John Hollinger is back writing about basketball, and he’s liking the Bulls.
The creator of PER and author of the o.g. Basketball Prospectus books (I contributed once or twice upon a time!) spent the last 7 seasons in the Memphis Grizzlies front office, but he’s back in media with for The Athletic.
Hollinger’s been doing his divisional previews there, and today published one on the Central Division, where your Chicago Bulls are thought of very highly.
“Hitting on three straight lottery picks” and “predatory trades with Washington” (accurate) are lauded:
the Bulls find themselves with immense size in the starting 5 to go along with heaps of basketball IQ and floor-stretching capability.
The Bulls deftly rounded out the roster by bringing in Thaddeus Young to give them a smaller, switchier frontcourt option to the Carter-Markkanen pairing. Bargain signee Luke Kornet notched a quietly productive year in New York and could establish a rotation role as a stretch 5 (we can safely presume Cristiano Felicio won’t be beating him out). Ryan Arcidiacono also returns after a solid year off the bench; undrafted out of Villanova, he surpassed the more heralded Kris Dunn with his steady, mistake-free play.
Chicago’s one glaring weakness is on the wings, where there isn’t much behind LaVine and Porter.
Hollinger actually targets Zach LaVine as the biggest variable for team success. Hollinger calls LaVine “at worst a dynamite sixth man” but pointed out that Zach showed significant improvement in some areas (free throw rate, shots at the rim) and if he shows it in other ones (defense) this year it’ll make him a more suitable ‘leading man’.
The ultimate prediction is 40 wins and a playoff berth.
Hollinger hasn’t updated the Southeast division yet, but going through 2⁄3 of the conference it’s notable what teams are near and below his Bulls prediction: Pistons (34), Nets (39), Raptors (43), Pacers (42).