Going into tonight the Bulls sport a jaunty 3-10 record. The biggest news coming out of Chicago this year has been about Bobby Portis decking Nikola Mirotic, the only Bull in ESPN’s top hundred players, and fracturing Mirotic’s jaw. Earlier in the season Justin Holliday was on pace to become the worst shooting player for the number of shots he was putting up ALL-TIME. Before the season, the Bulls were fleeced for Jimmy Butler in a trade that was widely panned by experts and laymen such as myself alike. Yes, things have been gloomy in the second city.
Things aren’t as bad as they appear.
Last night I had the privilege of witnessing the Bulls third (and possibly final) win of the season against the Charlotte Hornets. Sitting in seats four rows back from courtside (shout-out to company-owned season tickets), I was close enough to catch a few flashes of promise in this rough-and-tumble Bulls outfit. In between Kemba making everyone look foolish off the bounce, which is even more amazing in person, some of the younger Bulls showed that they could contribute when given the chance.
The most obvious of the contributions this season has come from Lauri Markkanen. The Finnish sharpshooter looked comfortable playing against NBA defense and has a sweet, effortless stroke. With Mirotic out and Zach Lavine coming back from injury, Markkanen is the one Bull who reliably knocks down wide open jumpers. While this season may be forgetta-Bull, at least it looks like they have a valuable piece moving forward in a league where sharpshooting big men are all the rage.
Less noticed (I think) has been Kris Dunn. Forgive me if it’s just me that’s been in the dark, but this young guy looks really good in person. In one sequence he stole the ball, scored, stole it again, scored again. He’s lengthy, quick, has a good handle and looked comfortable finishing at the rim after contact. He has some turnover issues, gets a little ambitious trying to score, and could work on shot selection, but the tools are there. With a little polish, this guy could be a really solid contributor on a good team. Did I mention his defense is all-consuming when he turns it on?
Okay, so those were the only two that really jumped out from the Bulls, but that’s pretty good for a 3-10 team, right? There is one more guy I’d like to mention, and he’s a blue-chip freshman who was wearing the teal and white. I’m speaking of the much maligned Malik Monk. Monk came out of Duke with the rep of a sharpshooting hitman, and came into the season looking like Justin Holliday 2.0. I was impressed with Monk’s shot last night; in person it’s deadly quick. He can’t handle ball pressure too smoothly, but if he can gain half a step and create the sliver of sunlight he needs to get his shot up, he’s going to be lethal. Watching his shot and style reminded me of Jamal Crawford, Monk just needs to tighten up his dribble and get that step and I think he can realize that potential.
So yeah, the Bulls aren’t good, but they’ve got two solid young guys for the future. At this point who knows if they will be guys to build around or solid role-players, but they can contribute. Once Zach Lavine comes back, the Bulls might be darn close to a respectable team. And hey, for the record, I’m pulling for Malik too.