Gill: Keys To Bulls Having A Successful Season

It's Lauri Markkanen's time to shine.

Tony Gill
October 22, 2019 - 9:28 am

(670 The Score) The Bulls open their regular season at the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday evening. Let's break down some of the keys to the Bulls having a successful season, keeping in mind that they've set the playoffs as a goal.

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The Bulls were plagued by injuries in 2018-'19. Zach LaVine (63 games played), Lauri Markkanen (52), Wendell Carter Jr. (44), Chandler Hutchison (44) and Denzel Valentine all dealt with injuries. Otto Porter Jr. played in 15 of a possible 28 games after he was acquired in a trade in early February.

That makes the top concern for the Bulls whether they can stay healthy for the majority of an 82-game season. Thad Young and Tomas Satoransky were added in free agency in part because of their history of durability. Has it been bad luck for the Bulls? Maybe. Whatever it is, the narrative can't turn to health problems if this team is to make a playoff push.

Can Markkanen become what we think?

The most important player for the Bulls is the Finnish lord Lauri Markkanen. Can he take a quality jump in production in his third season? Markkanen averaged 18.7 points and 7.6 points while shooting 43 percent from the field and 36.1 percent on 3-pointers last season. 

There's no other way to put it: Markkanen needs to show us progress toward becoming a star. A player's third season is often when we discover whether that lies in his future. The 22-year-old Markkanen put the work in during the offseason and has made all the right comments lately, but he had an underwhelming preseason. The Bulls' long-term success revolves largely around his development and production. To borrow a quote that former Cubs manager Joe Maddon used to tell Dexter Fowler, "You go, we go." The same could be said for Markkanen and the Bulls. 

Can LaVine ascend to All-Star status?

We've all seen LaVine's potential. He's a great scorer and has athleticism that rivals anyone in the NBA. But can he put it all together to finally earn All-Star recognition?'

"Everything comes with winning," LaVine said when I asked him that question at media day in late September. "I had an All-Star-caliber season (last year), but I didn’t take it as that because we didn’t win. I mean, you’re at the All-Star break with 14 wins. Everything comes with winning."

The 24-year-old LaVine averaged a career-high 23.7 points last season. He has the potential to be a top-five scorer in the NBA. Two areas for improvement for him are become a more efficient scorer -- including getting to the free-throw line more often -- and locking in at the defensive end to help set a standard for the team. If he accomplishes all that, he has a good chance to earn his first All-Star berth.

How does Coby develop?

Rookie Coby White had a big 29-point night in the Bulls' preseason finale last Thursday. His role has come into focus, as the Bulls will bring him off the bench and turn to him for offensive playmaking. That's smart, because scoring is what comes most natural to him. 

It’s going to be fun watching White blaze up the court with his speed. If he can shoot consistently, he'll be a key contributor and be really entertaining to watch.

Tony Gill is the executive producer of the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score from noon to 2 p.m. weekdays. Follow him on Twitter @tonygill670.