Billy Donovan: Expect "Different Combinations" Over the Bulls Preseason Games

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Billy Donovan: Expect “Different Combinations” Over the Bulls Preseason Games

Chicago Bulls

This Friday, the Chicago Bulls will play their first basketball games since March 10th. A lot has changed over those 276 days, and when the ball tips-off against the Rockets at 7:00 p.m.CT, the clock will start ticking on a new era.

Internally, the organization looks completely different – opposite even. Outside hires are now running the show, and the front office has bolstered a player development staff while simultaneously investing in an experienced head coach. However, the roster is still largely filled with the old regime’s vision. As bad as things have gone over the past couple of seasons in Chicago, many agree the Bulls managed to avoid royally screwing up (I wanted to write a different, more explicit word there) the draft. Pieces like Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., and Coby White are all viewed as intriguing, high-upside talents. The only problem is, this organization has not had the proper guidance or leadership to truly evaluate or build around those players. That’s now the job of the new front office, who will also have to rely strongly on the new coaching staff to help draw them the picture they need.

New head coach Billy Donovan can start to sketch that picture over the next couple of weeks. He will additionally try to put this team in the best position to win ballgames, so I think it’s safe to say the guy has his work cut out for him. To help him and this organization get a better idea of what they’re working with, Donovan told reporters on Tuesday that he plans to test out a number of lineups over the course of the team’s four preseason games.

More specifically, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson, Donovan said he plans to look at “different combinations” which could include different starting lineups.

Donovan, despite his past experience coaching extremely individually talented players, has always been one to preach a collective effort. For a team that lacks a true superstar, enforcing that is more important than ever.

Donovan will not only have to (1) figure out which combinations have the best chemistry but (2) hope he can create more chemistry by playing different groups together. The preseason is the perfect time to do just that, and it’s probably in everyone’s best interest to mix things up the first couple of games.

However, at the same time, when the starters are pretty much set, it’s always smart to make sure this squad can get a fair amount of playing times before opening night. For the Bulls, specifically, it’s even more important. Chicago’s expected starting lineup includes Coby White, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. Those five have never clocked a single minute together on the court. I know that seems hard to believe, but numerous injuries have kept it from happening. So, while I’m cool with trying out different squads, if this is the starting group the Bulls plan to roll with, I hope they can clock some decent minutes over the next couple of weeks.

Now, the mere fact that Donovan is open to trying different starting lineups in the preseason could tell us that he isn’t confident about that five-man combination yet. I lean toward it being a decision based on workload or general combination curiosity, but that’s certainly possible. We also have to keep in mind that Denzel Valentine will likely not be available for at least the team’s first two preseason games, and Garrett Temple is in a position to miss at least the first one. The absence of these two individuals should also have an impact on how Donovan organizes things throughout the preseason (particularly in the latter two games where he will likely want to get them more involved).

Anyway, testing out different lineups in the preseason is nothing new. All teams do it. However, the way it’s done for the Bulls might hold a little extra weight thanks to so much change behind the scenes and so much unknown. We’ll certainly talk about it a lot more over the next couple of weeks.



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.