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Zach LaVine Is Just What Bulls Need

Zach LaVine has been a bright spot for the injury-plagued Bulls so far this season. His efficient scoring is all that separates the Bulls from an 0-6 start.

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Zach LaVine What Bulls Need

This summer, Zach LaVine signed a 4-year contract worth $78 million dollars with the Sacramento Kings, which the Chicago Bulls promptly matched. The reception was mixed at best. Many detractors of the deal pointed to his inefficiency in his injury shortened season, in which he played only 24 games, shot 38% from the field, and scored 16 points a game. He was coming off an ACL injury. Supporters of the deal believed last season was an anomaly, and that LaVine had another gear in him, one that might be worth the hefty price tag to keep him. So far, the supporters have been right. And that’s been a blessing for the Bulls, because if LaVine wasn’t playing up to his contract, this team would look like the worst in the league.

In six games for the Bulls, LaVine is averaging 29.3 points per game. In their loss to the Mavericks, he had 34 points on 11/15 shooting, including 5/7 from the 3-point line (CBS Sports). Zach looks like a completely different player this year, which is just what the Bulls were hoping for. If you look at his shot selection on NBA.com, it looks similar to his trends last year (lots of pull ups, yikes). But instead of shooting sub-35% in catch and shoot and pull up shots, he’s shooting 50% and 46%, respectively. From within ten feet, he’s improved from 56% to 81%.

LaVine also looks more like a combo guard, although that’s mostly due to the fact that his starting point guard has been Cameron Payne in all but one game. It hasn’t translated to big assist numbers yet, but it does put pressure on the opposing defense. When Zach drives, unlike last year, he’s able to get to the rim. Instead of contested midrange jump shots, he’s finishing with dunks like this, or collapsing the defense and dumping it off to a big man or kicking out to an open shooter.

All these positives are great for this young Bulls team, who sit at 2-4 with a daunting 4-game home stand coming. Without LaVine’s production, those 2 wins are almost assuredly losses and the 4 losses are much uglier. Without Lauri Markkanen, who is sidelined with an elbow injury, the Bulls didn’t have a reliable scoring option outside of LaVine coming into the season. A starting lineup of Cameron Payne, LaVine, Justin Holiday, Chandler Hutchison (in the wake of the Bobby Portis injury) and Wendell Carter Jr. is not a world beating lineup by any means, so a shot of scoring espresso from Zach is much needed.

Everyone had their doubts about Zach, including me. I thought he was best served in the 6th man role. He’s now proving everyone wrong, and showing how valuable of a scorer he can be. He’s got things to work on, mostly on the defensive side, but it’s hard not to get excited as he strings together so many strong performances. If he keeps this pace up, he could be a front-runner for Most Improved Player. For now, just bask in the glory of his efficient scoring. And maybe, if you counted yourself as a doubter, send him something nice with a card that says, “I’m sorry.”

Sports Communication major at Bradley University. Founder of BU Edge Radio. Bulls fanatic. I hope I'm good at writing.

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Wendell Carter Jr.’s season is probably over with surgery recommended

Less than 24 hours ago, Carter was expected to play in Saturday’s matchup against the Miami Heat. Now, Carter will likely need surgery on his left thumb with a recovery time of 8-12 weeks.

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Wendell Carter Jr.'s rookie season is likely over after surgery is needed to his left thumb - Locked On Bulls

Locked On Bulls is back with a fresh episode, the guys spend the first segment of the show talking about the last leg of the road trip from hell and the ninth consecutive loss in Denver. For the breaking news on Wendell Carter Jr.’s injury, fast forward to 48:52 mark. According to the Chicago Tribune, Wendell Carter Jr. is being recommended surgery on his left thumb he injured in Tuesday night’s game that would keep him out 8-12 weeks likely ending his season.

Locked On Bulls discusses how the Denver Nuggets coming into this game were at the top of the Western Conference as one of the best teams in all of basketball. Jim Boylen and his Bulls made little to no adjustments to their game and were blown out in the third quarter.

The guys discuss how Lauri Markkanen’s impressive first quarter was overshadowed by another embarrassing loss mixed little effort and awful game planning. The guys break down some advanced analytics during the Bulls nine-game losing streak and how this possibly could get worse.

The guys spend some time taking voicemails from Bulls fans to end the show, you can interact with Locked On Bulls at (331)-979-1369 or on Twitter @LockedOnBulls. First voicemail asks the guys about how the players need to start taking more accountability for their performances. The guys discuss how LaVine and Dunn have ghosted on this road trip, the inability to get to the free throw line, and the terrible offensive first quarters under Jim Boylen.

Second voicemail details a Bulls fan who no longer believing in Kris Dunn as the starting point guard of the future. The guys describe how Dunn’s play has lacked over during the road trip, since his return from injury, and why all of a sudden it seems like his mentality is to score first rather than to facilitate? Has he been worse for LaVine and Markkanen’s development or all of these guys just trying to do it themselves? The last voicemail asks the guys who the front office will choose if it comes down to Zach LaVine vs. Jim Boylen if their relationship continues to crumble.

The final 10-minutes of the show is dedicated to the breaking news of Wendell Carter Jr. potentially missing the rest of the season. How will this affect the Bulls on the floor and are the Bulls cursed? All of this and so much more on Locked On Bulls.

