Bulls

Looking at Bulls' regular-season player propositions

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Looking at Bulls' regular-season player propositions

With the NBA season kicking off Tuesday, Bovada has released player proposition bets for a number of Bulls.

Here's a look at those over/unders and which outcome is more likely.

Will the Bulls make the playoffs in 2016?

Yes (-2000)
No (+1000)

Not all that difficult a choice here, as the Bulls' depth - especially in the frontcourt - means they could suffer myriad injuries like they did a year ago and still waltz into the playoffs in an Eastern Conference that is improving yet still top-heavy. That's why their odds are 1 to 20; it's a no-brainer but you'll have to cough up some serious dough to see any real return.

Derrick Rose

Regular season games played: Over/under 63.5

Now we're getting to the good stuff. This over/under is intriguing on a number of levels. The under is the safe play considering Rose has played in 61 regular-season games the last THREE years. He appeared in 51 contests last season, yet for a second straight season the headline reads that Rose is healthy (he'll play while recovering from orbital surgery), and perhaps a chance of pace with Fred Hoiberg will mean different things for Rose on the injury front. Rose may not suffer another serious injury, yet bumps/bruises/rest easily could keep him out of 18 games. The under seems like the safe play.

Points per game: 18.0

Rose averaged 17.7 points per game last season, and saw that number jump to 20.3 points per game in the postseason. In Fred Hoiberg's up-tempo system it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Rose's scoring improve. The over seems likely.

Assists per game: 5.5

We know Jimmy Butler will have the ball in his hand more this season and that Rose (likely) will shoot more in Hoiberg's system. That could mean fewer assist opportunities for Rose, who averaged 4.9 assists in last year's regular season (and 6.5 per game in the postseason). Rose may not reach 5.5 assists per game, but the surplus of perimeter shooters waiting for his drive-and-kicks in Hoiberg's offense could change that. 

Jimmy Butler

Over/under: 18.5 points

You'd be a fool to believe Butler is going to rest on his laurels and regress now that he's got his maximum deal in hand. The league's most improved player averaged 20.0 points per game last year and nearly 23 in the postseason. As long as he's getting to the free-throw line 6-8 times per game like he did a year ago, 18.5 points seems likely. Even with Rose back and Nikola Mirotic expected to take on a larger role, it's clear Butler is the top option in Chicago.

Pau Gasol

Points per game: 17.0

We wrote this offseason about how Gasol may regress in his 15th NBA season - most players not named Tim Duncan do - meaning he could be in line to average fewer than the 18.5 points he scored last year.

Rebounds per game: 10.0

Gasol seemingly came out of nowhere in 2015 to average 11.8 rebounds per game - fourth in the NBA - at age 34. With Nikola Mirotic expected to see most of the starter's minutes at power forward instead of Joakim Noah, that'll free up Gasol for even more boards. His scoring may regress, but Gasol will remain aggressive on the glass.

Nikola Mirotic

Points per game: 14.5

There's plenty of optimism surrounding Mirotic, who was made for Hoiberg's offensive system. He'll start at power forward, will stretch the floor and will work perfectly with Derrick Rose on pick-and-pop opportunities. Whether that means 14.5 points per game in an offense that features Rose, Butler and Gasol is a different story. Assuming those three players are the Bulls' leading scorers...only one team in the NBA last year had a fourth scorer average more than 14.5 points. (LAC's Jamal Crawford, 15.8). Stay under with this one.

Rebounds per game: 8.5

Again, more optimism and a larger role...but it's tough to see him nearly double his rebounding output from a year ago (4.9). Consider Mirotic as it pertains to rebounding, and then consider that the following players failed to average 8.5 rebounds last year: Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Draymond Green, Nerlens Noel, Tristan Thompson. There's your answer.

Joakim Noah

Points per game: 8.5

A bounce-back year seems likely for Noah, who battled knee problems and struggled to 7.2 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting last season. Playing against opponent's reserves may actually help his scoring output, and for a now-healthy 30-year-old with a career average of 9.6 points per game this seems like a nice over play.

Rebounds per game: 9.5

This number seems steep, but again Noah will be playing primarily against reserve bigs when he's on the floor. That should increase his rebounding numbers, but it's tough to see a backup averaging this many rebounds per game - none did last year.

Bulls have makings of a real team as game week begins

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USA TODAY

Bulls have makings of a real team as game week begins

The next time the Bulls take the floor – Wednesday night in Charlotte – they’ll be playing for keeps, looking to make good on their verbalized goal of making the postseason for the first time in three seasons. They’re lofty goals for a team that won just 22 games a season ago, but they put the finishing touches on a promising preseason in their 111-93 victory over the Atlanta Hawks that has them feeling confident in what’s ahead.

True, it came against a Hawks team playing a rare back-to-back (with both games on the road) and one that was resting John Collins, but the Bulls once again shared the ball, played with urgency and continued their 2019 style in a game they led the final 38 minutes.

Coach Jim Boylen treated the game as a dress rehearsal for the season opener against the Hornets in six days, solidifying his 10-man rotation and getting significant contributions from both units. With star power in Zach LaVine and (hopefully) Lauri Markkanen, a supporting cast that’s buying in and a few promising youngsters, the next stage of the Bulls rebuild is shaping up nicely.

