Starter: Lauri Markkanen
Depth: Bobby Portis
“The Finnisher” (still not sure how much I love that nickname but it’s all we have right now) shocked the NBA world last season by being… pretty damn good. Initially just another piece in the gigantic Butler-to-Minnesota trade, Markkanen became the crown jewel of the deal by midseason. Markkanen averaged over 15 points per game, over seven rebounds per game and shot 43 percent from the field and 36 percent from deep. Only Joel Embiid and Lamar Odom were recent rookies to have similar stat lines. Bulls fans have to love those comps.
More than just the statistics, the leadership Markkanen showed in his first year spoke volumes. From the day one, Markkanen seemed comfortable in the NBA and let no moment overwhelm him en route to a finish on the All-Rookie first team. While the 20-year-old missed a handful of games, he started all 68 games he played in and appeared to get stronger as the year went on.
Markkanen delivered big games against the NBA best including a handful of stellar games against LeBron James and the Cavaliers, Golden State, Houston, and others. Markkanen’s ability not only to maintain but thrive in pressure-cooked situations has Bulls fans excited for what the future can bring.
Backing up Markkanen will be Bobby Portis, who made more headlines for his fist than his play on the court last year. That’s not entirely fair though as Portis (22-years-old) had far and away his most productive year raising his numbers across the board. Portis clearly worked hard in the offseason and the emergence of a consistent 3-point shot (35.9 percent on the season) increased his production tremendously. Portis ended the 2017-18 season as the Bulls leader in Win Shares and, yeah, while that says more about the talent on the roster than Portis, it’s still an encouraging sign.