The Bulls Are Astoundingly Average, the Frontcourt's Future, Zach LaVine at the Rim, and Other Bulls Bullets

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The Bulls Are Astoundingly Average, the Frontcourt’s Future, Zach LaVine at the Rim, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Is anyone else feeling … mad? *smug emoji*

Go Illini!

•   Ben Gates had an easier time figuring out how to steal the Declaration of Independence in National Treasure than I’ve had trying to figure out this Bulls team. One night, they are blowing out lesser teams in expected fashion and the next they are blowing 23-point leads to a Spurs team missing their best player. And yet, through all this turbulence, the Bulls have still been one of the more stable teams in the NBA over the last 15 games, according to ESPN’s Kirk Goldsberry.

•   The Bulls are stationed right in the middle of the pack, playing some of the most average basketball in the league. They have an 8-7 record with a Net Rating of 6.0 in the stretch documented above. Unlike the beginning of the season where their offense dominated the advanced analytics, things have completely flipped. Since February 12th, the Bulls have the 17th-best offense in the league and the 4th-best defense behind only the 76ers, Heat, and Bucks. Like … what? I have to imagine a large part of that is due to playing some heavily depleted teams, but it’s also not really fair for me to not give them any credit for their improvements. After all, the team still struggled to keep weaker teams off the board at the beginning of the season, and they did hold the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat to 106 and 101 points, respectively. That’s solid.

•   I’ll be curious to see how things look in Goldberry’s next release. The Bulls’ upcoming schedule flip-flops winnable games with matchups against Denver, Detroit, Utah, Cleveland, San Antonio, and Golden State to finish out March. We also have the trade deadline sandwiched in between there, so who knows for sure whether or not we will see the same team for all these games. If the Bulls want any shot at a postseason berth, though, they are going to have to stay in at least this average tier for the remainder of the season.

•   Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz decided to right up some predictions for the NBA trade deadline, and he included a potential shake-up for the Bulls young core. He posed the idea of the team moving on from Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter Jr., especially now that we have seen Carter Jr. benched for the first time in his career. I’ve agreed for a while that this duo may not be the best fit moving forward, but I’m not sure if that means we see either moved at this particular time. The best case is probably for Markkanen thanks to his expiring contract, but we also do have to keep in mind that he has put together the more complete season of the two thus far. At the end of the day, while I wouldn’t be shocked if either popped up in an actual rumor over the next week, my gut tells me the team doesn’t move on from either until this offseason.

•   ESPN’s Bobby Marks reminded us that Markkanen passed a contractual threshold on Wednesday. The big man’s qualifying offer is now up to $9 million thanks to the amount of starts his reached over the past two seasons. This is more housekeeping information, if anything, as Markkanen is surely set to sign a fresh long-term contract this summer.

•   No. 1-overall pick Anthony Edwards became the third-youngest player ever to record a 40-point game last night. You gonna take that Patrick Williams? 

•   Edwards also broke the rookie scoring record for the Minnesota Timberwolves … which had previously been held by a familiar face.

•   According to BBall Index, Zach LaVine is one the league’s best finishers. We all know he has taken a massive step toward becoming one of the league’s more efficient finishers (62.6 eFG% ranks in 96th percentile), and a big reason for that is his improved percentages in the paint. LaVine is conveting 69 percent of his looks at the rim (80th percentile) per Cleaning the Glass, which is by far a career-high.

•   This is really cool.

•   Here is some tournament stuff to look out for …


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Author: Elias Schuster

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