Bulls

Here's all 82 games of the Bulls' 2018-19 schedule

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NBC SPORTS

Here's all 82 games of the Bulls' 2018-19 schedule

Here it is: The 2018-19 Bulls regular season schedule.

Unfortunately for the second consecutive year the Bulls won't have a chance to improve their 20-game win streak at home on TNT, though they will play three nationally televised games.

Check out the 10 most intriguing dates on the calendar and why you should have them circled.

Ten dates to circle on the Bulls' 2018-19 schedule

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USA TODAY

Ten dates to circle on the Bulls' 2018-19 schedule

The Bulls' 2018-19 schedule came out Friday afternoon. You can check out the 82-game slate. But we're also keying in on 10 specific dates that Bulls fans will want to circle on their calendars.

1. LeBron brings Hollywood to the Windy City (vs. LAL, March 12)

The Bulls will play LeBron James and the Lakers in Los Angeles on Jan. 15, but there's no atmosphere like when The King comes to town. Add in the fact that the Lakers have the league's largest fan base and you understand why this one is going to be massive. After seeing James four times a year the last four seasons, the Bulls will only get two shots at James this season. Seeing as this will be his only trip to Chicago, it's easily the biggest game of the year.

2. The TimberBulls reunion, pt. II (vs. MIN, Dec. 26)

Some of the buzz will be gone considering Tom Thibodeau, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson came to Chicago last season. But this time around, a day after Christmas, they'll have Derrick Rose with them (and maybe even Joakim Noah). That's going to create some serious nostalgia at the United Center. And don't forget, this will always loom large as a big game for Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine after it was Thibodeau who sent them packing in exchange for Butler.

3. Jabari Parker returns to his favorite suburb (at MIL, Nov. 16)

Jabari Parker said all the right things upon leaving Milwaukee and joining his hometown Bulls. But you can bet there's some real animosity between the two and he'll want to get his revenge on when they clash for the first of four meetings. It'll also be the first matchup between the Bulls and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who looks ready to make a real run at MVP. Considering it's also a division game, every Bulls-Bucks game will be a big one this season. 

4. The Warriors' dynasty makes an early stop in CHI (vs. GSW, Oct. 29)

Three titles in four years makes the Warriors a dynasty. Sorry, 90s Bulls fans. The good - and we use that term lightly - news is that DeMarcus Cousins will be sidelined for this early-season affair. And the even better news it that the Bulls have some recent success against the Warriors: since the start of the 2012-13 season the Bulls have gone 5-7 against Steph and co. Hey, it's something.

5. The Prospects vs. The Process (at PHI, Oct. 18)

This may be a few years away from becoming a real rivalry, but the finished process of the Sixers' rebuild will square off against the Bulls' blossoming one to begin the year. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid terrorized the Bulls last season, but a healthy core and the rookie additions plus Jabari Parker should even out these contests. It'll be a good test to open the year for Fred Hoiberg's group.

6. Anthony Davis' (un)official recruiting visit (vs. NOP, Feb. 6)

Hey, Anthony! Look at all this great young talent! OK, Davis can't become a free agent until 2020 and it would be surprising if he didn't sign a super-max deal with the Pelicans. But we can dream. It's a hometown return for the Prospectives alum, and we can't help but think he'll be keeping an eye on the Bulls' young core...just in case he gets the itch to pull a Jabari Parker and come on home. Let us dream.

7. Wendell Carter Jr. gets to show Marvin Bagley III what he can do (vs. SAC, Dec. 10)

Wendell Carter Jr. took a back seat at Duke when Marvin Bagley III arrived as a late addition to the 2018 class. Both Bagley and Carter showed promise in their respective Summer League performances, but now the two will go head-to-head for the first time outside of Duke practices. You can bet Carter will be playing with an added chip on his shoulder after Bagley received all the accolades in Durham last season.

8. The Unicorn vs. The Finnisher...with potential playoff implications (at NYK/vs. NYK, Apr. 1/9)

Kristaps Porzingis is recovering from ACL surgery, so he wont be ready for the teams' first matchup on Nov. 5. But the teams will play twice in the regular season's final two weeks, and the Knicks and Bulls could very well be in the playoff hunt for the final few spots. Porzingis and Markkanen are two of the most unique players in the game, and this could be a battle of big-city bigs for a long time to come. And for the first time it could have playoff implications.

