For those who have seen the Chicago Bull’s preseason, it’s obvious that this team will take on a much different personality than during the Fred Hoiberg era. Jim Boylen has put his stamp on a style of basketball that blends the old with the new.
The Chicago Bulls are finally kicking off the highly anticipated 2019-20 season. Fans are eager to see what was hailed last year as “the young core” finally playing together. Added to them are 3 free agents and 2 highly touted rookies. There are at least 10 key players that will be evaluated throughout the season and decisions will be made as to who is a keeper and who is not worth the bang for the buck.
Questions to ask include:
Lauri Markkanen: Will he be a consistent 20 point scorer? Can he develop a post up game? Is he strong enough to defend the tougher players at his position such as Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kristaps Porziņģis, or Julius Randle? Of course Zion Williamson has also now arrived.
Zach LaVine: Will his defense improve? What about reducing his turnovers? Can he make teammates better? How will he adjust to Coby White, the rookie with a similar scorer’s mentality?
Otto Porter: Will he stay healthy? Is he able to maintain a consistently high focus and not disappear at times as he did in Washington?
Tomas Satoransky: Has he reached his ceiling? How will he share the court with Coby White? What players would match best if Satoransky is at small forward?
Wendell Carter: Can he stay healthy? How will he cut down on his fouls? Is he strong enough to compete against a Joel Embiid or an Andre Drummond type of center? Will his mid-range game improve?
Thad Young: Can he provide the same level of consistency he has throughout his career? Should he start if either Wendell or Lauri don’t step up? Can he provide leadership throughout the ups and downs of an NBA season with a young roster and a new coach?
Coby White: What position will he end up at? If he progresses at shooting guard, will Zach LaVine function at the point? Will White be able to limit turnovers and eventually start over Satoransky? If he continues to perform as he did in preseason, people will wonder when he will hit the dreaded rookie wall.
The 2019-20 version of the Chicago Bulls can become a total bust as easily as it can turn into a year all fans will look back on and say Jim Boylen really turned that team around.
Boylen will continually be doubted and grilled by the Chicago press and fans. They will question whether Boylen is as good a game coach as a motivator? Will he be able to identify the best matchups, who has the hot hand, who is bringing the energy, what player needs a game off? Is his team mentally ready to go every game, especially when playing back to backs? Will he continue to dance in unison with Bulls management John Paxson and Gar Forman? Most importantly, by seasons end will he be a coach free agents want to come play for?
Allow me at this point to give a resounding YES to all questions regarding the new coach of the Chicago Bulls.
I like that he broke the team down last year and restarted from the basics. Fans agree that NBA players still have to hustle, play defense, and prioritize team wins over individual statistics. We relate to players who are willing to take a charge or set a hard pick.
Needing to be in top physical shape, getting the 50:50 balls and out playing opponents down the stretch is a no brainer. That Boylen also takes a personal interest in his players, is emotional, and most of all has one hell of a “spirit and soul”, is music to my ears.
Jim Boylen coaches basketball the way it is supposed to be coached, with hours of preparation and a winning attitude. He has been on the coaching staffs of three NBA champions. NBA coaching greats Rudy Tomjanovich and Greg Popovich are his mentors. An assistant coach with the Bulls since the 2015-16 season, the guy just fits perfectly.
If the team’s play in preseason was any indication at all of what Jim Boylen brings to the team, it is old-fashioned hard-nosed defensive minded basketball mixed with highly efficient offensive schemes.
On defense we have already seen Luke Kornet clog the lane with his long arms, Thad Young hound the ball Kris Dunn style, and Zach LaVine give the effort everyone expects from an all-star caliber player. Add to that a beefed up Wendell Carter and rookie Daniel Gafford, who excels in the paint.
Suddenly the Bulls have the talent to match up nicely with most teams and not get blown out by 30 points. They should be in every game due to their defense alone.
But it is the offense that has fans talking. For starters, Coby White has already taken everyone by surprise. In preseason he averaged 19.2 points a game and took the 2nd most shots in the league.
The player we all thought was the point guard of the future seems to have incredible potential as a shooting guard. Jim Boylen, did not label him or force him to be what we wanted him to be. He has created lineups that have enabled White to flourish early.
White has played shooting guard with Satoransky at the point as well as Lavine, Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono. Today he looks like the Bulls sixth man at guard, with Young the first coming off the bench at forward.
At one point in preseason Boylen had 3 guards on the floor with Markkanen and Kornet. All five players can hit from three.
Young and Porter, on the other hand, bring experience. Their team first approach will organically lead to more assists and less turnovers.
In an NBA where the three-point shot is prefered to a mid-range game, the Chicago Bulls have all the pieces.
They do not have a super star and may not make the playoffs. A worse case scenario would be unexpected injuries and another year in the lottery.
An expected result should be a significant increase in wins and an increase in credibility as an organization.
A best case scenario though will be a top four seed in the wide open Eastern Conference, two all-stars and Jim Boylen getting his due as Coach of the Year.
After watching the team miss the playoffs for the last two seasons, the “spirit and soul” that Jim Boylen has preached and brought to the organization is a welcome sight. As proud Bulls fans, let’s bring our spirit and soul. Go Bulls!