While it may be hard to accept that the Bulls have had a solid offseason, based on many opinions around the NBA, it’s basically a fact.
The team added post-play and size with the additions of Daniel Gafford, Thaddeus Young and Luke Kornet, while also adding a much-needed point guard into the mix with Tomas Satoransky (to pair alongside Coby White). The team is deeper, more versatile and, probably even more fun than they have been in a long time.
But the offseason praise, however deserved, has masked some of the holes on this team heading into the 2019-20 season. Earlier today, for one small example, I brought up the general lack of respect the Bulls command around the league.
But specifically, when looking at the roster itself, the team still has a very glaring weakness: wing depth.
In a recent article at The Athletic, Darnell Mayberry discusses how Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison are the Bulls two next-best options at the SG and SF position behind Zach LaVine and Otto Porter. Yeah, not ideal.
If the Bulls aren’t playing someone out of position, then Valentine and Hutchison look to be involved heavily in the second unit, which is just not what you want. And as Mayberry points out: “Both had their seasons derailed by injury last year, and despite a few flashes neither has proven himself to be dependable.” Ooof.
(Interruption: Hey, NBA Front Office readers, if anyone wants two underdeveloped wings via trade, I’ll be listening to offers on behalf of the Bulls. Thanks)
Valentine and Hutchison were four-year college athletes, but have been anything but “dependable” since coming into the league. Sure, Hutchison played only 44 games last season after suffering an injury, but during that time on the court and during his time in Summer League this past month (shot 29 percent from the field), he certainly looked raw.
Indeed, we still don’t quite know exactly what he can do. Mayberry did write about his strengths, but I don’t know … it’s not really doing it for me: “There’s his prototypical size, built on his prototypical frame, and sneaky athleticism that wows you when he gobbles up a defensive rebound and gracefully gallops the other way. Hutchison’s defensive mindset and willingness to do the dirty work, in theory, make him an ideal match. On a team void of sturdy defenders, Hutchison stands out. He’s smart on that end, and he’s selfless.”
Hutchinson’s attitude also keeps the Bulls’ spirts high, according to Mayberry, but I don’t think attitude should really be a deciding factor right now for a player in such an important role. Attitude is what you talk about with a 19-year-old draft pick like Coby White, not a 23-year-old second-year player like Hutchison. All of this isn’t to say I don’t buy into his potential/continued-development, but the Bulls leash needs to be shorter on a player like him.
Throw in Denzel Valentine, and the leash is basically the length of a toothpick. Valentine is 25-years-old and coming off ankle reconstructive surgery. His injury history has been bleak, but his time on the court has at least been a little promising. I wrote about this a while back, but Valentine does have the qualities to be a fine bench player. After all, before missing all of last season, he appeared in 77 games in 2017-18 with 10.2 ppg, 3.2 apg and 4.2 rpg. Yes, those stats need to be better in this back-up shooting guard role, but he has at least demonstrated he can add some kind of value at this level.
Like it or not, this is a weaker wing duo when it comes to second units across the league. A large problem last season for the Bulls was dropping out of games when it was time to call out the starters. I think that issue will help be resolved with the defensive ability of a guy like Thaddeus Young and whatever point guard ends up taking the charge (most likely White early on), but the Bulls are shaped up to have, for all intent and purposes, two unknowns on the court at once.
Overall, it’s just one major reason we all have to temper expectations heading into this season. The only suggestion I could have for the Bulls here would be to give Tomas Satoransky playing time at the small forward (which he has done before). Also, to keep Valentine and Hutchison from having to play too long, you could also attempt to run White, LaVine and Satoransky all at once. Also, Thaddeus Young could potentially play at small forward.
We’ll have to see how things shape out, but the wing position could be really rough.