The Starting Lineup Shakeup, Winning is the Priority, Injury Updates, and Other Bulls Bullets

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The Starting Lineup Shakeup, Winning is the Priority, Injury Updates, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, well, I’ll just be pissed.

•   The Bulls have another prime opportunity to steal a W against a fellow Eastern Conference playoff contender tonight in their matchup with the Toronto Tampa Bay Raptors. The Raptors will be without three starters – Pascal Siakam, Fred Vanvleet, and OG Anunoby. Depth pieces Patrick McCaw and Malachi Flynn will also not be in attendance. All things considered, with this being almost the healthiest the Bulls have been all season, this one feels like a must-win. But we also said the same thing about the game against a Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons-less 76ers team … and then the Bulls lost by 22.

•   The only new player the Bulls will be without is Garrett Temple, who will miss only his second game of the season due to the sprained ankle he suffered in Friday’s loss to the Miami Heat. Fortunately, the injury report does list Temple as Day-to-Day, so this decision could be more precautionary than anything with five games in eight days coming up after tonight.

•   The Raptors not only have their COVID absences to worry about, but they will also come to Chicago on zero rest. The team played the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, where they fell behind as much as 27 before ultimately losing 114-104. With that being the case, this does feel like as good of an opportunity as any for the Bulls to experiment with their rotation, which is something The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry reported they plan to do late last night.

•   That’s right, the lethal bench duo of Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young have received a promotion. The two will replace Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. in the starting lineup after both started every game they appeared in this season. After starting his NBA career as a sixth man, sparkplug, the adjustment for White shouldn’t be all that difficult. While I imagine Donovan will still urge him to be a more prominent playmaker in the second unit, he should have more scoring liberty as he clocks fewer minutes alongside guys like Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.

•   If we’re being honest, though, I think White’s move to the bench is far more about the surrounding circumstances than his own play. White has actually found himself in a decent groove over the last eight games, averaging 19.1 points over that span with 3.6 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game. Even better, he is shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from behind the arc. White may not be the facilitator the team is looking for, but he also hasn’t hurt the starting lineup as much as he was at the beginning of the season. Carter has been the far more troublesome performer, as he’s averaged 5.8 points with a 32.3 percent clip in the team’s last five games. The most recent two games were particularly concerning, as he failed to make a significant impact against backup big men like Tony Bradley and Kelly Olynyk.

•   So if Donovan decided it’s best to bench Carter in favor of Young, he probably also knew he wanted to keep Young alongside Satoransky (the two have a 7.0 Net Rating when playing together) as opposed to White. Also, Carter and White’s two-man stats are oddly decent. While it’s nothing to celebrate, they do have a -6.2 point differential, which happens to be each of their best mark with any of their fellow starters.

•   FWIW: The Sato-LaVine-Williams-Young four-man lineup also has a very solid 17.5 Net Rating. I’m not sure how adding Markkanen into the mix will influence that level of production, but it isn’t surprising that Donovan sees this unit as the potential recipe to solving the Bulls’ sluggish starts.

•   Okay, so let’s revisit the broader question, which is … why? We addressed several reasons in the post last night, but the most obvious one is that the Bulls are serious about winning games. An Eastern Conference playoff seed is there for the taking, and the front office seems to be set on proving to fans that winning is always the priority, even in the midst of development. I can get behind that philosophy. After all, winning games is kind of the only way to teach young players what winning looks like. But, at the same time, I wonder if this will have any impact on the team’s deadline decision-making. Could this signify they could be more willing to buy? I’d still lean toward no, but it’s hard to rule it out if this does, in fact, indicate that winning is on the front office’s mind.

•   This will be my last point because these bullets are getting #thicccc: Changing the starting lineup in this way might as well be foolproof. Even if the goal to win continues to fail, and the team doesn’t look much better over the next seven games, the organization will have at least showcased two of their more intriguing trade chips. Young’s value can really only go up in the situation, as he’s proven to have such a profound impact on winning that he took a developing player’s spot. Likewise, Satoransky should only look better as he dishes more dimes to LaVine and Markkanen.

•   Go Cubs … but this is still awesome.

•   Good check-in on Devon Dotson.

•   Holy smokes.

Author: Elias Schuster

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