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Bulls finding out trade market is scarce for Robin Lopez, Jabari Parker?

The Bulls have been adamant about not taking on long-term money, so the market for Jabari Parker has become increasingly thin. Lopez wants a buyout.

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Bulls finding out trade market is scarce for Lopez, Parker - Locked On Bulls

Locked On Bulls is back with a fresh episode, the guys kick off the show talking about the Bulls matchup tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers. The guys also focus their conversation on the Bulls unwillingness to buyout Robin Lopez at this point, looking to trade him for assets.

Just how bad have the Lakers been since LeBron James’ injury 10 games ago? Jordan Maly and Matt Peck discuss some of the advanced analytics behind the Lakers struggles. Some of the surprises include the Lakers being one of the best defensive teams in all of basketball yet being the worst offensive team in the same stretch. Will the pressure to win tonight by Lakers coach Luke Walton be at all time high and can the Bulls steal one on the road to boost morale?

The second half of the show dives deeper into the situation surrounding center Robin Lopez. In the past few days, reports have surfaced that Robin Lopez and his agent have been working with the Bulls to find a deal to either move or buy him out.

This all comes with a new storyline yesterday about a heated practice, exchange with point guard Kris Dunn. The guys discuss why buying out Lopez right now doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Bulls but come trade deadline if they do not find a deal, they should part ways. The guys also talk about Jabari Parker’s trade value, his potential upgrade to backup power forward, Lopez’s reduction in minutes, Patrick McCaw Cavaliers story, and some quick hits on NBA Draft prospects. All of this and so much more on Locked On Bulls.

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Rock bottom of the NBA: Bulls midseason review

The Bulls hit the halfway point in Portland, cap off the weekend with losses to the Warriors and Jazz.

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Bulls midseason review feels a whole lot like rock bottom - Locked On Bulls

It’s safe to say the Bulls’ season has been nothing short of abysmal.

The team hit the halfway mark on Wednesday night in a 124-112 loss to the Trailblazers. The loss was the Bulls’ 31st in just 41 games. This means that through half an NBA season you can count the total number of Bulls’ wins on two hands. The last time this happened was when a guy named Fred Hoiberg scored 4.4 points per game for the post-dynasty team back in 2001.

The Bulls followed up their loss in Portland with an absolutely ugly loss in Oakland to Klay Thompson and the Warriors. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson combined for 80 points on 60-percent shooting, handing the Bulls a 146-109 loss.

After a 5-19 start, the Bulls’ front office fired Fred Hoiberg, replacing him with Jim Boylen. Hoiberg coached 24 games for the team, and Boylen has coached 19.

The argument that Hoiberg didn’t get a chance with a healthy roster is a valid one. What kind of record did the front office expect to see with a lineup filled with injured players? Despite Hoiberg’s lack of success with the team, his firing was untimely and insensitive. Nonetheless, Hoiberg was gone and the team landed his polar opposite in Boylen.

Boylen’s first week as Bulls head coach had fans crying for Hoiberg back, and rightfully so. In Boylen’s third game as head coach, the Bulls suffered their worst loss in franchise history. In the third quarter of the game, Boylen pulled all five of his starters at the same time. He claimed Gregg Popovich used the tactic before when Boylen coached under him in San Antonio. Players were furious to say the least with one player, according to Yahoo Sports saying, “They aren’t the Spurs and, more importantly, he isn’t Popovich.”

To make matters worse, Boylen called for a two-and-a-half-hour Sunday practice the day after the loss. Players, according to multiple sources, started a group text to make sure no players went to practice.

The Bulls became the latest soap opera of professional sports and the laughing stock of the NBA.

However, it wasn’t just the coaching that was subject to change. The front office rang in the new year by sending Justin Holiday to Memphis in exchange for two future second-round picks, MarShon Brooks, and Wayne Selden. Later that day, the team made the decision to waive Cameron Payne. It’s good to know that some good came out of this season.

Don’t think I forgot about the highest-paid Bulls player, Jabari Parker. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the $20 million a year athlete requested to be traded from his hometown back in mid-December. Parker was removed from the Bulls’ rotation in early December and was given his first real opportunity under Jim Boylen last night in Utah. It remains to be seen if the Bulls will find a trade partner willing to take Parker or if they will buy him out after the deadline passes.

The thing is, just halfway through the first season of his two-year deal, the Bulls’ highest-paid player looks disconnected and better served somewhere other than his hometown team.

So much goes on with this team off the court that you would forget they play basketball.

Despite just 10 wins in 41 games, the team is healthier than it has been all season. Zach LaVine is having the best season of his career, Lauri Markkanen is averaging 16.5-points in 20 games, and Kris Dunn‘s offensive numbers are up in just about every category. Wendell Carter Jr. has been the Bulls most reliable defensive players this season and while he hasn’t been an offensive firepower he has shown enough flash to be excited about what’s to come.

This season is over for the Bulls in terms of competing, but they can still find ways to get better for the future. Although there hasn’t been much of any success, many of these young players will play together for years to come.

Everyone knows who the best scorer is, who can rebound, but no one knows who the Bulls are as a basketball team. They’ll never go anywhere without some type of identity. If they can’t prove to themselves that they are legit, they’ll continue to be seen as nothing more than a bottom feeder.

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