Bulls preseason stock watch: Zach LaVine up, Jabari Parker down after 3 games
Bulls preseason stock watch: Zach LaVine up, Jabari Parker down after 3 games
The Bulls have started 1-2 in preseason and have a couple of ugly performances to their name, but Zach LaVine's play has been one of the few positives.
The Chicago Bulls haven't inspired much confidence to start the preseason without the injured Lauri Markkanen. After beating the New Orleans Pelicans 128-116 in the preseason opener, the Bulls got walloped 116-82 by the Milwaukee Bucks and were largely non-competitive in a 110-104 loss to the Charlotte Hornets that was not nearly as close as the final score made it seem. Chicago has struggled on both ends of the floor, ranking toward the bottom of the NBA in both offensive and defensive rating, [according to NBA.com.](https://stats.nba.com/teams/advanced/?sort=OFF_RATING&dir=1) In fact, the Bulls have the worst first-half net rating among NBA teams in the preseason [at minus-22.2](https://stats.nba.com/teams/advanced/?sort=NET_RATING&dir=1&Season=2018-19&SeasonType=Pre%20Season&GameSegment=First%20Half). Of course, it *is* just preseason, so there's no reason to panic if you hammered the OVER on the Bulls win total. Chicago opened at 27.5 wins and currently sit at 30 at the Westgate LV SuperBook, ([back up a half-game from after Markkanen's injury](https://www.betchicago.com/lauri-markkanen-elbow-injury-dampens-optimism-bulls-preseason-opener-promising-signs)). The Bulls' defense may be a sore spot all season, but they'll shoot the ball better and get Markkanen back in a month or so (hopefully) to juice up the offense. And while the preseason has featured a lot of ugliness, there have been bright spots. Let's take a look at a few key players and how they've performed thus far. ### Zach LaVine: Stock Up LaVine was mostly terrible in his 24 games last season after a return from an ACL injury. He forced up a lot of poor shots, struggled to finish at the rim and played his normal brand of awful defense. LaVine, like almost everybody else, was bad against the Bucks, but he sandwiched two strong scoring efforts around that dud. He had 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting against the Pelicans and 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting in Charlotte. The latter performance included four 3-pointers, including a flurry late in the third quarter. LaVine is sure to improve upon his 34.3 percent 3-point shooting from last year, and his aggressiveness and explosion driving to the basket have been great to see. All nine of his baskets against the Hornets were in the paint or from 3-land: <a href="https://twitter.com/chicagobulls/status/1049474785862856704" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/chicagobulls/status/1049474785862856704</a> LaVine will take his share of tough shots, but he's such a good shooter and terrific athlete that he should be doing the majority of his work from beyond the arc or at the rim. That has been the case so far this preseason, and he also has 13 free-throw attempts in the three games. LaVine's playmaking has been subpar with only four assists and nine turnovers, and his defense remains a sore spot. There was one comical play against the Hornets featuring LaVine shoving Robin Lopez in the back to go guard out on the perimeter, only for both players to wind up guarding nobody on an easy layup for Cody Zeller: <a href="https://twitter.com/RyanBorja/status/1049553889605939200" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/RyanBorja/status/1049553889605939200</a> The Bulls' defense has looked ugly and LaVine has played a part in this. This being said, LaVine looking like a dynamic scorer and consistently one of the best athletes in the league is a plus. Baby steps. ### Jabari Parker: Stock Down Parker has had a rough go of it. After a mixed-bag opener, he laid a massive dud in his return to Milwaukee by going 1-of-12 from the field. He followed that up with a 3-of-11 shooting effort in Charlotte. He's shooting 24.3 percent this preseason. Missing shots isn't a huge deal; it happens. But outside of a few nice drives and finishes, Parker has *looked* brutal. Poor shot selection and lazy effort have marred his performances. On two of the first three possessions against the Hornets, he got burned on defense and got a difficult mid-range jumper packed back in his face. Parker has taken a bunch of contested long 2s, and he has had his share of defensive lowlights: <a href="https://twitter.com/Bucks/status/1047914159764115456" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/Bucks/status/1047914159764115456</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/StephNoh/status/1049449546516979712" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/StephNoh/status/1049449546516979712</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/NBA/status/1049450192834109441" class="embedly-card" data-card-width="100%" data-card-controls="1">Embedded content: https://twitter.com/NBA/status/1049450192834109441</a> Parker is going to be better. He [admitted anxiousness](https://twitter.com/KCJHoop/status/1049764894244040704) but isn't worried about his struggles as he works on becoming more comfortable on a new team. Still, a lot of the concerns people had about Parker have cropped up. He needs to make better decisions, show more effort and get into better shape. Luckily, he has plenty of time. ### Bobby Portis: Stock Up Portis is coming off a career year, and [he's looking for a new contract extension before the Oct. 15 deadline](https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonpatt/2018/10/02/bulls-bobby-portis-facing-increased-opportunity-as-extension-talks-continue/#6628b1e7bd4b). Portis is playing like a man who wants that new contract. He has been consistently productive so far in the preseason, scoring at least 17 points in all three games and averaging 18.3 points on 52.3 percent shooting. He's tied with LaVine for the team lead in scoring. Portis can flat-out get buckets and has embraced the role of sixth man. While he has been shamelessly gunning (one assist against 44 shot attempts), Chicago needs that kind of spark off the bench. The 23-year-old is a flawed player, but he provides value with his scoring, energy and rebounding. ### Wendell Carter Jr.: Stock Holding Steady The No. 7 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft [wowed everybody at Las Vegas Summer League](https://www.betchicago.com/bulls-summer-league-wendell-carter-jr-chandler-hutchison), increasing the expectations for the 19-year-old entering his first season. Carter is listed at 11/1 odds at [Bovada](https://www.bovada.lv/sports/basketball/nba-season-props) to win the Rookie of the Year award, eighth on the oddsboard. Carter has been up and down in the preseason, which is to be expected for such a young player. He has been foul-prone (11 fouls in 67 minutes) and has struggled at times defending the pick-and-roll. The youngster was victimized time and again in Charlotte, and Kemba Walker made him look bad at the end of the first half with a blow-by and bucket at the buzzer. But Carter has had his moments, too. He racked up five assists on Monday and had a nice high-low game going with Portis. He's a smart player who makes good decisions with the ball. The big man also knocked down a 3-pointer in Milwaukee. He brings a lot to the table. With Robin Lopez looking rough and potentially in line for less playing time, Carter could soon find himself with a larger opportunity. __Get involved:__ [Play our free contests to win cash and prizes](https://betchicago.chalkline.com/games)2018-10-10T13:41:17.707Z2018-10-10T09:40-04:00