How good the Bulls are going to be this season will vary depending on whom you ask. Some people think they’re going to be terrible again. I’m in the group that thinks they’re going to take a step forward but will still be kind of bad. Others think they're definitely going to challenge for a playoff spot.
What the majority of people agree on is the Bulls are at least interesting, and they should even be pretty fun to watch. ESPN’s Zach Lowe even has them at No. 6 on this year’s version of his annual NBA League Pass Rankings. The only teams better: 76ers, Celtics, Warriors, Lakers, Nuggets.
Here are Lowe’s rules for these rankings:
Zeitgeist: Will normies care about this team? Will talking about them get you anywhere at parties?
Highlight probability: Does any player make you linger just in case he does something special?
Style: Are they fun to watch? Do they embrace any unconventional strategies?
League Pass minutia: When choosing between blah matchups on a Tuesday in February, when a third of the league has been effectively eliminated, pleasing uniforms and commentary can win the day.
Unintentional comedy: Blame Simmons.
And here’s Lowe’s brief Bulls explanation:
Every year, one bad team breaks the algorithm using the same formula: superficially fun offense, tidy art, players who deliver both highlights and gaffes. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2018-19 Chicago Bulls -- tackled at length here!
... Get well, Lauri! The only bright spot of Markkanen’s injury: We are going to see even more of Wendell Carter Jr. right away.
Lauri Markkanen’s injury certainly hurts the Bulls, but he should hopefully be back and cooking for at least three-quarters of the season. And, as Lowe mentions, Wendell Carter Jr. playing more could be a silver lining of Markkanen’s injury.
Either way, let’s take a quick look at this based on Lowe’s ratings system.
Zeitgeist: Do normal people care about these Chicago Bulls? Probably not, but the Bulls have cache historically thanks to Michael Jordan/the dynasty and perhaps even Derrick Rose to a lesser extent. Jimmy Butler’s situation is a big storyline around the NBA these days, and that can be twisted into a current Bulls conversation thanks to the trade. Casual fans also may recognize Zach LaVine from his Slam Dunk Contest exploits.
Highlight probability: See the statement above about Zach LaVine, who’s already looking much more explosive than he did a year ago. Markkanen is awesome when healthy and has had some nasty dunks of his own. Jabari Parker and Kris Dunn are talented offensive players who can make their own highlights. Bobby Portis will flex all over you during #BobbyPortisTime. Carter can block the crap out of shots and throw down dunks. The Bulls have exciting young players ripe for highlights, so they rank pretty well in this category.
Style: #Hoiball should be in full effect this season. The Bulls ranked 10th in pace last season and aim to be even faster this season. In their preseason opener against the Pelicans, their pace was a whopping 115.2 (they were at 100.33 last season). They should also shoot a ton of 3-pointers. They ranked sixth in 3-point attempts last season with over 31 per game. They were way down at 18 in the preseason opener, but I don’t expect that to hold, even with Markkanen out. The Bulls are going to run and gun.
League Pass minutia: The Bulls have classic uniforms and a classic court. Robin Lopez also wears hilarious t-shirts. I can't say the announcing team is particularly good, but Stacey King can be endearing to a certain degree. They may even have some entertaining partners with Neil Funk taking a step back. That’s all I got.
Unintentional comedy: Lowe already mentioned the RoLo ejections and Denzel Valentine floaters. I’m sure the Bulls will have their share of hilariously bad possessions like we saw last season. Cameron Payne has improved but is still comedy waiting to happen. Fred Hoiberg is funny when he’s angry. If you have any other ideas, please share, because I’m sure I’m missing some.
When it comes down to it, the Bulls might be kinda crappy this season, but they should at least be entertaining. And there’s even an outside chance they’re pretty alright! I’ll take it.