To those of us that grew up with 80s or 90s NBA basketball, the Chicago Bulls are synonymous with success.
Be it Michael Jordan winning every individual accolade available to him, or the twin three-peats, that famed red uniform, the iconic starting 5 introductions – we all wanted to Be Like Mike. We all wanted to be a part of the Bulls.
But to a younger generation, the Bulls are the opposite of iconic. They're a franchise associated with at best ambivalence, at worst failure, aside from some brief Derrick Rose led flourishes.
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Since the 1998 Championship, the Bulls have missed the playoffs 10 times, and only made it out of the first round on four occasions, despite a litany of high draft picks. This is not the same club that spoiled its fans in the 90's.
Such an uninspiring long term run would, you might think, put pressure on Bulls decision makers John Paxson and Gar Forman, who have both been with the franchise in senior roles for nigh on 20 years. But owner Jerry Reinsdorf, perhaps confirming his alleged indifference in his basketball club, continues to give GarPax enough rope.
To their credit, the Bulls have assembled a tantalising list of young talent: high scoring wing Zach Lavine, sharp shooter Lauri Markkanen, young centre Wendell Carter Jnr, and recent draft pick Coby White.
In addition, the club have made some significant veteran additions with a mid season trade with Washington for Otto Porter Jnr, and free agent acquisitions Tomas Satoransky and Thad Young.
So, can the Bulls make the playoffs this season? To do so they would have to improve to, give or take, 42 wins – an increase of 20 from last season's awful 22 win club. That on its own is enough to make you take the Hard No. However, there is much to examine with this incarnation of the team from the Windy City.
Let's take a closer look at that young core...
LaVine is the man that much rests upon. Long an inefficient scorer, he's finally added some economy to his ability to put the ball in the bucket. He's still a below average play maker and frankly awful defensively. However, if LaVine can continue his ascent, the Bulls at least have their offensive Alpha.
Markannen is that most cherished of beasts – a seven feet tall sniper. The young Finn can flat out shoot the rock. Going into his third season, we'll get a good idea about his ability to be the secondary weapon that will make LaVine's life so much easier.