The Bulls once again struggled defensively in Monday night's 110-104 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Here are five observations we have from the preseason tilt:
1. Jabari Parker will have better nights
At least we hope he does. It was a second (third, really) consecutive disappointing outing - doo-doo outing - for the Bulls' top free agent. And the scary part might be that it's happening at his more natural position; the Bulls are hoping Parker can play some small forward when Lauri Markkanen returns, but he's already looking slow at power forward, where that isn't supposed to (as much of) an issue. He's really struggled in pick-and-roll defense and hasn't made a real isolation defensive stop that stands out.
His shot is off, he isn't taking advantage of mismatches (on larger power forwards on on guards in switches) and he looks lost. Perhaps it's because he spent all offseason practicing small forward in Fred Hoiberg's offense and so he's out of place, but we're now three preseason games in and it hasn't gotten better. He finished
2. Zach LaVine still looks like it's all coming together
On the flip side, the Bulls' other large offseason investment continues to produce. Zach LaVine was arguably the best player on the floor (when taking the Bulls' defense into consideration). He scored 26 points on just 15 shots, a serious improvement in the efficiency department. Ironically he was at his best after an ugly long missed 2-pointer that was tightly contested early in the shot clock. It looked like 2017-18 Zach LaVine.
Then the new school LaVine showed up. He looked comfortable coming off screens and pulling up from beyond the arc, finishing in transition and getting to the basket. He did a little bit of everything, which is a far cry from what he did last season. An aggressive LaVine and a smart shot taking LaVine is a tough one to stop on the offensive end. Another night, another positive for the $78 million man.
3. The Bulls are going to give up a lot of points
No one expected the Bulls to make a serious leap on the defensive end, but it's a little concerning that they haven't shown much improvement at all. Granted, we're talking about an incredibly small #SampleSize, and the Bulls have faced three teams (New Orleans, Milwaukee, Charlotte) that ranked in the top 12 in offense a year ago. But it hasn't been pretty. And Lauri Markkanen isn't exactly Rudy Gobert, so it's not as though serious reinforcements are coming.
Kris Dunn has been a serious positive. He's as smart as he is physical and at the very least is going to help the Bulls backcourt. It should make things easier on the frontcourt, too, in pick and roll scenarios. Wendell Carter Jr. also had a few flashes, but...
4. Wendell Carter Jr. makes some good plays, is still a rookie
We're not here to dismiss what Carter has done in the early going. We're here to temper expectations. He shows serious potential and flashes that simply aren't normal from a 19-year-old kid. His hands are active, he never seems to have the classic rookie feet and it's clear his size is already a bonus, even at such an early age. But the game is still a step quicker than he is, and he's trying to figure out where he fits in to his role. That can be difficult in the preseason, and really difficult playing alongside Bobby Portis.
Carter has outstanding potential. He's going to be the starter at center sooner than later. But when remembering the things he did well tonight (five assists and a block) remember that he's an unfinished product. He's got a long ways to go, and the Bulls have time to give.
5. Chandler Hutchison improves again
Chandler Hutchison reminds us of Jimmy Butler for one single reason (don't freak out, we're not going crazy over here): he doesn't take false steps. He's a four-year college player and got plenty of reps in Las Vegas, and has been getting more practice reps with Denzel Valentine out. And it seems to be paying off. Hutchison is looking more comfortable out there each time, tonight going for seven points and eight rebounds. He made his only 3-point attempt. The verdict's out on whether there will be a spot in the rotation for him, but this was another positive step for him. He had gone 3-for-14 in the first two preseason contests. Tonight? 3-for-6.