final 10 games of the season (along with the rest of the non-Lopez starters) with minor knee and thigh issues that he wanted to play through. He was even probable for one of the games near the beginning of that stretch, so there’s no need for concern that anything is lingering into the summer.
Despite being the obvious number one option for most of the season, LaVine was quite efficient from the field on the highest shot volume he’s ever handled. LaVine is another player with significantly different value based on which type of fantasy league you’re in, just in the reverse order of his teammate Otto Porter Jr., due to his extremely high turnovers.
He could be a steal in the fourth round of an 8-cat draft while being a bust in the same spot in a 9-cat league next season if he performs similarly.
ADP: 102/82 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 178/187 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 85/112 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 46
2018-19 Averages: 46 G | 30.2 MP | 11.3 PTS | 0.7 3PM | 4.1 REB | 6.0 AST | 1.5 STL | 0.5 BLK | 2.3 TOV | .425 FG% | .797 FT%
Kris Dunn ranked 53rd/78th on a per game basis in 8/9-cat leagues in the 2017-2018 season.
After missing most of the first seven weeks of this season due to a sprained MCL and before being shut down for the final eight games due to a back injury, Dunn put up similar stats in field goal percentage, threes, rebounds, assists and blocks while improving slightly in free throw percentage and turnovers. So how did he drop down to 85/112?
Mainly it was his steals that dipped from 2.0 to 1.5, which shows how valuable elite production in one category can be. More concerning might be the fact that Dunn saw a drop in usage that resulted in 2.1 fewer points per game than in the previous season.
Bulls President John Paxson once again had some criticism for his point guard once the season finished, and there’s plenty to suggest that the team is planning to move on from Dunn after his contract is up after this next season if not sooner. Unless it’s late in your draft and you’re in need of assists and steals, Dunn might be a risk to let someone else take.
Wendell Carter Jr.
ADP: 98/91 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 206/205 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 118/116 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 44
2018-19 Averages: 44 G | 25.2 MP | 10.3 PTS | 0.1 3PM | 7.0 REB | 1.8 AST | 0.6 STL | 1.3 BLK | 1.5 TOV | .486 FG% | .795 FT%
Wendell Carter Jr., the seventh pick in the 2018 NBA draft, had what most would call a successful rookie season, though it was over by mid-January due to a thumb injury. Carter Jr. had surgery with an 8-12 week expected recovery period and expects to play in Summer League games, so he should be 100 percent ready for next season.
He started all 44 of the games in which he played this season and showed plenty of the potential that caused fantasy drafters to take him in the top-100 this season. Those people might have soured on him after the injury, potentially leaving an opportunity to get him at a discount in drafts this fall.
A full season with slight increases across the board, and maybe even a significant increase in threes, is to be expected in his age-20 season.
ADP: NA/132 (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 169/181 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 212/221 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 74
2018-19 Averages: 74 G | 21.7 MP | 9.5 PTS | 0.1 3PM | 3.9 REB | 1.2 AST | 0.1 STL | 1.1 BLK | 1.3 TOV | .568 FG% | .724 FT% |
Everyone’s favorite mascot-fighter was again the model of veteran leadership this season, doing everything from accepting a bench role in favor of a rookie to keeping that Boylen-inspired near-boycott from becoming a full-blown mutiny.
Lopez also stuck with the team rather than request a buyout and started for most of the second half of the season, often alongside G-League talent. Fantasy players that are active on the waiver wire likely enjoyed his services down the stretch as well, as Lopez put up top-130/120 value over the season’s final 33 games, all of which Lopez started.
The 14.2 points and 1.3 blocks on great center percentages during that stretch are a nice reminder of what he can do, but it’s unlikely the that this free agent will end up in a spot next season where he gets the opportunity to play the 28.3 minutes and the usage he needed to produce those numbers.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 149/133 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 209/197 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 81
2018-19 Averages: 81 G | 24.2 MP | 6.7 PTS | 1.0 3PM | 2.7 REB | 3.3 AST | 0.8 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.8 TOV | .446 FG% | .873 FT%
Ryan Arcidiacono somehow played the most games on this team by far (81 while starting 32), which tells you quite a bit about the Bull’s season.
The second-year player out of Villanova is a functional player that’s probably best suited as a third-string point guard. He started 23 straight games early in the season, mainly while Kris Dunn was out with an injury, and ranked 132nd in 9-cat leagues over that time with per-game averages of 7.3 points, 1.4 threes, 3.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.0 blocks and 1.0 turnovers in 30.4 minutes on 43.7 percent field goals and 85.7 percent free throws.
I mention that all to show what Arcidiacono’s ceiling probably looks like. If he somehow finds himself as an emergency starter again, he could provide some low-turnover late-round value at best. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, so his future is quite cloudy.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 190/182 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 234/222 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 73
2018-19 Averages: 73 G | 19.6 MP | 6.5 PTS | 0.3 3PM | 3.0 REB | 1.9 AST | 1.2 STL | 0.4 BLK | 0.8 TOV | .432 FG% | .667 FT% |
After being waived by the Suns, Shaq Harrison joined the Bulls in time to suit up for their fifth game of the season. Overall, his stats were similar to those in his time with Phoenix, though his shooting percentages fell a bit. He was good a good streamer if you just needed a steal or two for most of the season. However, he did get the chance to start for the final 11 games of the season.
Over that stretch, he ranked 90th/77th in 8/9-cat leagues with per-game averages of 12.2 points, 0.5 threes, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 1.1 turnovers in 30.9 minutes on 44.9 percent field goals and 73.7 percent free throws.
