);
Chicago Bulls

NBA Season Preview 2019-20: Are the Chicago Bulls a sleeper playoff team?

With the 2019-20 NBA season quickly approaching, we're rolling out 30 Teams in 30 Days. Between now and opening night, we'll dedicate one day to each team in the league.

Today, we're looking at the Chicago Bulls.

2018-19 season record

22-60 (13th in the Eastern Conference)

Projected 2019-20 season record

33-39 (11th in the Eastern Conference)

Notable additions

Thaddeus Young (free agent)

Tomas Satoransky (free agent)

Coby White (draft)

Daniel Gafford (draft)

Luke Kornet (free agent)

Notable departures

Robin Lopez (free agent)

Antonio Blakeney (waived)

Depth chart

Starters 2nd 3rd 4th
PG Tomas Satoransky Coby White Kris Dunn Ryan Arcidiacono
SG Zach LaVine Denzel Valentine
SF Otto Porter Jr. Chandler Hutchinson
PF Lauri Markkanen Thaddeus Young
C Wendell Carter Jr. Luke Kornet Daniel Gafford Cristiano Felicio

3 key storylines

Will Zach LaVine make an All-Star leap?

Zach LaVine is coming off the best season of his career, where he set new personal marks for points, assists, rebounds and field goal percentage. Scoring 23.7 points per game for a 22-win team won't get it done when it comes to making the All-Star team, but if the Bulls take a sizeable step forward as many project them to do, LaVine is a popular pick to make his first All-Star game.

The biggest area of improvement for LaVine is on the defensive end and he's even said as much, expressing nothing short of candid assessments of his own play and effort on that end of the floor. He doesn't need to become a world class stopper to reach All-Star status, but making strides on that end would do wonders for those pundits who still view LaVine as a largely inefficient scorer whose strengths thus far have not contributed towards winning.

An explosive athlete that can get his shot whenever he wants, LaVine fits the profile of a No. 1 offensive option and potentially elite end-of-shot-clock creator. For a team looking to climb into the playoff picture in a wide-open Eastern Conference, LaVine cementing his status as an All-Star would do wonders to that end.

Can the frontcourt of the future stay healthy?

Chicago seemingly has its frontcourt of the future in Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr., both of whom have All-Star potential (for Markkanen, it could happen as early as this season).

Their games fit well: Markkanen the Dirk-esque sweet-shooting floor spacer that's capable of attacking off the dribble; Carter Jr. the Horford-esque defensive anchor, far more mobile and skilled than he at first appears. The biggest question mark so far is can they stay healthy?

The two of them appeared alongside each other in just 21 games last season. It's the second straight year Markkanen has struggled to stay on the floor as he played 52 games in 2018-19 after missing 14 games his rookie season in 2017-18. Chicago was somewhat of a mess last season so it's not prudent to glean too much from the 436 minutes they spent on the floor together beyond the simple fact that if Chicago's going to make the playoffs, lineups with those two will need to be far better than last year when they were outscored by 13.7 points per 100 possessions.

Will they defend well enough to compete for a playoff spot?

No matter how explosive a LaVine/Markkanen led offense appears, the Bulls need to improve on the other end of the floor where they ranked just 25th last season. This is one area where the veteran additions of Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky, not to mention a full season of Otto Porter comes into play.

Young and Porter in particular figure to play large roles as both have the size, speed and length to guard the hybrid forwards littered throughout the league.

Satoransky's efforts on the defensive end loom large as well as neither LaVine nor rookie Coby White project to be particularly strong defenders. Kris Dunn, Chicago's starting point guard for much of last season, will be coming off the bench in 2019-20 but could have the opportunity to remain in the rotation if he can resume defending at a high level.

A lot is riding on the efforts of Carter on the inside as he is Chicago's only true rim protector. If Carter proves to be a capable solo rim protector on the inside, that combined with the veteran additions should give Chicago enough resistance on he defensive end of the floor to remain competitive and in the playoff picture.

5 games to watch

October 25 at Memphis

Chicago's second game of the season features a high profile rookie matchup between Coby White and Ja Morant, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. White turned heads as an electric scorer in the preseason, finishing with the second-most points per game that any rookie has posted in the preseason over the last 15 years. Only fellow 2019-20 rookie Zion Williamson pumped in more points per game than White, whose 19.2 points per game ranked inside the top 10 league-wide.

Most Preseason PPG By Rookie - Last 15 Years
Season Player PPG Mins PG
2019-20 Zion Williamson 23.3 27.2
2019-20 Coby White 19.2 25.8
2007-08 Kevin Durant 18.8 29.9
2018-19 Deandre Ayton 18.2 26.9
2005-06 Charlie Villanueva 18.2 31.4

December 2 at Sacramento

Wendell Carter Jr. gets to take on former Duke teammate and fellow 2018 lottery pick Marvin Bagley.

February 16 - 2020 All-Star Game

This is the first time the All-Star Game has been in Chicago since 1988 when Michael Jordan not only won All-Star Game MVP, but outdueled Dominique Wilkins in one of the most famous dunk contests of all-time. If LaVine and/or Markkanen earns a spot on the All-Star team, this weekend could serve as a symbolic gesture and put the Bulls on display for all to see that they are a team to be reckoned with now and moving forward.

March 4 at Minnesota

Zach LaVine returns to Minnesota. Although the Minnesota Timberwolves are no longer 'Bulls west' due to the departures of Tom Thibodeau, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, it's still a homecoming of sorts for LaVine who was once one of the core pieces there alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. LaVine making a leap towards All-Star status and then stepping foot in Minnesota shortly thereafter could be a tough pill to swallow for Timberwolves fans who never saw LaVine reach his full potential in Minnesota.

April 15 at Boston

The season could come down to the final game of the year which is on the road at Boston. On one hand, it's a potentially very difficult game against a team many suspect could finish third in the East. On the other hand, if the Celtics have already locked down a playoff seed, Chicago could catch a break against a team resting up for the playoffs. Don't be surprised if the Bulls' push for the postseason comes down to the final day of the regular season.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

More from NBA.com

#Carmelo #Giannis
Follow live: Blazers at Bucks
NBA.com Staff
nikola-vucevic-112119-ftr-getty.jpg
Report: Vucevic (ankle) out four weeks
Scott Rafferty
#Fournier
Fantasy Basketball waiver wire adds
Kyle Irving
#SmartD
It's early but Smart is the DPOY
Carlan Gay
terence-davis-112119-ftr-getty.jpg
Raptors didn't see this coming from Davis
Scott Rafferty
serge-ibaka-112119-ftr-getty.jpg
Nurse: Ibaka nearing return
Scott Rafferty
More News