I’m not exactly sure if I can say the Chicago Bulls are WELL-represented on The Ringer’s latest Top-100 list, but they are … well … represented.
Four of the team’s players have cracked the site’s first version of the list, which will be revised throughout the course of the regular season. To little surprise, the first Bulls player to see his name appear is DeMar DeRozan at No. 22. He checks in right behind the Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton and immediately ahead of the Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram. All things considered, that feels about right.
Keep scrolling for what seems far too long, and you’ll then come across Zach LaVine. The Ringer currently lists the Bulls’ max player as just the 40th-best player in the NBA, putting him in the same section as starting role players like Andrew Wiggins (39th), OG Anunoby (41st), and Brook Lopez (42). What’s even more eye-popping is the fact that Lauri Markkanen – yes, the player Chicago traded away two offseasons ago – currently sits two spots ahead of LaVine at 38.
I think we can agree that feels like a sturdy middle finger to the Bulls and LaVine. Markkanen was the very player that the organization decided didn’t belong as a part of their future plans. Now, two seasons later, he’s being considered a better talent than the guy who just signed a $215.2 million contract. And the worst thing of all is it’s hard to completely disagree.
Markkanen has started the year as the single-best player on a 16-14 Utah Jazz team. He’s averaging 22.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on 52.7 percent shooting from the field and 40.8 percent shooting from behind the arc. He has LaVine beat in each of those categories. I know … woof.
Now, do I believe that Markkanen is forever the better player? No. And I’m not sure The Ringer does either. Let’s remember this list is subject to change, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if LaVine finishes ahead of Markkanen by the time their final update rolls around. A
At the same time, the fact that there is a reasonable case for Markkanen to be ahead of LaVine more than a quarter of the way through the season speaks to how poorly things have gone in Chicago. There remain real concerns about the direction this front office has chosen … and Markkanen isn’t the only reminder of that.
Before we reach either of the next two Bulls on the list, we first stop at the organization’s other former big man. Orlando’s Wendell Carter Jr. ranks 80th, which is eight spots ahead of the player he helped the Bulls acquire in Nikola Vucevic.
Look, I know both Markkanen and Carter ranking ahead of LaVine and Vucevic, respectively, is hair-loss inducing. But I again want to emphasize that (1) these rankings are subject to change, and (2) I don’t think either ex-Bull becomes who they are today without a trade.
As unfortunate as it is, part of Markkanen and Carter Jr.’s success stories is a change in environment. Not only do I think it gave both the kind of wake-up call they needed, but it provided the kind of mental rejuvenation that was necessary after many dysfunctional years in Chicago. It’s hard to stomach, but I sincerely believe that.
Still, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating that the Bulls supposed “star talent” is having this difficult a time showing a positive return on investment. One would think that having four players in the Top-100 would make you one of the better teams in the NBA, but here the Bulls are as the league’s favorite “blow-it-up” team.
Anyway, as for that fourth and final player, Alex Caruso checks in between Vucevic and Carter Jr. at 86th. The fact he even made the list at all came as a pleasant surprise. I feel like rarely he gets true credit for being one of the NBA’s best role players and defenders, so I do give The Ringer a shoutout for doing just that. The CaruShow deserves more viewers!