Now that LeBron James is out of the Eastern Conference, many teams in the East believe this is the time to take risks and make a run, and it appears that’s what the Chicago Bulls are doing.
The Bulls signed Chicago native Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40 million free agent deal this summer. Parker has suffered two ACL tears, which is why the second year of Parker’s deal is a team-option. Essentially, Parker is getting a one-year tryout with his hometown Bulls and the hope is he can stay healthy and be productive for Chicago at the small forward position.
In 31 games in 2017-18 with the Milwaukee Bucks, Parker averaged 12.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three. Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg is aware that the critics aren’t high on his team, but says guys need to use the outside noise as motivation for the upcoming season.
“The experts that throw the expectations out there, the numbers [win totals], aren’t real high,” Hoiberg told Karl Bullock of Sports Illustrated. “You’ve got to use that as motivation and go out there and prove people wrong.”
The Bulls can throw out a starting lineup of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez. They drafted Duke big man Wendell Carter Jr. with the seventh overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft and Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison with the 22nd pick. Both players were impressive in summer league.
Carter Jr. finished summer league with averages of 14.6 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, shooting 55.1 percent from the field. He showed great patience and footwork while operating in the post and will add rim protection to the Bulls’ defense.
Hutchison, meanwhile, averaged 11.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He shot 50 percent from beyond the arc and will help the Bulls stretch the floor.
Chicago won just 27 games this past season, but Hoiberg says he and his staff liked the way the team competed and believes the club will take another step in 2018-19.
“You look at our guys numbers, I think all but one of our players last year had a career year when you look at their per 36 minutes,” Hoiberg said. “I think the way we had that stretch last season and did a relatively good job on taking care of the ball with the pace. If we could carry some of those things over, we’re going to have a chance this year.”