By DRAKE LOHSE
It breaks my heart to write this, but my beloved Chicago Bulls are one of the absolute worst teams in the NBA right now. Their 14-44 season has been marked largely in disarray. It was only back in December that several Bulls players nearly staged a mutiny of their interim head coach Jim Boylen. Flashes of dynamite have been quieted by inconsistent and sloppy play. That same month, they were booed off by a Chicago crowd after a 56-point loss to the Celtics.
I don’t blame you if you’ve tuned out. It’s been hard for me to sit through games at times. My dad’s all but given up on his boyhood dreams of a Bull’s resurgence, but I can assure you there’s something brewing in the Windy City. Let’s get caught up on the State of the Chicago Bulls.
Kris Dunn Dilemma Looms
The case of Kris Dunn has been a curious one. The 24 year old once looked to be a promising young slasher for the Timberwolves. His smooth handles and clean pull-up had cast eyes in his direction whenever he took the ball up the court.
Since he was traded to the Bulls in a package for Jimmy Butler back in 2017, Dunn’s only shown flashes of the talent that made him a fifth overall pick back in 2016. Dunn’s 11.5 PPG and 6.5 assists aren’t abysmal averages for a point guard, but Dunn’s lacked the court presence needed to corral a young Chicago core. Dunn is quickly approaching veteran status, but rather than taking the opportunity to establish himself as a floor general. Dunn’s quietly shifted to the fringes of a Bull’s backcourt.
Dunn missed Wednesday’s home show against the Grizzlies with a tailbone injury. His absence was hardly noticeable. Backup Ryan Arcidiacono doled out 11 assists in the 122-110 victory. Arcidiacono’s decision making was impeccable, and the offense looked fluid. The Bull’s offense have already hinted they’re looking for a more veteran presence at the point guard position (queue the calls for Derrick Rose) so how does Kris Dunn look to fit into a Chicago Bulls backcourt that may finally look to establish an identity? He might not.
Bulls Pull A Fast One
In a move that no one saw coming, the Bulls dealt Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker to the Wizards for Otto Porter Jr. There was plenty of speculation surrounding Parker’s status with the team going forward. The expectation was for him to be dealt in another busy offseason, not unloaded in the home-stretch of the season. When the Bull’s acquired Porter, it felt like an odd time to revitalize an already lost season.
Bulls fans were quick to quit scratching their heads. In his Chicago debut, No. 22 dropped 18 on the Nets, before doing it again three days later against a talented Bucks team.
Wednesday night’s home match against the Grizzlies proved to be Porter’s welcome party. Otto Porter went fully Otto-Matic. He dumped 37 points on Memphis, and it only took him 34 minutes to do it. Porter shot a ridiculous 16-20 from the field. He went 3-for-5 from beyond the arch and collected 10 rebounds.
Porter’s presence on the floor was apparent in more ways than one. In Washington, Porter’s simple pull-up-off-the-screen game got lost at times behind Bradley Beal’s iso-heavy maneuvers. His length stretched the spacing on offense, opening up the floor for Robin Lopez and Lauri Markkanen, who combined for 40.
“Dude gets it going like that you have to go to him,” Bulls guard Zach LaVine said after the game in a press conference. “[Porter] plays so many different positions. He’s a veteran, he knows what he’s doing. Very smart, talks on defense, can flat out score, shoot the ball, spaces the floor. He’s doing a little bit of everything. Since he’s been here, I feel like I’ve been able to get more driving lanes, easier catch and shoots or with him playing two-man games and Lauri getting more open shots.”
Otto Porter’s 7-foot-1-inch wingspan also helps stiffen the Bulls defense. His emotional stature helped provide the young Bull’s with an uncharacteristic swagger, in case you didn’t know which one Otto Porter was, look for the guy jumping up and down, pumping up the crowd, and pumping his fist after emphatic slams.
Porter’s move to Chicago could be the shift he needs to best vitalize his game. The Bull’s need it too. Zach LaVine is consistent, but he’s no Jimmy Butler, and trying to build a franchise around him feels like letting a toddler fly a Boeing 737. Porter could be the centerpiece needed to stimulate the Chicago’s emergence from a rebuilding era.
Even with that said, a trade for Porter’s massive contract midway through the season just felt odd. I had a hunch that something else was happening here. Is Otto Porter truly apart of the Bull’s plan going forward? Or could the 25 year-old just be a pawn in some higher chess game?
