Over the weekend, I flew out to Salt Lake City, Utah for my cousin’s bachelor party. That sentence may seem confusing, as "Salt Lake City" and "Bachelor Party" go together like ketchup on a hot dog, but Salt Lake City was not my final destination. In fact, Salt Lake City wasn't even in the same state as the final bachelor party destination. I took a three hour flight to Salt Lake in order to meet up with my cousin in order to participate in a 10-hour car ride to Flagstaff, Arizona, stopping at the Grand Canyon along the way. We drove down Friday morning and drove back Sunday morning, which resulted in roughly 20 hours of total car time. Joy.
Now with 20+ hours of car time, four guys in their mid 20s are able (actually forced) to cover a wide range of highly intellectual topics (that is of course if you consider discussing for over two hours who makes the best cheeseburger in Chicago intellectual). We argued a bunch and had very different viewpoints on the world, but the one thing we all could agree on is how excited we all were about the future of both the Chicago Bears and Chicago Bulls. To anyone outside Chicago, that may seem ridiculous, as the Bulls just finished with the 6th worst record in the NBA and the Chicago Bears finished 5-11 last year. Despite these rather embarrassing finishes in their respective leagues, which wouldn't even warrant a participation trophy in this day and age, we all couldn't have been more bullish on the future states of both franchises.
Super Bowl contenders are built through the draft and the Bears have the opportunity to pick one of the top players in the draft next week with the No. 8 pick due to the fact that possibly four quarterbacks may come off the board with the first seven picks. This first round pick, along with the six other picks the Bears own will join a team that has been aggressive so far this off-season, bringing in the top wide receiver in the market in Allen Robinson, along with a deep threat in Taylor Gabriel. Dynamic tight end Trey Burton is not one anyone should be sleeping on either. Besides Cameron Meredith, we re-signed all of our key contributors on both sides of the ball, retained Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio, and went out and got an offensive-minded coach in Matt Nagy, who Chicago has quickly fallen in love with.
The transition to Nagy has been flawless and he has done everything right to this point; I mean, he had four guys trapped in a car in the middle of nowhere excited about the Bears in mid-April during a 10-hour car ride. Meanwhile, former Bears coach John Fox wouldn't have gotten me excited if he lit off a box of fireworks in my room during the middle of the night (the thought of Fox in my room during the middle of the night is rather unsettling and I wish I would have gone a different route there).
With all of these new offensive toys and a teacher in Nagy to deploy them not just appropriately, but creatively, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, in his 2nd season, is set up for success. If he takes a somewhat similar leap in his second year that 2016 first round picks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz did during their sophomore campaigns, the Bears should contend for the playoffs.
As for the Bulls, their draft is still two months away. However, they recently secured at least the 6th pick in the draft and have a 14% chance of getting a top three pick. Their record this season was extremely deceiving. It took shutting down half the team in order to lose. They took tank to a new level (and got fined for it). Despite the tank, Fred Hoiberg showed he can actually coach this year when the roster is built for his style of basketball. Lauri Markkanen would have won Rookie of the Year if he came out last year and looks like a legitimate star in the making. After a summer working on his game, he should come out next year and average close to 20 points per game. Kris Dunn revitalized his career and looks to be a point guard we can build around, as he is an absolute monster on the defensive end and above average on offense. Zach LaVine showed rust when he eventually did come back, but he still has all of the athleticism in the world and could hop "The Bean" if prompted. If the Bulls keep LaVine (they will), these three players are a solid core to build around. We are a strong draft away from getting back to the playoffs after just a one year hiatus and a key free agent signing or two away from being a serious contender in the East. LeBron's reign in our conference is quickly coming to an end (let's see if he can even get out of the 1st round this year) and the East will soon be up for grabs. The Bulls can capitalize on this shift in power and become a player in the East rather quickly, if they make the right moves.
With both the Bears and Bulls franchises trending in the right direction (not like there is really anywhere else you can trend when you are bottoming out), this fall can't come soon enough. Although so many things can go wrong between now and then, the important thing is in April, there is still plenty of hope that things go right. However, if they for some reason don't, at the very least, these teams gave four guys something to talk about to pass the time during 20+ hours of drive time.