Making Tough Decisions, Filling the Carter Jr. Gap, LaVine's Dominance, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Making Tough Decisions, Filling the Carter Jr. Gap, LaVine’s Dominance, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Why can’t we have nice things?

•    All Bulls fans wanted was one mostly healthy season from this tough to discern young core. We would even accept some minor bumps and bruises with a few games missed games along the way. But no. Instead, we see Wendell Carter Jr. suffer an injury that will sideline him for a month-plus for his third-consecutive season. Thanks to Markkanen’s seven-game absence due to NBA Protocols, the frontcourt has played only seven games together thus far. Relatedly, the team’s preferred starting lineup (Coby White, Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, Makkanen, and Carter Jr.) have played only eight of the team’s 17 games to start the season. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it’s hard to evaluate the pieces in place when that is the case.

•   The organization can play this game for only so long. The previous regime would have chalked this up as an excuse to do very little, but I’m hopeful that we’ll see a much different approach from Arturas Karnisovas and Co. Not only is it unclear if we’ll ever get a truly healthy look at this roster, but the Bulls simply don’t have the time to wait for that to happen. Markkanen will hit restricted free agency this offseason, and Zach LaVine will be in the last year of his deal one season from now. The Bulls will have loads of cap space on their hands when this season comes to an end, and they are going to have to put that money to good use. The clock is ticking on the Bulls as we know it, and they are going to have to form some important opinions with or without some guys on the floor.

•   Oh yeah, and the whole “winning games” thing also becomes that much harder with Carter Jr. on the bench. NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson went into some more detail on the Bulls options at the center position, and they leave a lot to be desired.

•   I’d say it’s likely that Gafford starts the majority of Carter Jr.’s missed games, but head coach Billy Donovan also didn’t shy away from the by-committee approach. He has already demonstrated a clear interest in playing small with Markkanen and Young underneath the basket, and the Bulls have certainly grown used to it with Young closing games for them on the regular. Still, nothing about this makes me comfortable about the next month. Carter Jr. is the team’s best interior defender and rebounder. He may not be the most physically imposing big man, but his elite wingspan and basketball IQ allows him to play far bigger than his size. Both those two elements have been key to some of the team’s early-season success, and (unfortunately) I think that will become only more apparent over the next few games.

•   But at least we still got this guy!

•   Yeah, so I’m terrified about the Carter Jr. thing, but I’m hyped as hell about this LaVine thing. Even in a game where everyone around him struggled, LaVine managed to put together another head-turning all-around stat line versus the Celtics. He dropped 30 points – on efficient 57.9 percent from the field and 60.0 percent from downtown – with 3 assists, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks. If LaVine keeps this up, I still believe the Bulls find themselves in a handful of games moving forward, especially with the upcoming schedule easing up at the beginning of February. If the Bulls want to keep adding W’s to the board, however, he will need two of his fellow starters to break out of an annoying slump.

•   LaVine has already taken his game up a level, but he can jump even further in the right direction if he simply limits his turnovers. In the Bulls last two games, he has turned the ball over a combined 13 times. He is averaging a team and career-high 4.3 TOV per game, which ranks 4th-highest in the league. As we talked about in bullets the other day, it’s hard to be too frustrated by this stat with all the other good things he is doing on the court, but it’s just a fact that turnovers have cost this team several wins this season. I love watching this improved LaVine, but this is an area where he is still hurting the team.

•   I might have to watch this team …

•   John Wall 1 – Russ 0

•   RIP Sekou



Author: Elias Schuster

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