Avoiding a Markkanen Slump, Get Thad His Triple-Double, Knicks Again, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Avoiding a Markkanen Slump, Get Thad His Triple-Double, Knicks Again, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Who has three thumbs and ordered themselves a brand new pair of J’s this morning? This guy! Wait … how many thumbs are you supposed to have?

•   Markkanen has a chance to drop 30+ points for the third game in a row tonight, which is something he’s accomplished only one other time in his four-year career (February 2019). Given how efficiently he’s been shooting the basketball and how willing he’s been to attack the basket, accomplishing this feat certainly feels possible. But, ok, even if he does pull it off, how confident should Bulls fans feel about his trajectory? I mean, statistically, it’s not like we haven’t seen Markkanen flourish in small stints before, right?

•   In fact, Markkanen has built a small reputation for himself as a rather streaky player. He looks like a potential All-Star one month and then a possible bench piece the next. I can’t say for certain that his first 13 games of the season will not follow the same pattern, but I also can’t say for certain that this isn’t the beginning of a new Lauri Markkanen. While his stats may be somewhat similar to other successful stints, the way he actually looks on the court isn’t. I don’t think we have ever seen Markkanen play this confident and this decisive. He is putting up shots with a short-memory and recognizing driving lanes arguably better than ever. Additionally, he appears to be putting far more effort into his off-ball movement and court vision, which should be actively playing a role in his improved shooting clip. The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry pointed out in his latest piece about Markkanen (recommended reading) that the 23-year-old is third among players in catch-and-shoot scoring with 9.5 points per game. While I think this obviously demonstrates an improved team around him, I think it also demonstrates Markkanen’s improved ability to find his spots, which could be key in keeping this strong play going.

•   Likewise, through using last season’s numbers, Mayberry pointed out that Markkanen’s shooting success has always come in waves: “Markkanen quietly connected on 41 percent from 3-point range over 14 December games. The problem was that stretch got sandwiched by 31 percent 3-point shooting in November and 34 percent in January.” Again, I think the fact that he is operating in a new system and finding his spots along the perimeter more consistently should help him avoid such a massive dip. FWIW: He also seems to be targeting the corner 3 a bit more often (13 percent of his attempts come at either corner compared to 8% last year). A higher-percentage look, making that a priority should be key.

•   Anyway, we talked more about his shooting numbers on Tuesday, so give it a read (or don’t … I won’t mind … really, it’s fine … *whispers* jerks).

•   We can’t talk about upgraded big men without mentioning Thaddeus Young. I know it sounds weird to say, but he might be the most fun Bulls players to watch right now. The way he has evolved into a true point forward in the absence of Carter Jr. has been pretty damn remarkable. He is averaging a career-high 4.4 assists on the season and has averaged an absurd 9.3 assists over the team’s last three games. Young has also been on the brink of his first-career triple-double each of his past three performances, and I don’t think it’s wrong to assume that man is hungry to reach that mark tonight.

•   Point guard Coby White leads his fellow sophomores in assists per game.

 

•   Uh, talk about a throwback.

•   What’s better than beating the Knicks? Beating the Knicks twice, of course!



Author: Elias Schuster

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