Bulls

Zach LaVine, Bobby Portis show offensive promise in opener: 'That's what we expect'

Zach LaVine, Bobby Portis show offensive promise in opener: 'That's what we expect'

PHILADELPHIA -- It’s not a surprise to see Zach LaVine leading the Bulls’ offense.

The $78-million man was terrific despite a 127-108 loss to the 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday. LaVine poured in 30 points on 11 of 19 from the field.

What may come as a surprise is the brilliance of Bobby Portis. Portis was excellent in his own right, recording 20 points and 11 boards while playing his usual aggressive brand of basketball.

Unfortunately, both players found themselves in foul trouble early in the second half as Philadelphia started to impose its will with a 19-3 run to start the third quarter.

The Bulls got off to a blazing hot start, scoring 41 points in the opening quarter. They trailed by just seven at the half thanks in large part to LaVine and Portis. The duo worked well together in the pick-and-roll, at times confusing the 76ers on how exactly to play it.

“I expect that,” LaVine said when asked about the team’s early offensive output. “That’s what I expect from myself and I know Bobby is right there with me. Bobby had it going and that’s what he’s been doing for the last year or so, too, so that’s what we expect.”

Perhaps the play of Portis shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering his success against Philadelphia in his career. He tallied a career-high 38 points in a one-point loss to the Sixers last season. He’s also shot 55 percent against them for his career in 11 games coming into tonight, his second-highest mark against any team.

With rookie Wendell Carter Jr. struggling in his first NBA start, Portis saw some time at the five, something Hoiberg alluded to as a possibility prior to the game. Portis earned the start in place of the injured Lauri Markkanen with an impressive preseason. His play carried over into opening night.

Portis may not be long for the starting lineup once Markkanen returns, but he certainly showed his worth Thursday.

As for LaVine, he showed flashes of a guy that can be the focal point of an offense. While he had the jumper working, his finishes around the rim were more impressive. Especially when you consider a few of them came against Joel Embiid, the runner up for Defensive Player of the Year last season.

“I love Zach’s attack,” Fred Hoiberg said. “I thought, especially early in the game, he didn’t settle for shots. He was getting around his guy and seeking contact and doing a good job getting to the free throw line.”

The Bulls weren’t expected to win this game and will experience plenty of growing pains this season – especially while the injuries continue to pile up.

What Bulls fans can glean from opening night is that the team’s investment in a healthy LaVine may prove to be money well spent.

 “Yeah, man,” LaVine said after he was asked if he’s feeling healthier than he did last year. “A year after tearing my ACL I feel like I’m back to myself – athletically, speed-wise, quickness. I’ve got my legs under me. I just needed y’all to give me a little bit of time.

“I was about 70 percent last year and I think I did alright. I feel good now. It feels good to be back in my own skin again.”

Bulls Trade Tracker

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NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls Trade Tracker

The Bulls, mired in one of their worst seasons in recent memory, kept the bad times rolling on Thursday night in a 30-point loss to the Nuggets in Denver. But amid a season that is more about player development and asset collection, it is important to keep up with the Bulls transactions up until the February 7 (3 p.m. ET) NBA trade deadline. Until then, we will be tracking any trades the Bulls make, as well as listing the Bulls current trade assets.

The Bulls 1st round picks will not be included in the rankings. Those picks obviously have tremendous value with Chicago being a struggling team, and they aren’t any obvious trades where the it would be worth it for the Bulls to give up high-1st round picks.

Trade assets:

  1. Jabari Parker

  2. Bobby Portis

  3. Robin Lopez

  4. 2019 2nd round pick (via the Memphis Grizzlies)

Reports state (New York Post) that the Bulls have been engaging in Jabari Parker trade talks, with the Knicks as a possible suitor. Parker is averaging 16.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.2 APG and shooting 46.2 percent from the field.

There are no reports of trade talks about Bobby Portis. But he is headed for restricted free agency. If Portis does not receive and offer sheet from another team, he will be eligible to be sign-and-traded. Portis averaging 11.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG and shooting 40.5 percent from the field, and 34.1 percent from the 3-point line.

There are reports of the Bulls looking for trade partners for Robin Lopez. He is on a $14.3 million expiring contract (via spotrac.com) and is averaging 5.9 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.8 BPG and is shooting 52 percent from the field, and 26.7 percent from the 3-point line.

The Bulls 2019 2nd round pick (via the Memphis Grizzlies) is currently projected to be 38th.

TRADES:

Justin Holiday traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for MarShon Brooks (cut) and Wayne Selden Jr., Grizzlies’ 2019 and 2020 second-round picks.

Bulls trade heavily protected 2nd round pick for Michael-Carter Williams, then waive him

Other updates:

Bulls waive guard Cameron Payne to free roster spot needed after trade with Grizzlies

Cameron Payne signs with Cleveland Cavaliers fresh off being released by Bulls

Bulls call up Rawle Alkins (2-way contract player)

Bulls waive Tyler Ulis and sign Brandon Sampson to a two-way contract

All stats via NBA.com

Five things we learned during the Bulls' West Coast road trip

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USA TODAY

Five things we learned during the Bulls' West Coast road trip

The Bulls finished up a difficult road trip on Thursday against the Nuggets with an embarrassing 135-105 loss. They went 0-5 on the trip and now have lost nine straight games, giving them the second worst record in the NBA.

