A few weeks ago, I predicted that the Chicago Bulls would make the playoffs this season as the eighth seed in the East. I couldn't have been any wronger. The Bulls are going to have a long season ahead of them, as they're off to a 1-3 start and players are dropping like flies. It seemed as if a few weeks ago things were looking promising and there was genuine excitement around the team again. What happened?
It's really hard for a young team to grow and develop together when nobody can physically play. Right before the preseason started, the Bulls announced that Finnish boy wonder Lauri Markkanen would miss 6-8 weeks with a right elbow sprain. Coming off his All-Rookie First Team selection, Lauri was set to have a big sophomore season, as he put on around 15 pounds of muscle this offseason and showcased dominance with the Finnish national team. When he returns in 2-4 weeks, it will surely help spark some attention for a team that will more than likely struggle in his and others absence.
After missing the first two games of the year due to the birth of his kid, Kris Dunn made his season debut on Monday against the Dallas Mavericks. His presence was missed in the first two games, as the Bulls looked completely lost on defense. Dunn showed last year that he can be a defensive anchor at point guard, averaging two steals a game. After his debut, it was announced that Dunn would miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL, effectively inserting Cam Payne into the starting lineup. Dunn's near-elite skills are going to be missed, as the Bulls are already a mess on defense, which was expected.
As if the Bulls couldn't catch a break already, Bobby Portis went down the next game against the Charlotte Hornets. While the Bulls got their first win of the season, they also lost a spark plug on both sides of the floor. Portis will miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained MCL, the exact same injury as Dunn. This one hurt the most. Portis has become a beast and was my pick for Sixth Man of the Year. He even went the Jimmy Butler route before the extension deadline, choosing not to re-up with the Bulls right now so that he could show out this season and earn more in the offseason. While there's still plenty of time for him to do so, missing that much time is tough for any player, and I hope he comes back even better.
Denzel Valentine is also out until further notice with a sprained ankle. He isn't as important to the Bulls' future as Lauri, Dunn, and Portis, but he's still a nice piece of the bench. The Bulls growth is currently delayed, but it gives them more time to evaluate future plans and figure out what roster moves they want to make. At this point, tanking is clearly the best option in order to add another young prospect to this emerging core.
After the Bulls matched the Sacramento Kings' 4-year/$78 million offer to LaVine this summer, there was a lot of speculation around whether he was worth the money. A lot of questions surround his health after his ACL tear, and his defensive can be atrocious at times. Although his defense is still pretty lackluster, LaVine has come out of the gate on an absolute tear. Through four games, LaVine is averaging 32.3 points a night on 57.1/40.0/86.1 shooting splits. He joined Michael Jordan as the only Bulls to score 30+ in the team's first four games, which is a stellar accomplishment. If LaVine can keep scoring at such an elite level, it will keep the Bulls somewhat competitive while Lauri, Dunn, and Portis make their ways back. If the scoring outbursts continue, LaVine could definitely be an All Star this year in a thinning pool of Eastern Conference stars.