Questions we can’t have answers yet
If the Bull’s want to keep Otto Porter around, there aren’t too many Windy City fans who’d complain. But another headline unfolding before the deadline ended in confusion.
In case you missed it, Pelican’s superstar Anthony Davis requested a trade right before the Feb. 7 deadline. All signs pointed to the Lakers, but mysteriously the Pelicans failed to pull the trigger. Any 12 year-old with a 2k Franchise knows dealing Davis is the smart move. He’s set to hit free agency this summer. The Pelicans certainly have the money to resign him, but with no other considerable talent, no one could blame Davis for walking. So why not get something for him now?
It might not be that simple. Could Bull’s general manager Gar Forman be some sort of evil genius, whispering in the ear of the Pelican’s front office, quietly assembling the pieces necessary to fit his diabolical plot? Could Chicago be gearing up for a potential summer blockbuster?
A sign and trade for Davis would make a lot of sense. Davis, a Chicago native, would love to be apart of the cities basketball resurgence. He may even take a pay cut to do so. Acquiring Davis would certainly and instantaneously, bring an end to the Bull’s rebuilding era. And with trade pieces like Otto Porter and Kris Dunn, young talent with plenty left in the tank, the Bulls may just be able to do it without sacrificing their first rounder.
With some other minor deals and signings, the Chicago Bulls—you heard it here first—could be heavyweight contenders again as early as next year. No matter what the future holds, at least we get to enjoy the Otto-Show in the meantime.
Look, I could talk and talk Bulls all day. But life’s busy. With an 82 game schedule, I can’t always keep up with Chicago the way I’d like. I’m going to need some help.
My sweet Grandma Marlene lives an out outside of the Windy City. When she’s not baking oatmeal raisin cookies for her favorite grandson, or playing the piano at church three times a week, Marlene’s screaming obscenities at TV while the Bulls break her heart. Please make sure to take your shoes off before you walk through the foyer, and allow my grandma to break down Wednesday night’s action.
Grandma Marlene’s Gamebreak:
I’ll take it from here Drakey-Pooh. No heartbreak here! The Bulls are back! You sound like my neighbor Mrs. Kaufmann, talking about Kris Dunn that way. I like Kris Dunn. I’ve always thought he had a nice smile, and I heard his girlfriend and him just had a baby. I just wish they would get married…anyway, I suppose you’re right, we don’t really need Dunn.
That Ryan, how do you say that last name? Oh jeez. Arriciadosocono? That’s not it. It doesn’t matter. Ryan played very well. I remember watching him back in the summer league, and he does have a way of opening the floor. He has an understanding of Zach’s game that I don’t think Kris really has. We’ll see how he plays, but he is young and we need to hang on to our young players right now.
Man, who is this Otto fella, huh? He is just what we needed. It’s great to see a young kid like him who really loves the game. You can tell he’s really enjoying his time with us, his game has really opened up! He was already able to score in a lot of different ways, but Wednesday night we really got to see what all he’s capable of, and I don’t know if the rest of the league realizes it.
Boylen, I don’t like that Boylen. Say what you will about Boylen, but really knows how to use Porter. He had 21 points before halftime! Perfect from three! It wasn’t just Porter, the whole team looked better. Robin had 25, Zach looked more relaxed and took more comfortable opportunities, Zach’s always forcing shots. We shot 56 percent from the field, and even thought we weren’t perfect on defense, we held the Grizzlies to 110 points and it didn’t seem that they could get anything going for long.
This Otto Porter is definitely no Derrick Rose, but he is fun to watch. We don’t play again until the 22nd, but I’m curious to see if he’s going to be able to keep playing the way he played Wednesday. Mrs. Kaufmann says that he just had a good game, although I heard she lets her dogs sleep in her bed with her, and I certainly haven’t seen her at church much recently, so, I don’t know. We’ll see!
“I liked our vibe tonight. I think tonight’s game was indicative of where we can perform consistently as a team,” head coach Jim Boylen said of Wednesday’s game. “There were a lot of guys talking on the bench, lots of encouragement and trying to get each other involved. Things are picking up around here.”
The Bulls return to action Friday, Feb. 22 when they fly to Orlando to take on the Magic.