How does the future look for the Chicago Bulls in comparison to the New York Knicks?
The biggest improvement in the Chicago Bulls is the new regime. Arturas Karnisovas, Mark Eversley and Billy Donovan return respectability, competence and proven success to an organization that had deteriorated to a Dolanesque level.
The new VP of Basketball Operations, Karnisovas, comes from a long and successful stint in Denver. Arturas initial calling card was his knowledge of European basketball. Does Nikola Jokic ring a bell? Karnisovas expertise goes far beyond European hoops. He reportedly played a major role in constructing the current Denver team.
GM Mark Eversley is more World Wide Wes than Walt Perrin. He has been brought in to clean up the former management team’s sleazy rep. Bill Donovan’s record and reputation speak for themselves.
Last year, the Bulls nosed out the Knicks for 11th place, with Zach LaVine playing 35 mpg over 60 games. His usage rate, a number that should not be ignored, was 11th highest in the entire league at 31 percent. With Otto Porter missing all but 14 games, and Lauri Markkanen having trouble creating his own shot, LaVine became a one-man offensive show. His play was offensive (and not in a good way). His public squabble with the HC was offensive, and his lack of leadership as the Bulls best player was offensive.
As long as LaVine is dominating the ball, the Knicks have an opportunity to pass Chicago in the standings.
But after watching a couple of preseason games, LaVine seems to be playing off the ball under Billy Donovan. Coby White and Tomas Satoransky have run the team effectively and Zach has been playing lights out basketball. In addition, Lauri Markkanen has been aggressively taking the ball to the hole. Is this Billy Donovan magic?
The Bulls’ new direction is exemplified by Karnisovas’ first draft choice, Patrick Williams. This pick was considered a reach, but it was also a message, the Chicago Bulls were going to be a tough , aggressive defensive-minded team. At the time, it was surprising that they didn’t re-sign Kris Dunn, an excellent defender at PG. The Devon Dotson signing was the reason.
Patrick Williams (20) is three years younger and a better defender than Obi Toppin. Expect Toppin to have a bigger impact early in his career. Time will tell if either player has the will to raise himself to stardom.
Immanuel Quickley should more than justify his selection at #25. At # 44, the Bulls selected Marko Simonpvic. The 6’11” 215 lb. big man from Montenegro is 21 years old. Out of respect for Karnisovas knowledge of European basketball, this stash pick may turn out to be the steal of the draft. The scouting reports (now you read them?) are better than those for Deni Avdija. Marko was the dominant big in two U20 series. His mobility, range on his J, and aggressiveness are all very good. Marko Simonovic sounds like a better prospect than Avdija.
Undrafted Devin Dotson was signed to replace Kris Dunn. The 6′ 2″ PG from Kansas was 2nd team consensus All-American. Talk about a point guard rich draft, six of the ten first and second teamers were PGs. Devin is an excellent athlete, super quick and a tenacious defender. Range on his J is lacking, but he shot 80.8% over two years from the foul line. Dotson was an excellent signing for a team that desperately needed a point guard.
While the Bulls don’t have a single young player the quality of Mitchell Robinson, they do have depth. In Wendell Carter (22), Coby White (21), Daniel Gafford (23 and Lauri Markkanen (24) the Bulls have a young core that is superior to the Knicks. Unless Ntilikina (23), Smith Jr. (23) and Kevin Knox (22) answer the wake up call from Thibs and company, the Bulls will remain ahead of the Knicks for quite some time.