The 2017 offseason was the wildest in NBA history. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are now Eastern Conference rivals. Out West, Chris Paul joined James Harden, while Paul George and Carmelo Anthony united with Russell Westbrook. Ten recent All–Stars changed uniforms, and we haven’t even gotten to Kevin Durant’s strange summer, so let’s get to previewing. The 2017-18 NBA season is finally upon us.
2016-17 finish: 41-41, lost in the first round
• Offensive rating: 104.6 (21st)
• Defensive rating: 104.5 (6th)
Additions: Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Quincy Pondexter, Lauri Markkanen, Justin Holiday
Subtractions: Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Isaiah Canaan, Michael Carter-Williams, Anthony Morrow, Joffrey Lauvergne
Did the summer help at all?
The Bulls traded their best player for a soon-to-be restricted free agent coming off an ACL tear (Zach LaVine), one of the most underperforming members of a 2016 draft full of them (Kris Dunn) and the No. 7 pick in a loaded draft, which they used on Markkanen, who was considered a reach at that spot.
The good news: GarPax finally blew up the Bulls, who should be really bad, especially now that they’ve bought out the rest of Dwyane Wade’s contract. And, hey, Markkanen looked pretty good for Finland at EuroBasket, where he averaged 19.5 points (on 53.3 percent shooting) and 5.7 rebounds this month.
The Bulls also re-signed Nikola Mirotic to a two-year, $27 million deal that was a bit of a head-scratcher, considering the lack of interest in the streaky-shooting, defensive-challenged big man. Ex-New York Knicks guard Justin Holiday was a nice free-agent flier for short money, and oft-injured wing Quincy Pondexter is a helpful player when healthy, but neither will move the needle all that much.
At least Chicago won’t suffer through another season of in-fighting, before their Bulls try just enough to offer hope as a No. 8 seed, up 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs, only to reveal they were fragile enough to fracture along with Rondo’s thumb. He’s gone, too, by the way. (R.I.P. Three Alphas 2016-17.)
LaVine, Dunn, Markkanen, Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine and Paul Zipser are an intriguing young core for former college coach Fred Hoiberg to develop without the burden of kowtowing to veteran egos. But everyone knows what the Bulls are now, and that’s a team headed for some solid lottery odds.
Best-case scenario: Michael Porter Jr.
If everything falls apart: We are here. Six years removed from the conference finalist Bulls adding Butler at the back end of the 2011 draft and seemingly setting themselves up for a decade of contention, everyone is gone. The worst-case scenario for these Bulls is if coach Fred Hoiberg, vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman, whose name is being thrown around by anonymous sources as a metaphor for bad GM’ing, all prove once and for all that they’re unfit for command, and Bulls ownership continues to let them steer into the iceberg.
Best guess at a record: 21-61
Read all of Ball Don’t Lie’s 2017-18 NBA Season Previews:
Atlanta Hawks • Boston Celtics • Brooklyn Nets • Charlotte Hornets • Chicago Bulls • Cleveland Cavaliers • Detroit Pistons • Indiana Pacers • Miami Heat • Milwaukee Bucks • New York Knicks • Orlando Magic • Philadelphia 76ers • Toronto Raptors • Washington Wizards
Dallas Mavericks • Denver Nuggets • Golden State Warriors • Houston Rockets • Los Angeles Clippers • Los Angeles Lakers • Memphis Grizzlies • Minnesota Timberwolves • New Orleans Pelicans • Oklahoma City Thunder • Phoenix Suns • Portland Trail Blazers • Sacramento Kings • San Antonio Spurs • Utah Jazz
– – – – – – –