At the onset of every NBA season, the general managers of all 30 teams fill out a survey for NBA.com, offering various predictions and ratings for players and teams across the league. This year, unsurprisingly, the survey didn’t include many complimentary votes for the rebuilding Chicago Bulls.
In fact, only one player currently on the Bulls roster appeared at all in the entire survey: Zach LaVine. The biggest piece of this summer’s Jimmy Butler trade, LaVine is currently working his way back from a torn ACL he suffered last season. It’s unlikely he’ll be cleared to play by opening night later this month, but he should become a focal point of the Bulls’ offense when he returns.
Athletic, Underrated, Breakout Candidate
While Gar Forman and John Paxson grossly backtracked from their “younger and more athletic” plans with last year’s signings of Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, bringing LaVine to Chicago definitely fits that bill. The 22 year-old, known for his high-flying dunks, was voted the third most athletic player in the league behind Russell Westbrook and LeBron James. Bulls fans may be skeptical about LaVine retaining that athleticism post-ACL – Derrick Rose flashbacks, I know – but reports from his rehab are promising. According to LaVine and the Bulls strength and conditioning staff, he’s jumping higher and running faster than he did before the injury.
Some of the NBA’s general managers also believe the Bulls got an underrated trade piece when they landed LaVine. He didn’t finish in the top five, but LaVine did receive some votes as the most underrated player acquisition. The Timberwolves prying Jimmy away from Chicago finished third in that category behind Paul Millsap going to Denver and the Pistons getting Avery Bradley.
And finally, LaVine also received some votes in the category for player most likely to have a breakout season. He didn’t finish in the top five, and the fact that he’s likely to miss the beginning of the season probably factored into those votes. Butler’s new teammates Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins finished first and fifth, respectively, in that category.
As a side note, Bulls rookie forward Lauri Markkanen didn’t receive any votes in three different categories. Most likely to win Rookie of the Year? No votes for Lauri, as the Lakers’ Lonzo Ball won in a landslide. Which rookie will be the best NBA player in five years? Still no votes for Lauri, with Phoenix’s Josh Jackson coming in first. Which rookie was the biggest steal where he was selected in the 2017 draft? Not Lauri, whom the Bulls selected with the 7th overall pick. Dallas Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. was voted as the best steal at #9, two picks behind Markkanen.
It’s no real surprise that the Bulls weren’t heavily featured in a survey about the league’s best positional players and impressive offseason moves. This is a rebuilding team that made questionable offseason moves. Oh, and Fred Hoiberg didn’t appear anywhere in a multitude of questions about the best coaches in the league. No surprise there, either.
At least we have a slimmer of hope with LaVine. No pressure, kid. Hope that ACL is feeling mighty strong. It has to carry the weight of an impatient and frustrated fanbase.