Let the record show, I want Daniel Gafford to start.
According to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson, head coach Jim Boylen had Thaddeus Young shootaround with the starters ahead of Wednesday night’s game in New Orleans. While Boylen told reporters he would announce his starting lineup during pregame, it now feels likely that Young will play alongside the Bulls starters tonight.
An estimated return on Wendell Carter Jr.’s ankle sprain that he suffered on Monday night has still not been provided by the Bulls organization. Apparently, the plan now is for Carter Jr. to get an MRI on Thursday when the team returns to Chicago.
Jim Boylen said he’ll reveal starters pregame.
Carter’s MRI pushed to Thursday in Chicago.
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 8, 2020
As the backup center, Gafford felt like the obvious choice to start in Carter Jr.’s place, but Young offers a level of experience unmatched on this Bulls roster. The big man started every single game he appeared in over the last four seasons and, thus, is likely jumping at the opportunity to get his first start of the season.
However, starting Young means moving Markkanen over to the 5 (unless you’re playing an undersized Young at center), which doesn’t sound like the best idea. While Markkanen has played more aggressively over the last month or so, he’s still never had much success at the center position. For that reason, starting Gafford feels like an even more reasonable decision, right? Gafford will be able to offer at least a somewhat similar game to that of Wendell Carter Jr., whether it be via quickly running the floor or confidently protecting the rim.
At the end of the day, I’ll try not to be too salty if Gafford doesn’t receive the start. Boylen (surprsingly) brought up a good point when discussing the decision with K.C. Johnson earlier today.
“Do you start a guy who hasn’t been starting who’s in a real comfortable role? Do you look at the matchups on the other team and figure out what’s best for him as a young player, who to match to and who to play against? I think there are arguments for both situations. We’ll sort through those and make a good decision.”
Indeed, Gafford has been performing well and looking very comfortable in his role with the second-unit. All I ask of Boylen is if a Young/Markkanen frontcourt isn’t getting the job done, don’t be stubborn (a tall task) … put in Gafford.