Bulls have cleared a path for their two best players to reach for stardom

Coach Jim Boylen said he shares in the responsibility of getting Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine to reach NBA superstar levels.

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LAS VEGAS — The questions for the Bulls this summer are still many.

Big man Wendell Carter Jr. is headed for surgery Tuesday to repair what could be a sports hernia, while 2016 first-round pick Denzel Valentine and his surgically reconstructed left ankle remain a work in progress after he missed all of last season.

Now factor in first-round pick Coby White’s development in the Summer League, the possibility of the Bulls trading Kris Dunn and their recent acquisitions of guard Tomas Satoransky and forward Thaddeus Young, and it certainly won’t be a boring next few months leading into training camp.

Is there anything that isn’t in question?

Try the importance of guard Zach LaVine and forward Lauri Markkanen, for whom it’s takeoff time now that support pieces have been put in place.

In a superstar league, the Bulls are devoid of superstars. LaVine and Markkanen know that and have been reminded of it frequently throughout the team’s rebuild. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving aren’t walking through the Advocate Center doors anytime soon, which means a star has to come from within.

Unfair pressure? Maybe. But coach Jim Boylen knows the pressure also falls on him to get those two players to that level.

“It is on me, yes, sir,” Boylen said. “And I take that responsibility to heart. But I think with the pieces we [added in free agency], we have honored where we think Zach and Lauri can go, and we’ve cleared a way for them to become what we hope they can be. I’m hoping they take their crown and they run with it.’’

LaVine and Markkanen showed glimpses of stardom last season, especially the 7-foot Markkanen, who put together a February to remember, averaging 26 points, 12.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 11 games while shooting 35 percent from three-point range. Those aren’t typical numbers for a second-year player, especially a big man.

It was enough of a sample that the Bulls’ front office — even with almost $23 million in cap room — believed its free-agent shopping should focus on support players to match LaVine and Markkanen’s style of play.

“We believe in them,” Boylen said. “I think [the free-agent decisions are] a statement of belief. I think we’ve made a commitment to this roster build-out. Again, I use that kind of saying that they’ve got to take their crown, and they’ve got to run with it. They’ve got to wear it, they’ve got to own it and they’ve got to do it.

“We think they can. I know they can. They’ve done it. What we want them to do is do it more consistently, and they’ve both had great moments in a Bulls uniform, a great month, a great streak of games, but now we’ve got to do it for 82. That’s my challenge, their challenge, and we’re going to do it together.”

NOTE: Second-round draft pick Daniel Gafford signed his rookie contract Monday, the Bulls announced. The 6-11 center has been starting in Summer League play.

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