9. David Nwaba revenge game? (at CLE, Dec. 23)

OK, it doesn't sound as good written out as it did in our heads. But still, Nwaba was thought to be a piece of the Bulls' future after an impressive first season in Chicago. Instead the Bulls opted to go with Jabari Parker (and Antonio Blakeney), letting the hounding defender leave for a division rival in Cleveland. You can bet points on the wing will be hard to come by when Nwaba gets his chance to lock up the Bulls' backcourt.

10. Toe-to-toe with the East's best (at BOS, Nov. 14)

The Bulls will have three meetings against the presumed top team in the East. The first of these matchups takes place in Boston, and it'll be against a Celtics team that's fully healthy for the first time since last year's Opening Night, when Gordon Hayward suffered a gruesome ankle injury that cost him the entire regular season. Another tough matchup for the Bulls, but a good barometer for where they are early in the season.

ESPN's Chris Haynes names LaVine player likely to become 1st time All-Star

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USA TODAY

ESPN's Chris Haynes names LaVine player likely to become 1st time All-Star

On ESPN program The Jump, ESPN NBA reporter Chris Haynes selected Zach LaVine as his player most likely to become a first time All-Star in the 2018-19 season. Haynes didn’t get to elaborate much, but his main reason was that LaVine would have “ample opportunities to succeed.” His point, while somewhat dismissed on the show, was an something that does give LaVine a leg up on the competition in terms of being a first time All-Star.

Among the other young players mentioned in the segment, LaVine leads in one very key indicator: usage percentage.

Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell are all players with immense amounts of star potential, who already had incredibly strong rookie seasons, including Simmons winning Rookie of the Year with the 76ers. But even with all their talent, only Mitchell was anywhere near LaVine’s rate of team plays/possessions used while on the floor. 

Usage Percentages in 2017-18:

LaVine- 29.5 percent  
Mitchell- 29.1 percent 
Tatum- 19.5 percent
Simmons- 22.3 percent 

The amount of trust the Bulls have in LaVine to be the lead dog was very apparent throughout the 24 games the high-flying guard played in. But despite having such a large share of the offense in his hands, he finished with the second-worst offensive rating of his career, mostly because of poor shooting percentages likely related to the fact he was coming off of a major injury. 

LaVine did not attempt 3-pointers at the rate he did last season, but he succeeded in getting to the free throw line at a 30.1 percent rate, easily the highest of his career. And per 36 minutes he put 22 points, more per 36 minutes than Simmons and Tatum, and the pretty much the same as Mitchell (22.1 points per 36), who was the ROY runner up.

Even with scorer Jabari Parker added to the roster, a healthy LaVine should be able to easily eclipse his point total from last season. And with the Eastern Conference having an obvious talent drop-off with LeBron James’ departure, the All-Star spots will be wide open. 

Goran Dragic made the team last year averaging 17.3 points and 4.8 assists per game, modest numbers, but more a reflection of the Miami Heat being a winning team last year. But if LaVine puts up eye-popping numbers, he could snag a spot even if the Bulls are losing at the rate they did last season. Kemba Walker is a great example of this, putting up 22.9 points per game for a Hornets team that finished as a 10-seed in the East, but it was still enough to sang Walker an All-Star spot. Injuries factored into this, but ‘17-18’ All-Stars like Kyle Lowry and Al Horford are reaching the twilight of their careers, and this is yet another factor that will provide the opportunity for a young player to make his first All-Star appearance in the East. 

Ultimately, Haynes stating LaVine as a player likely to make his first All-Star team was probably more about wanting to keep things fresh, rather than regurgitating the same players as every other basketball pundit. But with LaVine inked to a long-term deal, this upcoming season has the potential to be a huge breakout year, which is truly impressive considering we are discussing a 23-year old player who has previously averaged 18.9 points per game with a 57.6 true shooting percentage. If he can get his true shooting over 50 percent while maintaining his high usage rate, then LaVine should have a legitimate chance 2019 NBA All-Star, defensive issues aside.