As this goes to press, it’s September 19, International Talk Like A Pirate Day, and for the Chicago Bulls, they just got keelhauled and shipwrecked in one of the weirdest voyages that a bunch of salty landlubbers ever took upon the seas of the NBA in 2017-18.
When they lost to the Pacers on December 6, it dropped them to 3-20.
When they beat the Pacers on the 29th, they were 13-22, winners of 10 out of 12.
They went 14-33 the rest of the way to finish with 27 wins.
And meanwhile, they still have the same terrible coach, Fred Hoiberg, the same way-too-young roster with a combination of real prospects (Lauri Markkanen) and guys headed for the poke-with-a-stick-and-say “do something” meme entering Year 3 (Kris Dunn.)
Carter shot the lights out; Hutchison shot the ball.
The over/under is simply “beat last year’s record.” Can they do it?
2017-18 record: 27-55
2018-19 over/under: 27.5
This time last year, I dated a Swedish woman who had Finnish relatives. She said of me that I had what the Finns call “sisu”—a word without much cognate in English (the closest word we’ve got is “grit”, but that’s a gross understatement compared to the Finnish word)—and that remains the single nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.
The Bulls are hoping that the sisu that defines Finland’s national character gives Markkanen the determination to make a huge leap in Year 2.
Considering the Finn put up a 43.4/36.2 shooting split as a rookie when so many rookies—even decent shooters—can’t hit the broad side of a barn (to wit, Donovan Mitchell‘s splits were 43.7/34.0), that’s an incredibly promising sign.
In fact, when a big white Euro seven-footer has a silky stroke from outside, the temptation is always there to compare him to Dirk Nowitzki.
I am not saying Lauri Markkanen is Dirk Nowitzki. I am also not NOT saying it.
What’s A Cristiano Felicio?
Speaking of foreign players, was there anyone in the entire league who simultaneously managed to look like both a scrub and a revelation in the same season quite like Felicio last year?
He shot 59.1 percent, largely on the strength of a surprisingly effective close-range shooting game (51.3 percent between 3 and 10 feet) to go with the big man standard roughly 70 percent at the rim.
But he also commits fouls like the goal is to do so, he had an are-you-kidding-me minus-17.8 Net Rating on the floor, and watching him handle the ball for any reason other than to attempt to dunk it is like watching Edward Scissorhands try to handle a newborn baby.
This is what Chicago has to work with for a youth movement.
Is Kris Dunn Actually Worth A Damn?
A woeful 46.2 eFG% (42.9/32.1) from the field followed up a forlorn hope rookie campaign in Minnesota where Dunn shot 37.7/28.8.
A miserable .027 WS/48 and a negative BPM.
90 bad-pass turnovers against 310 assists.
I mean, aside from defense (which Dunn excels at), is it really worth the Bulls playing 4-on-5 offensively when Dunn is on the floor?
I’d compare him to Rajon Rondo, but Rondo is a much better passer.
Dunn is…kind of terrible (except, y’know, for that tenacious defense.)
It’s hard to see the Bulls getting a net positive out of this, and Dunn’s best value might be on the trade block to a team with lots of wing shooting and low post presence that gives up too many three-pointers and has a weakness at point guard.
Milwaukee. I’m talking about Milwaukee. But the Bulls would rather go jump in Lake Michigan in the wintertime than trade Dunn to an in-division rival unless they got Giannis Antetokounmpo back in trade (Milwaukee will not trade the Greek Freak for Kris Dunn. Even if Gar Forman got the whole Bucks brass drunk on all the beer in Wisconsin.)
Look, it’s really quite simple.
The Bulls were a team that showed flashes of being good, or at least mediocre, last year.
They’re a young team, and young teams tend to get better when they have roster consistency.
And the over/under is literally “improve by just one game.”
Are the Bulls good? Ehhh…I wouldn’t even say Plausible.
They still suck. But they suck just enough of a shade into not-totally-suck that they’ll clear 27.5. Over, but Busted.