Sports Illustrated released the first half of its Top-100 NBA Players, and four Chicago Bulls cracked the list! Yes, you read that right: FOUR.
Though the second half is still yet to be released, it’s hard to image the Bulls will find somebody in the Top-50 (unless Sports Illustrated pulls a fast one on us), so let’s take a look at how the Bulls faired.
Oh, and the rankings might surprise you:
- 90 – Zach LaVine
- 75 – Lauri Markkanen
- 70 – Thaddeus Young
- 57 – Otto Porter
While some may be shocked by the fact that Porter is the highest-rated player on the team, you probably shouldn’t be. We’ve gone over this before, but Porter is the most mature and complete player on the Bulls roster. Also, remember, the guy is a former No. 3-overall draft pick, who’s lack of notoriety is more a victim of circumstance. For example, during his time with the Washington Wizards, Porter was outshined by the assent to stardom of teammates Bradley Beal and John Wall.
But when he arrived in Chicago, it was easy to see (even over just 15 games in a Bulls uniform) that he’s one of the more underrated forwards in the NBA. I mean, the guy didn’t get a four-year $106.5 million contract for no reason.
But while I agree with the assessment of Porter, I can’t say the same for LaVine. I understand that LaVine has a lot to prove this upcoming season, but his offensive numbers last year put him on the brink of an All-Star appearance. In fact, I’d say LaVine’s ranking on this list is especially glaring when you consider he’s behind guys like Danny Green (89), Jeff Teague (87) and Al-Farouq Aminu (84).
The description for LaVine does mention his less-than-stellar defense, but for that to play a key role in his 90th-overall ranking feels a bit extreme. In many ways, there’s an argument for LaVine to be ranked higher than Markkanen, though the two weren’t particularly close. I think the upside for Markkanen as a two-way player is certainly higher, but LaVine has at least proven he can bounce back from injury and put up an All-star-caliber performance … we’re still waiting for a similar breakout from The Finnisher.
As for Markkanen, in his description, Sports Illustrated asked this main question: “When does offensive production translate to winning production?” If you ask me, that’s a bit unfair for any singular member of this Bulls team.
The franchise has been in full rebuild mode for … a while, and the lack of success shouldn’t be placed solely on the shoulders of Markkanen, at least not yet. If Markkanen doesn’t take the next step and help the Bulls win games this year, then it’s fair to start questioning his abilities, but he hasn’t necessarily been dealt the best hand over the last two seasons; not to mention, he’s only 22-years-old. At the end of the day, I think Markkanen’s ranking is in the right ballpark, but I also think it has the potential to skyrocket this season.
Lastly, Thad Young has the second-best ranking at 70th-overall. Considering he isn’t in line to even be a starter this year, I understand how this can feel like a HUGE insult to LaVine and Markkanen. However, Young is way more proven in his role than either of those two players. Plus, his defensive impact is probably still underrated.
The annoying (and great) thing about Young’s game is that he brings a lot of intangibles. His stats may not amaze you, but whatever team he’s on will not hesitate to say they’re better with him on it. Honestly, just read Sports Illustrated’s description of why he’s ranked 70th because it makes sense.
Overall, Sports Illustrated is valuing the idea of “you know what you’re going to get.” At the beginning of the article, they do describe that each player is being looked at independent of their current team situation with an emphasis on past performance.
This list just goes to show you that potential doesn’t catch people’s eye, success does. Think about it this way, LaVine and Markkanen might be two of the most intriguing “prospects” in the Bulls system, but they aren’t going to be ranked higher than more proven talent.
So… time to prove them wrong, boys.