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Thursday, 21 September 2017 16:04

Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics: CLNS Celtics Newsfeed's 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

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Boston Celtics Newsfeed 2017-18 NBA Season Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls | Powered by CLNS Media

Boston Celtics Newsfeed 2017-18 NBA Season Preview

Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls


2016-17 Round-up: The Bulls finished a dead-even 41-41 last season, narrowly edging out the Miami Heat for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Once in the postseason, Chicago appeared to play inspired basketball. Rajon Rondo had a brief renaissance, posting 23 points, 20 assists and 17 rebounds during road wins in Games 1 and 2 against the No. 1 seed Boston Celtics. He didn’t hit a three-pointer and made just one trip to the free-throw line, but completely controlled the two games.


Then, Rondo got hurt and was forced to the bench. Chicago cratered with no viable point guard in his stead, and the Celtics rolled off four straight wins to take the series. Boston won all four games by nine-plus points, keying a run to /the conference finals.


Offseason Grades: Chicago was no stranger to a hectic NBA offseason, and front-office pariah’s John Paxson and Gar Forman continued to make some baffling decisions. On June 22, about two months after their playoff run came to a close, the Bulls pulled the trigger on a long-discussed Jimmy Butler trade. The haul, though, was not deemed too desireable by fans.


Butler winds up in Minnesota with an apparently stacked team of youngsters, while the return contains Zach Lavine, who tore his ACL in February, Kris Dunn, who’s rookie season saw him post a shooting clip of 37.7/28.7/61 and seven-foot rookie Lauri Markkanen, a 20-year-old Finnish shooter. Chicago took Markkanen at No. 7 overall, while sending their original No. 16 pick, Justin Patton to the T-Wolves.


The trade was universally panned by both local and national media.


The remainder of Chicago’s offseason was mostly an afterthought. The Bulls sent second-round sleeper favorite Jordan Bell to Golden State for cash. They signed reserve center Cristiano Felicio to a four-year, $32 million deal and brought Justin Holiday back after a halfway decent role player season in New York for $9 million over two years. They also added Quincy Pondexter, who hasn’t played a game since 2015.


On June 30, the Bulls apparently made the decision that they’re going to roll with Dunn, Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne at PG, waiving Rondo and Isaiah Canaan.


Training Camp Questions: The Bulls are still an incredibly strange team when training camp rolls around. There are young guys fans should be intrigued by at the very least, like Markkanen and Dunn, but then high-priced veterans Dwyane Wade and Robin Lopez will be strolling in as well.


Dunn should be the focal point of training camp. If he can’t become a legitimate NBA point guard, Chicago is in big trouble moving forward and the development of Markkanen, Bobby Portis and others will be stunted.


The wing could be interesting with Holiday coming in and fans still holding out hope for Denzel Valentine. However, the 2016 first-rounder could barely get on the floor against Boston in April.


Next Move They Make: It has to be the Dwyane Wade trade. According to reports, Zach Lavine is ahead of schedule in his ACL recovery, and the typical one-year would put him for a return around the All-Star break. The NBA trade deadline has moved up to Feb. 8, a couple weeks before the break, so Chicago should be looking to move Wade before then to open up minutes for a hopefully-healthy Lavine.


Wade is a $23.8 million expiring contract who still has a little bit left in his legs and averaged 18.3 points over 60 games last season. Expect a contender like Cleveland or someone in the west to make a play for him before too long.


Lopez is another potential option. If Fred Hoiberg wants to test out Markkanen and Portis in the same lineup, the veteran big man becomes expendable. He averaged 12.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in the playoffs last season, bullying Boston on the boards. Lopez makes about $14 million each of the next two seasons, but has played 80-plus games in four of the last five years and doesn’t turn 30 until April.


How they Beat the Boston Celtics: I don’t think we’ll have a repeat of last year’s 1 vs. 8 matchup come playoff time. The Bulls are likely bottoming out in 2017-18. The advantage they would continue to have is rebounding, which caused problems for the Celtics in April. Lopez looked really strong and guys like Portis and maybe Markkanen can cause matchup problems. The bottom line, though, is that none of that matters without Rondo and Butler in the backcourt. Dunn isn’t ready and may never be to handle a player of Kyrie Irving’s ability, and even if Lavine and the young athletes Chicago employs do hit, the Celtics are far from an older, slower squad.


Trending: The best thing you can say about the Bulls right now is that unlike the Nets, they own their 2018 first-round pick. If they can get something for Wade and/or Lopez and Lavine stays sidelined for much of the year, that pick could get real, real enticing.


Still, for the time-being this is a poorly trending team, and may need a front office shake-up before the needle starts pointing in the other direction.


Final Record/Standings Prediction: 20-62, 15th in Eastern Conference

Mike Walsh

Mike Walsh is the CLNS Media Network's Boston Celtics Content and Newsfeed Manager.

Mike is a graduate of Marist College with a degree in sports communications. He spent three years as a NBA Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report, where he was the site's top Boston Celtics writer.

Mike is a full-time sports writer with The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. He can be reached by email to MikeW@CLNSMedia.com or via Twitter @CLNS_Walsh.

Personal Website: www.WalshWrites.com