Insider K.C. Johnson answers your questions on Kris Dunn, Jim Boylen and more


Three practices are in the books. The Bulls are undefeated. Every player had their best offseason of workouts ever. What’s that you say? Every team can claim the same? Ah, yes, it’s training camp. But at least your questions are in midseason form.

Q: Which player has impressed the most in training camp and/or the September workouts thus far? - Will A.

A: As I was saying, it’s early. Unbridled optimism is omnipresent. That said, Kris Dunn has drawn near universal raves for his demeanor and determination now that his starting point guard job is in jeopardy. Dunn sounded like a different player on Bulls media day. Near the tail end of last season, Dunn seemed defensive and detached. And that was before executive vice president John Paxson put him on blast during Paxson’s season-ending news conference and then the organization drafted Coby White, acquired Tomas Satoransky in a sign-and-trade transaction and re-signed Ryan Arcidiacono. But Dunn talked about going home and looking inward, not surrounding himself with yes-men. He studied film. He looked at ways he can better fit in Jim Boylen’s multi-ballhandler system.

By all accounts, Dunn rocked the September workouts. For now, there certainly appears to be a role for him, even if it’s a reserve one. And this being a contract year, Dunn should be motivated. The key for him is to stay healthy and figure out ways to more effectively play off the ball. Dunn never will be a knockdown 3-point shooter. But his ability to defend can’t be overlooked for a team that doesn’t possess many plus defenders. Whether or not the Bulls are propping up Dunn — in the hopes his trade value escalates and they can flip him for a wing —or this relationship is repaired remains to be seen. But for now, all is well.

When GarPax talk about accountability, which they seem to do a lot when faced with criticism, what does that mean to them? In what way have they been accountable for the futility since the Thibs-coached teams? - @Llissemn, via Twitter

There always will remain a segment of the fan base that won’t be happy until the management team is replaced---if that ever happens. For some, that’s the only measure of accountability. But that view misses the internal stance owned by the Reinsdorfs, which, as Paxson’s and Gar Forman’s bosses, is the only opinion that truly matters. As stated ad nauseum, ownership believes in management’s roster-building ability. Ownership has factored in injuries and signed off on a full rebuild, which remains in its early stages. Ownership believes in several of the acquisitions since the Jimmy Butler trade. And it’s not like ownership and management don’t meet to discuss management’s structure and process. Since the rebuild began, Doug Collins has come on board. Jim Paxson’s role is valued. Mike Wilhelm moved into an important behind-the-scenes pro scouting role, tracking Thaddeus Young’s ability to guard Giannis Antetokounmpo during Pacers-Bucks battles.

As for what accountability means to Paxson and Forman, here’s Forman on that very subject on media day: “We take that very seriously, being accountable. And we will continue to. We think with the summer we’ve had both with the draft, free agency, the summer we’ve had with what’s happening on the floor with Jim (Boylen) and his staff, we think we’re headed in the right direction. We think we have the right type of people, the right young players with their make-up, their character. We certainly think we’ve added a degree of talent to this roster. And then one of the last steps this summer was to get some veterans that could come in here and play alongside these young guys. Not only to be mentors, but guys that can play and be a part of our success moving forward.’’

There does not seem to be a lot of talk on the new assistant coaching hires, Chris Fleming and Roy Rogers. How have players reacted to their presence and offensive and defensive schemes?  - Awni

Well, assistant coaches have input to schemes. But ultimately, those are decided by the head coach. At this point, I’ve only talked to Wendell Carter Jr. about Rogers, and the second-year big man said he’s eager to learn from someone who worked extensively with Clint Capela in Houston. I know this: The Nets wanted to keep Fleming. The Bulls worked hard to get him. And Boylen is, well, juiced and jacked about it.

Listen to this from Boylen: “When I sat down with John and we talked about our staff, the No. 1 thing that came up is guys who can teach. I think teaching is a lost art at our level. There’s more teaching that goes on in an NBA practice maybe than any level of basketball. It’s not thought of that way, but it's true. We wanted to add teachers. We got Chris, who has experienced teams in the position we’re in in Denver and Brooklyn---of building that team, adding the right pieces and getting guys to play the right way. So I’m very thankful for Chris. We added Roy, who was a big part of the development of Clint Capela. And obviously we got a young guy in the middle who has great talent and great physical presence that Roy is going to work a lot with. So these guys can teach. They can lead. They’re independent thinkers. But we brought them here to coach how we want to play better. We brought them here to teach our guys how to become a team.”

Two takeaways from this: Boylen notes that they’re independent thinkers but that they’re hired to teach how the Bulls want to play. So while they have input on that style, ultimately it’s Boylen’s call. That said, Boylen is fond of saying he doesn’t have all the answers and nobody will make as many mistakes as him. He actively seeks input. I think this staff will work well together.

What is your favorite starting five for the season? Sincerely, The coach’s favorite nephew

This question came from someone whose last name is Boylen. Whether he’s really Jim’s nephew is unknown. And quite frankly, I didn’t have the energy to email him to find out. But I digress.

The Bulls’ best lineup on paper is Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and either Wendell Carter Jr. or Thaddeus Young. And, yes, I waffle because Young is so valuable in so many ways and Carter, while oozing with potential, doesn’t own as much of a proven track record as Young.

But what needs to be emphasized is that it’s actually more important who finishes games. Carter needs to prove he can avoid foul trouble this season. Young’s veteran savvy and knack for deflections and securing loose balls make him a prime candidate to finish games. Barring foul trouble, the other four players almost certainly will be on the floor come crunch time.

The organization seems excited about a multiple ballhandler system. Do you think the players have the feel for the game to adjust and get to the right spots depending on who is on ball? Twitter, via @tha_relaxed1

This is actually a great question and could’ve come from Boylen himself, much less his (possible) nephew. One thing Boylen has been saying a lot is the need to run. What this means is making sure the players are not only conditioned to do so but committed to doing so. Most players prefer to have the ball in their hands. Who’s going to be willing to sprint and fill lanes without the ball? That’s what is essential for success in a multi-ballhander system. There’s talk of buy-in now. That has to continue.

As an optimistic Bulls fan, I'm excited for the coming year. How much improvement do you see this team making? Would you take the over or under on 33 wins? Are you optimistic about this team making the 8th seed? – Twitter, via @devin_moniz

I’d go over on 33 victories but under on the eighth seed. As stated in last week’s mailbag, I think the Bulls are in the chase for a playoff seed. But ultimately, too much has to go right in my view for them to jump the 20 or so victories it will take for a playoff seed. Health. Players taking games to next level. Navigating a brutal close to their schedule. I will say I’m starting to sense I’m in the minority. There is momentum from many league observers for them to make the playoffs. Whatever happens, watching meaningful basketball in April---whether the Bulls make the playoffs or are chasing a seed---would be a welcomed sight after the last two seasons.

Thanks for all the questions. Talk to you soon.

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