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

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

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

more bulls news

Always Leads Back to MJ, An Alex Caruso Trade or Extension? And Other Bulls Bullets

At least it wasn't a sweep? An underwhelming NBA Finals continued on Friday night. The Dallas Mavericks were able to grab their first victory of the series, and they did it in shockingly dominant fashion. As impressive as the 38-point...

Which Teams Could Trade with the Chicago Bulls on Draft Night?

The Chicago Bulls are less than two weeks away from a very important draft night. As lackluster as this current class is, the Bulls have to find a way to make the most out of it. They are coming off...

An Unpredictable Draft Board, Is Trading Down an Option? The Last Shot, and Other Bulls Bullets

The NBA season could officially come to an end tonight in Dallas. You know what that means – time for Arturas Karnisovas to get to work! The 2024 NBA Draft is less than two weeks away. Typically, this is the...

Illinois Star Coleman Hawkins Commits to New Team on MASSIVE NIL Deal

According to On3, former University of Illinois basketball star Coleman Hawkins has transferred to Kansas State. The six-foot-ten forward had initially entered the 2024 NBA Draft but chose to remove himself from the pool of prospects on May 29th. News...

Tom Thibodeau Grabs Maurice Cheeks From the Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls will officially lose a well-respected coaching voice. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Maurice Cheeks will join the New York Knicks as an assistant head coach. Cheeks had been a member of Billy Donovan's coaching staff ever since...

A Couple of Chicago Sky Players Deserve Your All-Star Votes …

The WNBA officially opened up All-Star voting on Thursday! Fans will have a chance to submit their picks up until 11:59 p.m. ET on June 29. This year's contest is scheduled for July 20 in Phoenix, Arizona, and the WNBA...

Illini’s Terrence Shannon Jr. Found Not Guilty

Illinois basketball star Terrence Shannon Jr. has been found not guilty by a Kansas jury, per multiple reports. The announcement comes after a trial that spanned days from rape charges pressed against Shannon in December of 2023. The Illini basketball...

Missing a Shot on Purpose? This Might be the Most “Michael Jordan” Story Ever

June might as well be the month of Michael Jordan. Nearly every day is an anniversary of something the GOAT did on his way to a legendary six championships. For instance, the date of publishing represents 27 years since Jordan's...

Ayo Dosunmu in the Gym, Make Some Dang Trades, Angel Reese’s Great Start, and Other Bulls Bullets

Never did I think I'd enjoy watching the 2023-24 Chicago Bulls more than these NBA Finals. As painful as it was, the majority of Bulls games this season were chaotically close. They appeared in 44 total clutch performances and collected...

NBA Finals Takeaways: Game 3 Loss Must Be Learning Experience For Luka Doncic

Last night's loss for the Mavericks was essentially the nail in the coffin for their NBA Championship hopes this season. They got off to a fantastic start on their home court after dropping Games 1 & 2 to Boston. They...

Latest News

Pirates vs. Rockies Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Colorado Rockies (25-45) and Hunter Goodman, coming off a four-hit game, are underdogs (+145) on the moneyline and will look to upset the Pittsburgh Pirates (33-37) on Sunday at 3:10 PM ET on COLR.Pittsburgh's Paul Skenes and Colorado's Dakota...

Mariners vs. Rangers Probable Starting Pitchers – June 16

The Seattle Mariners (42-31) take on the Texas Rangers (33-37) on Sunday at T-Mobile Park at 4:10 PM ET.The probable starters are Logan Gilbert (3-4) for the Mariners and Dane Dunning (4-5) for the Rangers.Mariners vs. Rangers Pitcher Matchup and...

Giants vs. Angels Probable Starting Pitchers – June 16

The Los Angeles Angels (28-42) and the San Francisco Giants (34-37) face off at Oracle Park on Sunday at 4:05 PM ET.The probable starters are Kyle Harrison (4-3) for the Giants and Ben Joyce for the Angels.Giants vs. Angels Pitcher...

Diamondbacks vs. White Sox Probable Starting Pitchers – June 16

The Chicago White Sox (19-53) play on Sunday in Phoenix against the Arizona Diamondbacks (34-37). First pitch is at 4:10 PM ET.The Diamondbacks will give the nod to Jordan Montgomery (4-4, 6.23 ERA), who is eyeing win No. 5 on...

Dodgers vs. Royals Probable Starting Pitchers – June 16

The Los Angeles Dodgers (43-29) host the Kansas City Royals (41-31) for a home game at Dodger Stadium on Sunday. First pitch is at 4:10 PM ET.The Dodgers will call on Tyler Glasnow (6-5) versus the Royals and Brady Singer...

Pirates vs. Rockies: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 16

On Sunday, the Colorado Rockies (25-45) are hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates (33-37), at 3:10 PM ET, in the final game of a three-game set.Curious about who's in and who's out for the Pirates and the Rockies? Read on to see...

Diamondbacks vs. White Sox: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 16

The Chicago White Sox (19-53) and Arizona Diamondbacks (34-37) will meet on Sunday at Chase Field, starting at 4:10 PM ET.Hoping to find out who's playing for the Diamondbacks and the White Sox? Continue scrolling for complete injury reports for...

Dodgers vs. Royals: Injury Report, Updates & Probable Starters – June 16

In the final game of a three-game set at Dodger Stadium, the Kansas City Royals (41-31) play the Los Angeles Dodgers (43-29), Sunday at 4:10 PM ET.Hoping to find out who's playing for the Dodgers and the Royals? Continue reading...

Nationals vs. Marlins Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Washington Nationals (34-36) and Miami Marlins (23-47) meet Sunday at Nationals Park, with first pitch at 1:35 PM ET on BSFL. The Nationals are -120 moneyline favorites for the contest, however, the Marlins are favored against the spread of...

Brewers vs. Reds Prediction: Expert Picks, Odds, Stats & Best Bets – Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Milwaukee Brewers (41-29) host the Cincinnati Reds (34-36) Sunday to close out a three-game series. The Brewers are favored (-134) to win the rubber match, which starts at 2:10 PM ET from American Family Field.Milwaukee's Colin Rea and Cincinnati's...

more bulls news