After a 10-31 first half, the Bulls have kicked off the second half by embarrassing themselves once again versus the Warriors and blowing a 4th quarter lead against Utah. Really a great way to set the tone for the second half of the season.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 12, 2019
— Mark K (@mkhoops) January 13, 2019
Wayne Selden and Jabari Parker were the headliners? Pass.
One would imagine that the team is set up to win more games than they did in the first half with a healthier core, but this season has certainly not been the step forward that management was hoping for, as evidenced by their December decision to make a change at head coach.
There have been plenty of failures, both on and off the court, but there have also been successes. Not everybody deserves a bad grade on their first semester report card.
ZACH LAVINE: A-
LaVine’s rocky road to recovery last season couldn’t have come at a worse time. Neither players nor organizations benefit from players rushing back from injury before free agency, but LaVine had no other option in 2018.
When the Bulls ended up matching LaVine’s $78M offer sheet, they knew he’d need to do better than 16.7ppg on 38% shooting with poor defense to justify the deal.
Thankfully, LaVine has answered the bell.
His efficiency numbers have fluctuated due to the amount of responsibility thrust upon him while Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis were hurt. Overall though the 45.7/35.8/86.7 shooting line is much improved, and he currently finds himself 15th in the league in scoring at 23.6 per game.
WENDELL CARTER JR- B+
It’s probably fair to say that the 19-year-old rookie has exceeded early expectations. As much as we all love piling on John Paxson and Gar Forman, it can’t be understated how important it is that the Bulls seem to have hit on the #7 pick in back to back years.
His statistics don’t jump off the page, but that’s partially due to his inconsistent playing time, and it’s already apparent that he is on his way to becoming a defensive anchor. He’s only 6-31 on the year from 3 so that needs work, but if he’s already averaging 11 and 7 it’s not that hard to imagine 18 and 10 to go along with stellar defense in the near future.
LAURI MARKKANEN- B
Markkanen has played in just 20 games this season, comically returning for the last game of the Fred Hoiberg era. While Markkanen has looked out of sorts at times since his return, I fully expect him to have a stronger second half.
His True Shooting percentage has gone down a tad, but his 3-point percentage has improved and he’s averaging 16.5ppg and over 7rpg. It shouldn’t be long before Markkanen finds a more consistent rhythm on the court.
KRIS DUNN- C
The clock is ticking. At this point, it’s unlikely that the Bulls will extend their point guard before next season. There’s still time for him to earn a second contract in Chicago by the time he hits restricted free agency in 2020, but he needs to pick it up now.
Dunn’s biggest problem thus far has been durability. He missed 30 games last season with multiple injuries and has already missed 24 games this season due to a knee sprain. He missed the majority of his first two college seasons with shoulder injuries as well and he’s not getting any younger.
While he’s on the court, Dunn is the Bulls best perimeter defender and distributor. It stands out though that his jump shot hasn’t come around yet, he’s a 31% career 3-point shooter with a career TS% under 50 percent. At this point, it’s fair to wonder if the shot will ever come.
Even without a dependable jumper, Dunn is capable of being a 15/8/6 player with stellar defense. That’s a guy worth giving a second contract to at the right price, but he needs to actually stay on the court to earn it.
JABARI PARKER: EXPELLED
This was a marriage that never should’ve been consummated. It really sucks that a highly touted Chicago high school legend, who’s a superstar at giving back to the community, has panned out so poorly. The bottom line is that post-injury Jabari hasn’t adjusted his style of play to fit in, and management should’ve never expected him to be able to do so. Especially not at the position they signed him to play, and ESPECIALLY not at a successful enough clip to be worth his contract figure.
Parker has spent the majority of the last month on the bench as a healthy DNP, even in 20 point blowouts when the rest of the bench is emptied. There are rumors that he might be traded, but if he does end up staying put don’t expect to see much of him on the court.
JIM BOYLEN: F
This isn’t even totally Jim Boylen’s fault. If your boss came up to you today and promoted you from a job you’ve been doing for thirty years to a more difficult, stressful job with no notice, you’d probably be way over your head and terrible at it.
Boylen is obviously a smart basketball lifer, his three championship rings as an assistant speak for themselves. But so does his track record as a head coach, which includes:
- A 4-year stint at a mid-major college that included just one NCAA Tournament Bid
- That’s it
There are only 30 NBA head coaching jobs that exist, there are only so many people that can hold that position and succeed. There are so, so many reasons why Boylen is unlikely to do so, but that deserves its own piece. For now, we all just need to hope that the pay raise he just received through next season won’t prevent the Bulls from canning him.