Harrison, a restricted free agent this summer, is a great defender, so he should find a role with an NBA team next season. However, the chances of him getting enough minutes to maximize his steals and blocks potential as he enters his age-26 season are slim unless he once again finds himself on a team that’s dealing with multiple guard injuries.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 332/327 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 358/348 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 44
2018-19 Averages: 44 G | 20.3 MP | 5.2 PTS | 0.3 3PM | 4.2 REB | 0.8 AST | 0.5 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.6 TOV | .459 FG% | .605 FT% |
The 22nd pick in last summer’s NBA Draft had put up big numbers in his senior season at Boise State, but that didn’t quite translate to the next level in his rookie season. There wasn’t a whole lot to love in his stat set this season. Even when Hutchison started for the 11 games leading up to his season-ending broken toe injury (he’s expected to be ready for Summer League), he was ranked just 182nd/214th in 8/9-cat with about eight points and six boards per game in roughly 29 minutes.
He should, of course, improve over the next few seasons, though he is already 23, so there may not be as much room to grow as the one-and-done-type players. Also, barring injury, Hutchison will have a tough time finding more minutes in his second year now that Otto Porter Jr. was acquired to be the starting small forward. Unless you’re in a very deep league, there’s no reason to take a chance on Hutchison in fantasy next season.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 274/298 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 369/395 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 75
2018-19 Averages: 75 G | 19.2 MP | 6.9 PTS | 0.7 3PM | 2.4 REB | 1.5 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.2 BLK | 1.1 TOV | .406 FG% | .728 FT% |
After playing 32 out of 37 games for the Grizzlies this season, Wayne Selden was acquired by the Bulls in the Justin Holiday trade in early January. Fantasy players mainly know Selden as one of those guys that can put up a big game every so often when his team is injured and/or tanking, so his transition from Memphis to Chicago fit him perfectly.
While he got the opportunity, Selden didn’t really go off for as many microwave games as he did on the tanking Grizzlies last season. Mainly, his threes were more infrequent while only his rebounds increased noticeably. With a field goal percentage just north of 40 percent once again, there’s not a whole lot of hope that Selden’s age-25 season is going to suddenly be noteworthy whether it’s on this team or another (Selden will also be a restricted free agent this summer).
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 356/352 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 416/407 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 50
2018-19 Averages: 50 G | 13.4 MP | 4.6 PTS | 0.7 3PM | 1.9 REB | 0.5 AST | 0.4 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.4 TOV | .376 FG% | .756 FT% |
Former first-rounder Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot joined his third NBA team in February, and he did get the most minutes he’d had since his rookie season in Philadelphia.
TLC, however, wasn’t able to do much with that extra run, as he didn’t quite reach seven points or three rebounds in 18.8 minutes per game in Chicago. He continued to shoot under 40 percent from the field and didn’t stand out positively anywhere. The 24-year-old will most likely grab onto the end of an NBA team’s bench, but he shouldn’t be on any fantasy teams next season.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 336/346 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 423/425 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 60
2018-19 Averages: 60 G | 12.4 MP | 4.0 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 3.7 REB | 0.6 AST | 0.2 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.6 TOV | .531 FG% | .685 FT% |
At this point, Felicio is scheduled to be paid the third-highest salary on the Bulls next season. Good for him, but he hardly earned it this season, one in which you’d think an underachieving young center would get as much run as he wanted while the team is trying to lose and evaluate its players.
The fourth-year Bull still hardly made it onto the court and had season highs of 30 minutes, 15 points, 10 rebounds and one (yes one) block. Felicio will be 27 next season, and he’s simply not good enough to be more than a third-string traditional center on a decent team. That may mean that he gets to be the backup on the Bulls at times, though, with Robin Lopez likely gone.
ADP: NA/NA (ESPN/Yahoo) | Total Value: 355/364 (8/9-cat) | Per-Game Value: 433/440 (8/9-cat) | Games Played: 57
2018-19 Averages: 57 G | 14.5 MP | 7.3 PTS | 0.6 3PM | 1.9 REB | 0.7 AST | 0.2 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.6 TOV | .419 FG% | .658 FT% |
Last season Blakeney put up some Kemba Walker-looking stats for 32 games in the G-League, including 32.0 points and 2.8 threes per game. This season, the Bulls called him up and he played 57 games for the big-league squad. The offensive magic peaked around Halloween with 21 points and four threes in one game and 22 points and three triples in another.
That was about it, as you can see from his season stat line. Blakeney has defensive and playmaking limitations that limit him at the NBA level, but there could be hope for the 22-year-old scoring machine to keep improving to the point where he can be a junior varsity version of Lou Williams.
There should be some increased expectations for the third season of this rebuild now that the Bulls could have a healthy starting lineup of Dunn, LaVine, Porter Jr., Markkanen and Carter Jr. Also, Denzel Valentine, who missed the entire season due to an ankle surgery, has been cleared for full basketball activity and should be ready to roll as a viable sixth-man type once again. Hutchison, Felicio and Blakeney are the only other Bulls that are currently under contract, leaving the team with enough cap space to add a significant piece.
Add the seventh pick in the 2019 NBA Draft to the mix, and there’s a semi-stable foundation to build upon. The point guard position likely needs to be shaken up to truly turn this team into a playoff contender again. Look for the Bulls to explore Dunn replacements via lottery pick, free agency and trade. Expecting much more than that and some mid-tier free agent help might be wishful thinking. Additionally, there’s always the chance that this young group never gets very far off the ground until the current coach and front office are gone.