Happy Labor Day!
I hope you spend this beautiful day outside while daydreaming about the Bulls’ future upset over the 76ers in the second round of the playoffs.
• Every head scratch the Chicago Bulls got this summer for the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade was coupled with a round of applause for the Lonzo Ball signing. A four-year, $80 million deal for one of the league’s youngest and most high-upside talents on the free-agent market was under what many thought Ball would sign for. Not to mention, the fit for a team built around an elite two-guard – and a team that has lacked a long-term answer at the lead guard position since the Derrick Rose era – felt more than obvious. And, with all of that in mind, I do not think it comes as a surprise that people around the league expect Ball to have the best season of his career.
• With versatile offensive weapons like Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic, Ball will not only have plenty of opportunities to flash his playmaking skills, but he could find himself with his fair share of easy buckets as opposing defenses are forced to pick their poison. Then, on Chicago’s defensive end, he will be one of the team’s top talents. While his skills as an on-ball pest can certainly improve, his size and length at the point guard position have helped him become one hell of a help defender. There is no question the Bulls will rely heavily on this area of his game each night. So while I agree Ball is staring at a career year, I find it pretty hard to turn that into a projected stat line. ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins, on the other hand, was quick to give an answer in a recent conversation with Bally Sports.
“Hell, they’re going to be must-see TV!” pic.twitter.com/nVP1L9b6LJ
— 👑 Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson 📍 (@ScoopB) September 3, 2021
• Perkins picked Ball to average 15/10/6 in his first year in the Windy City. Thoughts? Coming off a year where he scored 14.6 points per game, I can get behind that nighly average. I’m not sure I see a world where he can score much more than that, though, especially with more ball-dominant players like LaVine and DeRozan in the backcourt alongside him. Sure, there will be nights when he gets in a rhythm and hits the high 20s (maybe even 30s), but we also have to remember he is this starting unit’s fourth option. The bucket-getting opportunities are not always going to be there.
• I’m also eager to take the under on that assist total. But I’d be lying if I said there is not a wide range of possibilities in this column. With so much talent around Ball, he could surpass the career-high 7.0 assists per game he averaged in 2019-20. At the same time, I tend to believe DeMar DeRozan will be this team’s primary halfcourt creator. Ball will rack up his fair share in transition, but DeRozan is the superior pick-and-roll facilitator. After all, he averaged 7.4 assists per 36 minutes last season. As for the rebounding, I think this whole team is going to be pretty solid in that category, so 6.0 feels fine. So … yeah … I don’t think Perkins’ assessment is too far off, but I’d take the under on assists and land somewhere around 15/7/6.
• FWIW: I think we’ll see Ball’s scoring efficiency improve, as well. He has become a much better 3-point shooter over the past couple of seasons, and he might even average close to 40 percent from long-range based on the amount of catch-and-shoot opportunities I expect him to get in this offense.
• Seeing Zach LaVine put in work alongside these two feels all kinds of nice.
Jayson Tatum, Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine are putting work in this offseason 😤
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 4, 2021
— Quinton Mayo (@RealQuintonMayo) September 4, 2021
• I know it might just be an open gym, but film like this shows just how well LaVine now stacks up against top-tier talent. The dude’s ability to score at all three levels is as elite as it gets in the NBA right now. Bring over some of that defensive intensity he flashed in Tokyo, and it will be impossible not to see him take another leap up the league ranks this season. And, I think we will see that happen. Not only has LaVine proven year after year that he can add to his game, but he will finally have enough help on the offensive end where can reserve some energy for that side of that ball.
• Bruh, stop trying to steal our guys!
LeBron's response to whether the Raptors should retire DeMar DeRozan’s jersey… pic.twitter.com/dM9kkzJ7mI
— Basketball Forever (@Bballforeverfb) September 6, 2021
• The first of two playoff basketball teams for Chicago.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) September 5, 2021
• Cool stuff from Mario, check it out!
— Bleacher Nation Blackhawks (@BN_Blackhawks) September 6, 2021
• Positive Cubs things!
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) September 6, 2021
• ME! ME! ME!
Who’s Ready to Embrace Underdog Status? And Other Bears Bulletshttps://t.co/JISUsn1SGJ
— Bleacher Nation Bears (@BN_Bears) September 6, 2021