Lauri Markkanen is Rising, Zach LaVine is Evolving, Garrett Temple is Helping, and Other Bulls Bullets

Social Navigation

Lauri Markkanen is Rising, Zach LaVine is Evolving, Garrett Temple is Helping, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

I think covering the Chicago Bulls is preparing me for the experience of raising a teenager.

One afternoon, they come home from school with a detention slip for ditching the second half of the day and scoring a -22 on their math exam. Utter Disappointment. The next day, however, they’re found staying after school for extra help and scoring better than those smart-aleck kids in their biology class. So proud.

At the end of the 2019-20 season, the Bulls exited their angsty-as-hell phase, which means their learn-from-your-mistakes phase is next. Sure, they’re bound to make a handful of embarrassing blunders throughout the course of this season, but as long as they can prevent history from repeating itself, they should be on the right track.

What if they can’t? I guess they’ll be living in Arturas Karnisovas basement … I think that is how that works.

•   Lauri Markkanen trending in the right direction.

•   I’m not ready to make the same “HE’S BACK!” declaration that the Bulls did last night, but I’m also not too far away from doing so either. Markkanen has looked 100 percent rejuvenated under new head coach Billy Donovan. The Finnisher is hitting his 3-pointers at a career-best rate and playing at the rim better than he has in years. He is constantly looking to drive to the hoop and using his elite size to either draw contact or finesse a finish over defenders. Good stuff, but now it is time to be consistent.

•   Markkanen’s big night came with only 10 points from Zach LaVine and 0 points from Coby White. Can he find a way to impact the game at this level while the other two are scoring as well? Also, this was his first double-double of the season, which is a mark he almost averaged during his second season in the league. Can he prove to be a more stable threat on the glass? Again, there is no question this is some of the best basketball we’ve seen from Markkanen in recent years, but he has always been a player that too often hits his strides in waves. The time is now – in a contract year – to show he can always keep the switch turned on.

•   Zach LaVine’s evolution into an all-around player has been special to watch. Last night was yet another performance where he demonstrated his newfound ability to positively impact the game without finding the bottom of the net. His 10 assists were the most in a single game since he played point guard during his rookie season in Minnesota. Arguably even more encouraging, however, was the fact that he turned the ball over only twice in this role (his second-fewest in a game this season), and he even poked away three steals of his own (tied for his second-most in a game this season). When we consider his all-around output so far, LaVine is definitely on track for the best year of his career.

•   Arturas Karnisovas may have opted for the “wait and see” approach with his inherited players, but we can no longer pretend like he did nothing to change the success of the roster this offseason. The Garrett Temple signing has been nothing short of a steal for the Bulls through the first 13 games. He has helped the team in crunch time with some frisky defense, and he has hit his shots behind the arc at an outstanding rate (43.1 percent). Temple’s expertise off the bench has been a stabilizing force for this shaky team, and his presence with the young players in crunch time has helped keep things close. I know it sounds a bit cliche, but it is truly like having a head coach on the court when he is in the game, and that is exactly what this inexperienced team needs.

•   This offense >>>>

•   Reflect and respect. Happy MLK Day.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.