Chicago Bulls 2018-19 Depth Chart and Team Outlook

An overview of the Chicago Bulls 2018-19 starting lineup and depth chart. Also, discussions on the Lauri Markkanen injury, potential rotation issues, and concerns about the team's defense.

We are fast approaching the start of a new NBA season and with that comes updated rosters. Free agents have switched teams, trades have been made and players have been drafted. With all these changes, it doesn't hurt to review the Bulls' current roster and the updated starting lineup and bench rotation.

Players Added

Notable additions

Jabari Parker - Forward - (free agency)

Wendell Carter Jr. - Center/Power Forward (draft)

Chandler Hutchison - Small Forward (draft)

Tyler Ulis - Point Guard (claimed from waivers)

Also added

Derrick Walton Jr., Antonius Cleveland, and Omer Asik.

Players Lost

Jerian Grant - Guard - (traded to the Orlando Magic)

David Nwaba - Shooting Guard - (signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers)

Noah Vonleh - Power Forward - (signed with the NY Knicks)

Paul Zipser - Small Forward - (free agent)

2018-19 Depth Chart

PG Kris Dunn, Cameron Payne, Tyler Ulis, Ryan Arcidiacono, Derrick Walton Jr.

SG Zach LaVine, Antonio Blakeney, Antonius Cleveland

SF Justin Holiday, Jabari Parker, Denzel Valentine, Chandler Hutchison

PF Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis

C Wendell Carter Jr., Robin Lopez, Cristiano Felicio, Omer Asik

Markkanen Injury

With Markkanen expected to miss around two months due to an elbow injury, expect coach Hoiberg to continue playing around with the lineup by starting Portis, Parker, or Wendell at the power forward position. While it will be interesting to see how the Bulls can operate without Markkanen, it is extremely disappointing that the Bulls' player with perhaps the highest potential will miss the first two months of his sophomore season. The Bulls were not going to be a good team either way, but Markkanen still makes the team better, especially given his size as an athletic seven-foot power forward in a league that has gone smaller at the position. Markkanen is arguably the best player on the roster and he poses a challenge for opponents given his size. Bulls fans will be marking off the days until his return.

Finding Minutes for the Big Men

This is a young, talented, and mostly unproven roster. Most people will tell you that having an abundance of talent on a team is a good thing. Yet problems can still arise, such as being able to get all of a team's talented players enough minutes The problem for the Bulls will lie in finding enough minutes for Markkanen, Lopez, Portis, and Carter Jr., especially once Markkanen returns from his injury. Markkanen has to get 30+ minutes this season. He arguably has the highest potential on the roster, and coach Fred Hoiberg has to give him the opportunity to grow in his sophomore season. Lopez and Portis unquestionably deserve at least 25 minutes a game, as does rookie Carter Jr. Not to mention Jabari Parker will see some time at the four. Having this many talented big men could cause issues if the minutes are not managed correctly.

Keep or Move Lopez?

I don’t know how Head Coach Fred Hoiberg plans to get all these guys minutes, but it will certainly be no easy task. It is possible Lopez gets moved at the trade deadline as he is on the last year of his contract. However, he is a very solid and reliable center, with averages of 11.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and 1.2 bpg over his two seasons with the Bulls. Also, he is the only established veteran on the team aside from Justin Holiday.

There is no rush to get Wendell Carter Jr. in the starting lineup until the team can see what he is really capable of in the NBA. Moving on from Lopez makes sense in that the Bulls could potentially acquire another asset, such as a draft pick similar to the Mirotic trade earlier this year, in which the Bulls received a first round pick that was used to draft Chandler Hutchison. Getting a first rounder in exchange for Lopez seems somewhat unrealistic at this point given the desire around the league to hold onto their first rounders. However, there is certainly still value for Lopez - I just don't know that the Bulls could get the best value for Lopez by moving him just yet, that may come closer to the trade deadline when playoff-bound teams may become more desperate for a reliable big man.

Questionable Defense

Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine can clearly get buckets, but their recent ACL injuries have delayed their progress. Both are well-known as two of the worst defenders in the league, seemingly due more to lack of effort and interest than a lack of talent. With Parker better suited to the power forward spot, I worry how the LaVine, Parker, Markkanen lineups will fare defensively, with defensive ratings of 111, 111, and 110, respectively for the 2017-18 season. Dunn and Lopez are reliable defenders and Carter Jr. is expected to have a good defensive game, but would that be enough to make up for LaVine and Parker's shortcomings? Expect the Bulls to have strong offensive performances along with many frustrating defensive performances.

Who is the Backup PG?

The other glaring issue facing this roster is the lack of depth at point guard. At this time, Cameron Payne is likely the 2nd string point guard. Tyler Ulis may have a shot at the backup role but with Ulis just being claimed off waivers, Payne has probably earned the role for now. The only other options are Arcidiacono and Walton Jr., who are both fringe players. LaVine saw some time in the point guard role while in Minnesota, but that did not go too well, so don't expect the Bulls to try that route, either. As much as some Bulls fans might hate to admit, Payne might be the team's best option for the 2nd string role.

In his career, Payne has shot only 38.6% from the field and 34% from three. However, Payne improved his shooting in 2017-18, shooting 40% from the field and 38.5% from three. To be fair though, Payne did not shoot a high volume of threes this past season, he shot just 35 for 91, but maybe his shooting is improving nonetheless. 

Payne's most used play type is as a pick and roll ball handler, making up 39% of his plays on offense. According to Synergy, however, Payne is rated as below average for this play type, creating just 0.663 points per possession. If the Bulls do in fact plan to make Payne their 2nd string point guard, look for Hoiberg to use him off-ball as much as possible, where he is more efficient.

No one on this Bulls roster is a sure-fire star, but there is still a lot of potential and talent. This could be a make or break season for Hoiberg to see if he can start developing these young guys and manage the strengths and weaknesses of this roster.

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