“I thought each guy had moments,” Boylen said after the game. “I thought we did a good job of getting the ball to the open people or the hot man…That’s what good teams do. They find the guy that’s got it rolling. They keep it rolling as long as they can. And then we pick each other up when maybe a group or section of the game where we’re struggling. I’m happy for that.”

It once again began with Zach LaVine, who finished a terrific preseason with 23 points on 11 shots in just 25 minutes. He was a model of efficiency – he didn’t attempt a midrange shot – and finished his four-game preseason stretch with 93 points in 96 minutes, shooting 32 of 54 (59.2%) and making 14 of 25 3-point attempts (56.0%). Every completed rebuild needs a player like how LaVine is playing right now. It should be an All-Star season for the 25-year-old.

Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter were quiet in the preseason but there’s not much to read in to about their performances. Wendell Carter Jr. shook off a couple injury scares and put together his best performance of his limited preseason, finishing with 8 points and 8 rebounds and drawing some praise from Boylen for his off-ball intangibles. He should be full-go in five days when the Bulls begin playing for keeps.

Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky did exactly what they’ve done their entire careers: They were quiet but effective, with the latter forming a solid tandem with any frontcourt player he appeared with, and the latter grabbing the starting point-guard reins.

The second unit remains a question mark, but it will enter the regular season with some serious momentum. Despite being officially demoted to the second unit just days earlier, Kris Dunn again drew praise from Boylen for his effort and energy that sparked the Bulls in the second quarter.

“I thought Kris Dunn’s energy off the bench changed the game,” Boylen said. “He got us going. His effort, his energy, his focus was great. Some nights we’re gonna be in mud, we’re gonna be a little sluggish. And he’s been practicing really hard and I was really proud of what he did in that moment to kind of get us going. I’m happy for him.”

Dunn may be able to stay on the floor thanks to the scoring prowess that rookie Coby White is showing. The seventh overall pick scored a game-high 29 points and made 6 of 8 3-pointers. That 3-for-30 effort in the Las Vegas Summer League feels like forever ago, and for a bench that lacks much scoring, White’s ability to do just that becomes even more significant. His last three preseason games: 23.6 points in 25.3 minutes. He had just one assist, but the Bulls will take that scoring and shooting right now.

Boylen called his stretch of triples in the third quarter “as good as we’ve seen in this building in a while.”

Luke Kornet has won the backup job over Daniel Gafford, while Ryan Arcidiacono (and presumably Chandler Hutchison when he returns from a hamstring injury) is ahead of Denzel Valentine, who Boylen said needs to “stay ready” despite not being in the 10-man rotation. The bench is the Bulls’ weakest spot, but even Boylen admitted they’re starting to get a little rhythm together.

The caveat, of course, is that it was just preseason. Everything changes when the games start counting. On the one hand, the Bulls’ first five opponents include one projected playoff team (Toronto), On the other hand, four of those first five games are on the road. What worked in preseason isn’t guaranteed to work in the regular season. But for what the Bulls could have proved in the preseason – that they’re forming a team with specific roles and players buying into them – they did to a T, and it should make for a promising Year 3 of a rebuild.

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Bulls' Coby White buries poor summer league with stellar preseason

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USA Today

Bulls' Coby White buries poor summer league with stellar preseason

Given that he scored 23 points in just shy of 25 minutes, it makes sense that Zach LaVine most efficiently summarized Coby White as the Bulls’ preseason concluded with Thursday’s victory over the Hawks.

“He’s going to be special,” LaVine said. “He knows it. We know it.”

It certainly looked that way as White overwhelmed the Hawks with 29 points on 10-for-14 shooting, including six 3-pointers. It should be noted the Hawks were finishing three games in four nights and didn’t play their regulars heavy minutes.

But the way White approaches each game, it may not matter.

“I think he’s had one of the best rookie camps I’ve seen,” LaVine said. “We know he can shoot and score but the way he has handled himself, he has been aggressive and playing his game. He can shoot, space the floor and score. It’s going to help us so much.

“You can put him in anywhere. He’s going to get the job done. He’s fearless, not scared of anything, not scared of the moment. I talk to him all the time and say, ‘Keep going.’”

Given his work ethic, it sounds like White will. His late-night shooting sessions at the Advocate Center with his older brother, Will, who played Division II college hoops, already have drawn notice throughout the organization.

“What he does is he works,” coach Jim Boylen said. “He hasn’t missed any practice time. He’s in the facility at night. When I’m in there at 8 p.m., he’s in there shooting with his brother, Will, after practice. He puts the extra time in. He cares.”

This approach is why White so easily buried his nightmarish 3-for-30 3-point shooting from NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Granted, this is still preseason. But by averaging 19.2 points on 45.5 percent shooting, including 43.2 percent 3-point shooting, White looks ready to roll come regular-season time.

“I knew he was going to come into this league and do exactly what he’s doing now,” Wendell Carter Jr. said.

Keep in mind that it’s not easy for a Duke product to compliment a North Carolina one.

White is taking it all in stride.

“It’s satisfying, but I still can’t lose that hunger to get better and continue to grind,” he said. “It’s only going to get harder.

“I knew it was a process. I just got drafted. I’m playing against NBA players. Everything’s not going to be perfect. You’re going to face a lot of adversity your rookie year. It started for me at summer league. As long as I just keep being me, which is staying in the gym and getting reps and control what I can control, everything will work itself out."