The Bulls played a game over the weekend against the 76ers. They lost by 20 points, but JaKarr Sampson scored a career-high 29 points, so they had that going for them. There are two games left, and that’s all I have to say about that.
More interestingly, The Athletic published results from an NBA player poll they conducted over the course of the season. Their beat writers talked to 127 players in all, and while not every player answered every question, they still got an impressive set of answers.
Most glaring was “which coach would you not want to play for”, and even with players not being able to vote for their own coach, Jim Boylen got 21.1% of the vote (11 out of 52) for this question.
The near-mutiny was of course referenced when discussing Boylen in Sam Amick’s blurb, but Boylen did get some credit because he “recalibrated” with the young core and Zach LaVine offered to pay his fine.
Boylen has taken a lot of heat this season, and for good reason, but management has been consistently singing his praises and indicating he’s going to be back next season. This poll certainly isn’t a good look, but the Bulls likely just believe you have to be in their building to truly appreciate Jimbo’s ways.
(Hilariously enough, Tom Thibodeau led the way with 34.6% of the vote, and Fred Hoiberg actually got two votes for coach you’d want to play for.)
The Bulls did get a few other mentions in the survey:
- Kris Dunn got 2.6% of the vote for best defender (three votes out of 114).
- Shaquille Harrison somehow got a vote for player you’d sign first when building a roster from scratch, but I’m assuming that was either a troll vote or a drop-down voting error that was meant for James Harden.
- Wayne Selden Jr. got a vote for who talks the most trash. I had no idea.
- Zach LaVine got 1.7% of the vote for most underrated (two votes out of 116), while Robin Lopez also picked up a vote in this category.
More RoLo love
Speaking of Robin Lopez, it’s hard not to appreciate his performance as this year has gone on. After struggling out of the gate and looking like he was on his way out midseason, Lopez turned into a low-post scoring machine starting in February and has been a valuable veteran presence in the middle.
Lopez’s funky post game got some much-deserved love in Zach Lowe’s weekly column at ESPN last week:
The Bulls have averaged 1.1 points since the trade deadline when Lopez shoots from the block, or dishes to a teammate who finishes the possession, per Second Spectrum. That is comfortably above average, and legit impressive considering the surrounding, umm, talent.
Lopez is tossing in patented floor-scraping ice cream scoop shots, where he palms the ball almost at knee level, extends his arm, and flips a weirdo hook over his head.
When he enters pivot mode, it sometimes looks as if he’s the only player standing on a very slow-moving turntable ... Lopez is one of the league’s beloved teammates. He revels in grunt work. He stayed upbeat even as fellow Bulls contemplated a full-scale mutiny, and good players around him kept disappearing. It has been nice to see him show off his scoring ability.
Watching the RoLo offense can be difficult, but it certainly keeps Stacey King on his toes.
Shaquille Harrison has been grinding
Every year, Zach Lowe comes up with his “Luke Walton All-Stars.” These players are, in his words, “an ode to bit players who bounce around the fringes of the NBA before landing in new roles where things click.”
While former Bull Joakim Noah got the prime real estate on this list thanks to his renaissance in Memphis, Shaquille Harrison also got a spot thanks to his relentless defense and improving offensive game.
Naturally, Jimbo loves him some Shaq Harrison, and Shaq Harrison loves him some Jimbo:
Perhaps it won’t surprise you, then, that Harrison doesn’t mind the hard-charging style of Jim Boylen, the Bulls’ new head coach -- including the hours-long practices that nearly fomented rebellion in Boylen’s first week in the top job. “It wasn’t new to me,” Harrison says. “I’ve had coaches who had practices like that. A lot of guys were hurting, but it was another day in the office for me. I think I’m kind of a Jim prototype.”
He’s right. “He’s my kind of guy,” Boylen says. “I have never seen anyone embrace constructive criticism like Shaq. I’ve coached him hard, and he’s taken it in the chest.”
Harrison has been a pleasant surprise this season, and it’ll be interesting to see if the Bulls make an effort to keep him as he continues to work on his busted jumper. He has a $1.59 million non-guaranteed deal until Aug. 15, and then it’s partially guaranteed for $175,000 until becoming fully guaranteed on Jan. 10, 2020.
Last week, The Athletic’s Jordan Brenner did a piece on the futures of the non-playoff teams. A dozen sources (executives, coaches and scouts) were polled, and the Bulls came in fourth place behind the Mavericks, Kings and Hawks. The Bulls did get one first-place vote.
One Western Conference executive highlighted the young core, the impending high draft pick and cap space. A former exec likes a few of the pieces, but he doesn’t think the Bulls have a core “inspiring fear in opponents,” and there are too many unproven pieces.
Here’s the longest response, courtesy of “an East exec”:
“They have drafted too many good players for categorical failure. Look at the pieces they have and they’re probably going to get one more this year. I think Wendell Carter is going to be really good — a potential Defensive Player of the Year. Lauri Markkanen is really good. Maybe they’re not seven-time All-Stars, but maybe they’re really good players that add to a winning team. And that Otto Porter trade is one of the most underreported great moves of the past 5-to-10 years. He has two-way ability and he was just scratching the surface of what he could be in Washington. Porter significantly helped Zach LaVine when he got there, because he was able to take pressure off LaVine and allow him to be athletic and score, since Porter can be the guy who takes the best wing player defensively.”
This seems pretty fair. Next season is going to be huge, and thank heavens this season is almost over. Two more games.