Editor's note: On Wednesday, the Bulls invited their broadcast partners to watch the entire practice. Kendall Gill and Will Perdue, who have a combined 28 years of NBA experience, were on hand and shared their observations.
As many sports fans around Chicago worry about whether Mitch Trubisky is the quarterback of the Bears' future, I think about bigger and better things for the basketball landscape of Chicago. I was able to catch the Bulls practice this past Wednesday and came away with a few thoughts as the team heads toward their first preseason game on Sunday.
Zach Lavine just glides around the court. Very few players in the NBA have his athleticism, but as I asked on Media Day: "Is this the year he shows us the talents that change the perception of him as a great athlete who plays basketball, to a basketball player with superior athleticism?” Is he truly a candidate for this season's All-Star Game?
Robin Lopez reminded me he’s still a very skilled big man. He may be a plodder, but he’s developed a soft touch on his jumper and makes smart decisions with the ball in his hands. As much as I like what Wendell Carter brings to the table - exceptional lateral quickness and great timing to block shots - he still needs some seasoning as he’s very hesitant on the offensive end of the floor.
Bobby Portis might be the Bulls' best 3-point shooter and he doesn’t hesitate to let it fly. I think it’s in the best interest for Portis and the Bulls to come to some kind of agreement and sign an extension. Portis needs to remember that he’ll have another contract after this one. Give him props, he’s worked hard on his game and it shows.
I know there’s plenty more individuals on this roster, but the ones mentioned above were the players that really jumped out at me for this ONE practice that I watched. The biggest question that needs to be addressed is: Will the Bulls defense make a significant improvement? Practice on this day started with a discussion on how to play screens on crosses in the paint and screens on the wing.
I was asked to clarify something for Coach Jim Boylan. The Bulls plan on using switches on the perimeter as an option within their defense, but it is not their first option. They worked on it in Summer League and have been working on it in practice to see if they have the personnel for it to work effectively. Time will tell. Defense is about the pride, willingness and effort to make it work. That’s on the players. Is there a player/leader that will not only lead by example, but be the voice that holds himself and others accountable?
My initial thoughts that I had throughout the summer haven’t changed after watching practice. This team has talent and depth. This team will be fun to watch. This teams has the necessary parts to be a playoff team, but can the coaches and players figure it out quick enough to make the playoffs a reality? The Eastern Conference is going to be tougher than people think and the Bulls will play some of the tougher Western Conference teams early. I’m currently optimistic that they’ll find a way, but there’s plenty of work that needs to be done prior to the Bulls opener on October 18 in Philadelphia.
The morning session on the second day of training camp looked good. Sloppy team play at first but then the team got it together and finished strong. I felt all of the players were sharp. Not one of them looked rusty.
I was particularly impressed with the way Bobby Portis shot the ball from deep, knocking down six 3-pointers in a row before missing. Jabari Parker can really score the ball, especially from mid-range and taking it to the basket. Zach Lavine looks as if the ACL injury is behind him. He played hard and aggressive, coming through with a couple of spectacular dunks.
Wendell Carter physically is there. I'm impressed with a couple of nice blocks on the defensive end, but he still needs time before being a starter. He's not quite ready yet.
Denzel Valentine also shot the ball really well and practiced like a legit veteran.
Now, here's the thing that stood out most to me: Fred Hoiberg will have to run plays to get Lauri Markkanen involved in the offense because you have three players that like having the ball in their hands to make a play: Dunn, Lavine and Parker. Hoiberg has his work cut out for him to balance everything between the four players. I believe that this team can make the playoffs if they stay healthy. Its a long season, so we will see.