While it wasn't pretty, we're trying to take five things we saw on the trip.

Lauri Markkanen is a different player when he gets going early

Thursday was Lauri Markkanen’s best performance of the road trip, and unsurprisingly it came in the game where he attempted 10 first-quarter field goals. He went 6-for-10 in the opening 12 minutes, hitting three 3-pointers, driving twice to the basket for nice finishes and hitting a baseline jumper.

It was a sight for sore eyes for a Bulls team that has an incredibly low 91.4 offensive rating in first quarters under Jim Boylen; that’s worst in the NBA by more than 8 points per 100 possessions. It was also good for Markkanen, who is averaging 4.0 points on 36 percent shooting in first quarters this season. It’s by far Markkanen’s worst shooting quarter (he’s at 47.4%, 44.6% and 43.6% in the final three quarters) so to see him start quickly was a good sign.

He had two attempts in the first quarter against the Lakers, four against the Jazz and four against the Warriors. He doesn’t need to attempt 10 every first quarter like he did against the Nuggets, but he needs to start aggressive. It changes how he plays the rest of the night like it did Thursday.

Jabari Parker needs to be in the rotation until he’s dealt

Jim Boylen had his reasons for yanking Jabari Parker out of the rotation, and maybe they were warranted. But it’s also clear that the timing has been correct to put him back in the rotation, and credit to Parker for being ready in that moment.

In the final three games of the trip Parker was really solid offensively, shooting 17 of 27 while averaging 14.6 points. It was much needed for an offense that simply couldn’t keep up with opponents most of the time. They’re going

He’s got his warts, he doesn’t have a good positional fit and he definitely isn’t part of the future. But Parker’s return to the rotation should continue. If it isn’t to help the team competing and playing better it’s becoming a nice bump to his trade value.

We’re still waiting for Kris Dunn to put it together

No one is more happy to come home than Kris Dunn. It was a largely forgettable trip for the Bulls’ point guard, who after a 17-point, 7-assist night in Portland was invisible for four games. In five road games he averaged 8.6 points and 5.4 assists. He shot 36.7 percent and just never seemed to mesh with the rest of the offense. He has his moments, but far too few of them.

His lack of 3-point shooting and drawing fouls is beginning to be a real concern. We knew Dunn wasn’t an elite 3-point shooter but he was making a concerted effort to get to the basket more often this season. While he seems to be finishing better around the rim – and he had a thunderous dunk against Denver – he simply isn’t drawing fouls and getting to the line. That’d be fine if he was an elite passer in this offense, but he simply isn’t. He runs basic pick-and-roll fine and drops off to bigs on drives at times, but overall there hasn’t been a lot of “wow” from Dunn like we’ve seen from Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen – and even Wendell Carter – at times this season.

It’s going to be a long 37 games

The belief as the injury-plagued Bulls trudged along during the first month of the season was that, once healthy, there was simply too much young talent to think about the top of the NBA Draft. After all, teams like the Cavaliers, Suns, Knicks and Hawks had far more precarious short-term situations and the Bulls, playing in the East, would at least remain competitive and beat similarly talented teams.

While we didn’t exactly learn this during the trip, the reality is the Bulls will smack dab in the mix for the league’s worst record this season. With Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the starting lineup the Bulls are 1-12. Part of that is the schedule – 11 of those 13 opponents are at or above .500 – but there simply isn’t enough chemistry between these three for it to yield results. Add in the midseason coaching change and the difficulty that puts on a young team and you’ve got a recipe for a disastrous final 37 games.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing –heard of Zion Williamson? – but it’s an unfortunate truth that the Bulls aren’t as far along as we thought they’d be. Rebuilds take time, and it appears the Bulls will have very little to show for when they enter 2019 training camp. The Bulls have the sixth easiest schedule to finish the year, including two games against the Cavs and two against the Knicks, but progress the rest of the way can’t be measured in wins and losses. It’ll be looking at the Lauri-LaVine-Dunn three-man lineup numbers, LaVine’s ability to work off Markkanen (when Lauri is looking for his shot) and Dunn’s aggressiveness on the offensive side of the ball.

Chandler Hutchison is finally getting consistent run

It might have been the front office’s doing, but credit to Jim Boylen for finally giving Chandler Hutchison consistent run. The Bulls rookie played 25 minutes or more in every game during the road trip, the first time he’s logged that many minutes in five straight games.

It was promising, too, that his best games came in the final three of the road trip. After logging big minutes on the road he didn’t falter, scoring 11, 12 and 12 points against Utah, Los Angeles and Denver. Hutchison had scored in double figures twice this season, and he’s now done it three consecutive games. The increase in minutes has helped, but Hutchison was also 15 of 25 in that stretch. He doesn’t do much creating but seems to be in the right spots at the right time. He also averaged 6.2 rebounds and had a steal in the last four games of the trip. He was a real bright spot.