With their first preseason game already wrapped up, it’s now time to get our initial reactions to this Chicago Bulls team. Against a Milwaukee Bucks team resting some of their starters, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chicago held their own for much of the first half and were only down three at halftime. In the second half, Milwaukee outscored Chicago by eight and eventually pulled away for 122-112 victory. With the starters not playing the fourth quarter and the end of the bench players getting some burn near the conclusion of this game, it’s tough to judge Chicago based on the score.
With a young team like the Bulls, this time before the games start to count can help with chemistry and give players a chance to establish themselves in Jim Boylen’s scheme. Teams can figure out their rotations as well. However, there is at least one certain thing for Chicago heading into the regular season: Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen will be running the offense.
Both LaVine and Markkanen lead Chicago in shot attempts with 13 and 12 respectively. No other starter had more than eight attempts. Markkanen shot and made the most three’s of anyone in the game, going four of eight from downtown along with five rebounds in his 14 point outing. LaVine was his aggressive self, constantly testing defenses while filling up the stat sheet. Along with his 16 points, which led all scorers, he added six rebounds and five assists. Both displayed the same strengths they had last season with LaVine’s driving ability attracting multiple defenders while Markkanen was still the knockdown shooter we have seen for the past two seasons. Although it’s early into the actual basketball year, it was a positive sign to see Jim Boylen consistently running actions which involved the duo.
Chicago used the LaVine-Markkanen pick and roll combination a couple of times during this matchup and it worked. LaVine drew the attention of the defending big and it allowed Markkanen to slip back to the three-point line for an easy three-point attempt.
Markkanen also broke down defenders when they tried to run him off the three-point line or contest a jump shot.
Overall there were some positives when it came to Chicago’s offense. They shot 38 three-pointers and had 38 free throw attempts in this one. Players such as Coby White were pushing the pace and forcing defenders to make quick decisions when it came to contesting shots. Markkanen and the returning Denzel Valentine weren’t shy when it came to letting the rock fly. Although it’s only one preseason game, the Bulls offense prioritized efficient ways to score the basketball: shoot the three constantly and attack the teeth of defenses to draw fouls.
@markstrot is spot on. Simply looking at the shot chart we can see a more concentrated effort to take more efficent shots. Ideally you'd like to see more corner 3s though, but headed in the right direction. #BullsNation https://t.co/D1Asd58WcL pic.twitter.com/wSlDdgltEy— Bulls Gold (@BullsGold) October 8, 2019
Nice debuts from Coby White and Thad Young
Two other players stood out in the preseason opener. It was new additions, White and Thad Young, who were impressive off the bench.
In his first game of “real NBA action” White had an ok stat line of 12 points and two rebounds. He shot poorly from the field (3 of 10) and some of the worries about his shooting were on display. White did hit a three-pointer in the second half when kicked out to, however, and his mechanics looked good.
But White’s brilliant speed, which wowed fans at North Carolina, was present at the United Center. He went from end to end in seconds and impressively was able to finish through contact. White showed no fear going up against big men, bouncing off them, and still having the control to score the ball while off balance.
Coby White just took the ball end-to-end off the inbounds pass and drew a foul by the time the shot clock hit 20 pic.twitter.com/OdU1JqLzxS— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) October 8, 2019
Overall, it was a nice debut for White. He’s just a rookie and is not going to have everything figured out in game one of his career. At least we know when he’s on the floor the Bulls are going to run a lot.
With his defensive versatility and movement off the ball on offense, Young was solid in his Bulls debut. Despite scoring only four points and grabbing two rebounds, Young did a lot of things which didn’t show up on the box score. He was active defensively and was able to hold his own when it came to switches. Having Young as Chicago’s backup power forward will be huge when it comes to the second unit’s defensive play and the lineups Boylen can run out. Young in at power forward will even open up more opportunities for Markkanen at the five in a small-ball lineup, like we saw against Milwaukee.