“Best player’’ is a title any basketball star would covet.
But being the “best player in the NBA who has never reached the playoffs’’ is something else entirely.
At least Bulls guard Zach LaVine, whose eighth season gets underway Wednesday, has plenty of excuses for why he has never made the postseason, but, to his credit, he rarely falls back on them.
He has been on bad teams or rebuilding teams — the Timberwolves and Bulls. He has gone through coaches and systems like clothing. And he also has had some bad luck — an injury, a positive coronavirus test or the ball simply bouncing the wrong way.
Instead of dwelling on that, LaVine always has remained positive, focusing on tomorrow rather than the ugly record that stares him in the face today.
That’s why throughout camp, he has had the same answer when asked about goals for this season.
“Win. By any means necessary, and I’ll be OK with that,’’ LaVine said. “My mind is on tomorrow, starting this thing off right, working hard and getting forward with helping us win.’’
LaVine finally seems to have a better understanding of “tomorrow.’’ Maybe it’s the lessons he learned in the Summer Olympics or the idea of fully embracing that nothing is promised beyond today.
LaVine will not only have All-Star numbers again, but he’ll end his careerlong playoff drought.
That’s not a bold forecast by any means, considering the talent assembled around LaVine, but it’s the one that sits atop the predictions list for the upcoming season.
2. The Bulls will have a top-10 defense — With a roster that was far from healthy and way less athletic, the Bulls were actually solid defensively in the second half last season.
Lonzo Ball is not only great defensively but smart, and Alex Caruso will prove to be as disruptive as they come against opposing guards. Also, Patrick Williams has a year of experience as well as an offseason of transforming his body.
This might not be the defense the Knicks or Heat throw at teams, but it will make opponents work.
Rebounding will be a weakness, but coach Billy Donovan will figure out how to work around that.
3. Backup guard Coby White will be shopped around trade-deadline time — When he returns from shoulder surgery — hopefully by late November — it will be interesting to see what role awaits him.
He seems to be a redundant player, with only his streaky three-point shooting a saving grace, but if Caruso and Ball can be threats from outside, White could be on the move.
4. A redshirt year for Ayo Dosunmu — The Chicago native had a good camp and showed positive things in exhibition play, but this roster is deep in the backcourt. His most productive minutes will likely be on the Windy City Bulls of the G League.
5. Donovan will finish in the top 5 for Coach of the Year — Going from missing the play-in game to the No. 5 seed in the East will carry some votes.