Bulls

Somehow Las Vegas doesn't believe the Bulls will improve on last year's win total

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USA TODAY

Somehow Las Vegas doesn't believe the Bulls will improve on last year's win total

Year 1 of the Bulls rebuild was a combination of missed games, midseason trades, benchings in favor of younger players and - let's admit it - a little bit of tanking.

Cris Felicio averaged 24.2 minutes per game after the All-Star break.

The end result was a 27-win season, the 7th most NBA Lottery ping-pong balls and, all things considered, a positive outlook on the rebuild. After yet another successful offseason the Bulls are trending upward, especially in an Eastern Conference that just lost LeBron James to Los Angeles.

But Las Vegas isn't buying it.

Westgate sportsbook released their over-under win totals for the 2018-19 season, and the Bulls are peculiarly sitting at 27.5.

Let's make a quick list of everything that happened last season that got the Bulls to 27 wins:

Kris Dunn missed 30 games. Zach LaVine missed nearly 60 games. Even Lauri Markkanen missed 14 games.

Yes, Nikola Mirotic was single-handedly responsible for that wild eight-game winning streak before he was traded in February. But the Bulls played at a 24-win pace AFTER the Mirotic deal (9-22). And that was with the missed games from their core, and Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday sitting a large portion of those games.

The team also added Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, two rookies who figure to see time, and Jabari Parker. Defensive issues aside, the Bulls are a better team with Parker in the fold. Their only real loss from a year ago is David Nwaba. He'll be missed defensively but doesn't exactly move the needle in terms of the Bulls' season outlook.

Even with a most pessimistic outlook, the Bulls will be better than they were a year ago. Even something as small as playing the LeBron-less Cavs four times will make a difference (the Bulls were swept by James last season).

This seems like an easy hit on the over for the Bulls.

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

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USA TODAY

Jimmy Butler may have gotten uninvited to the Wade's BBQ again

Jimmy Butler is in hot water with the Wades ... again.

Maybe not really, but the two former Bulls teammates exchanged pleasantries on Instagram after Butler commented on a photo Dwyane Wade's wife Gabrielle Union posted poolside, saying: "WELL DAMN!!"

Wade, a three-time all-defensive second team, came to his wife's defense when Butler posted a video the next day with the caption: "The good, the bad, and the ugly...", prompting Wade to respond: "Put well damn in caps on my wife photo again and you're gonna see what the good, the bad and the ugly is like."

*Mic drop*

It appears this won't affect Butler getting an invite to the next get together. Or so he hopes...

"Well that escalated quickly," Butler responded to Wade. "Point noted.. I'm still coming to the bbq tho 😂😂😂"

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:


Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen.