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Javonte Green rising, plus 4 other Bulls preseason takeaways

when will Zach be Zach again?

NBA: Preseason-Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

After a mildly impressive 3-1 preseason (though the final victory was against very few meaningful Milwaukee Bucks), your Chicago Bulls are ready for the 2022-23 NBA regular season. Chicago’s first game that counts will be against old pal Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat, who will be starting a non-P.J. Tucker 6’5” guy (Caleb Martin) at power forward on Wednesday.

Before you judge, you should remember who the best power forward on Chicago’s roster is. Let’s examine that, along with a few of the other big stories from the Bulls’ now-concluded preseason run.

Javonte Green needs to start at power forward — and Patrick Williams should benefit from that

There is no longer any question that, with both players healthy, 6’4” Javonte Green (who was, once upon a time, just a throw-in for a three-team trade between the Bulls, Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics that sent Green, Daniel Theis and Troy Brown Jr. to Chicago) has looked like the better fit to be Chicago’s unorthodox starting power forward. Playing just 19.1 minutes a night across four preseason games, Green averaged 15.0 points on 71.4% field goal shooting (!), which includes nailing 66.7% of his 2.3 3-point attempts. Last year represented the previous high water mark for his long-range looks — and he took just 1.6 a night (he made 35.6% of them, but his output volume was too modest to make a big impact). Green also pulling down five rebounds per game during the preseason. The Bulls scored 11.3 more points than their opponents during the minutes Green took the floor.

At 29, he seems to have genuinely expanded his bag. “Internal development” was always going to be the Bulls’ 2022 summer plan, seemingly, so it’s nice that this may have actually happened for once:

6’7” third-year forward Patrick Williams may possess more of the build of a modern power forward, but has looked less effective alongside stars DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic than Green has. “The Paw” would benefit from having the ball in his hands more, which could happen if his minutes are staggered against his ball-dominant All-Star teammates. Williams excelled as a reserve during his lone NCAA season at Florida State, where he was voted as the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Green thrives with off-ball cuts to the rim and transition plays, and appears to be boosting his 3-point shooting game. He’s a better complement to the starters, though his height could put a ceiling on his efficacy in the postseason, if last year’s underwhelming performance against the Bucks is to be believed.

Williams started two of the Bulls’ four preseason games, while Green and another returning undersized frontcourt role player, 6’5” forward Derrick Jones Jr., got one start apiece. During Jones’ start, DJJ and Williams looked so bad in the first half (while Green sat) that Green replaced Jones in the starting lineup out of the halftime break, and led the team to a convincing 115-98 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

Dalen Terry is a runaway train on offense

The Bulls’ first-round draft pick out of Arizona looks like a speed demon, and seems to fit the Arturas Karnisovas/Marc Eversley draft model: a long, athletic player whose offensive game remains somewhat raw, but who possesses plenty of upside. In Terry’s case, the 20-year-old No. 18 draft pick is a 6’7” guard with a 7’1” wingspan who runs downhill like his life depends on it. He’s developing a nice little two-man transition game with Javonte Green:

The shooting guard’s court awareness is appetizing too. This could be Chicago’s second straight draft steal. In his 16 minutes a night off the bench for Chicago, Terry scored 6.5 points a night on .550/.400/.667 shooting splits while grabbing 3.5 boards, dishing out 2.8 dimes, and swiping 0.8 steals a night.

DeMar DeRozan still looks like DeMVP

Ahead of his year-33 season, the five-time All-Star is hoping to build on a career-best regular season with the Bulls (he was a bit more erratic in the playoffs, though to be fair he was the focal point of the Bucks’ ferocious defensive attack). So far, DeRozan looks to have picked up right where he left off. During his three preseason games (he got a night off to rest), Deebo averaged 21.3 points on 58.3% shooting in just 24.7 minutes per game. He also added 4.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.0 steals a night.

Watch the 6’6” small forward cook the much bigger, much younger Aaron Gordon with some fancy footwork in the paint, drawing a trip to the charity stripe (where he’s a career 83.7% shooter) for his efforts:

It’s probably not fair to expect DeRozan to remain at the All-NBA Second-Team level he played at during the 2021-22 season. But we can still cross our fingers and continue to hope this heady preseason play is for real.

Zach LaVine isn’t Zach LaVine just yet

Chicago’s other All-Star continues to rehabilitate his surgically enhanced left knee following an operation in late May. Zach LaVine still didn’t quite look like himself all the time, but it doesn’t appear that he’s lost much of his first step:

The newly re-signed 6’5” guard shot just 39.1% from the field for a pretty uncharacteristic 8.7 points a night in three preseason games. He also chipped in 3.0 assists (against a less-than-stellar 3.3 turnovers), 1.3 rebounds, and 0.7 steals per game.

Contract Year Vooch wants that extension

Nikola Vucevic is entering a contract year and is eligible for an extension. Based on preseason action, perhaps we get a bounce-back campaign?

While playing just 24.3 minutes a night in Chicago’s four preseason contests this year, the 31-year-old scored an average of 14.8 points on an insane 67.6% shooting from the floor and 50% shooting from deep (on 3.5 attempts). He also chipped in 9.5 boards, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and a block per game for good measure. Granted, there’s a reason “it’s only preseason” is a phrase we like to throw around a lot here. Let’s see how Vucevic plays when the Milwaukee Bucks aren’t resting most of their playoff rotation.

A fun element of Vucevic’s game that isn't oft-discussed, his passing, has looked especially crisp, as this crazy outlet to Williams illustrates:

Looking for more preseason analysis? Jason and Ricky do an excellent job unpacking this year’s four-game stint on their Cash Considerations pod.