The Depleted Bulls, a Matchup in Cleveland, Hardship Exception, and Other Bulls Bullets

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The Depleted Bulls, a Matchup in Cleveland, Hardship Exception, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

As the Chicago Bulls head for five-straight wins tonight, they will be without six players.

Matt Thomas has joined DeMar DeRozan, Coby White, and Javonte Green in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols. Meanwhile, Alex Caruso will remain in street clothes, as he rests a hamstring injury that will be re-evaluated next week. And, of course, there is still the absence of starting power forward Patrick Williams, who will likely remain out for the entirety of the regular season with a wrist injury.

If you’re doing the math, this leaves the Bulls with 9 players on their 15-man roster. Fortunately, they do also have Devon Dotson and Tyler Cook available on their two-way deals, and both are said to be with the team for tonight’s battle in Cleveland. But no matter how you look at the roster right now, there is no question the Bulls are in a remarkably vulnerable spot as they head into matchups with the Cavaliers and Heat to finish out the week.

•   Yes, there are tougher teams to play than the 13-12 Cavaliers, but even a fully healthy Bulls team would be in no place to take this group lightly. Cleveland has been one of the early-season surprises thanks to the success of their mega-lineup. The Lauri Markkanen small forward experiment has, technically, not been a catastrophe, and the frontcourt duo of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen are anchoring a 4th-ranked Cavaliers defense. The team has also received quite the offensive boost from third-year point guard Darius Garland. Still just 22-years-old, Garland is the team’s leading playmaker with 19.4 points per game and 7.3 assists. He is shooting a wildly efficient 55.1 percent from the field, which ranks in the league’s 90th percentile. Fortunately, this team as a whole isn’t known for putting up points (average just 24th-most), but we could see a different story tonight against this depleted Bulls team.

•   If I know one thing, Lonzo Ball is going to have his hands full again. The Bulls’ point guard played 40 minutes on Monday night against the Nuggets, and while Donovan would surely love to give him more rest tonight, it’s hard to imagine that happening. Not only would the team love for him to carry some of the scoring load again (20pts vs. Nuggets), but he will be the team’s best defender. We’ve already seen him eat minutes against far bigger opponents like Julius Randle, Kevin Durant, and Kristaps Prozingis, and the Bulls will need his help handling the Cavs literal “Big 3.”

•   Ball also better have his hands ready. The Cavaliers cough up 15.8 turnovers per game, which is the 4th-highest mark in the NBA. While the Bulls are missing the best pocket-picker in the league, Caruso, Ball still averages nearly 2.0 steals a game, and the Bulls force opponents into the 9th-most.

•   With Thomas now in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols, the Bulls can technically sign an extra player to their roster for emergence depth.

•   Ope! Before I was able to click publish, the Bulls did dive into the G-League for some much-needed depth. Stanley Johnson is reportedly returning to the team under the hardship exception. We’ll have more on this up at the site shortly.

•   I laughed at the time … albeit through tears … but I laughed!

•   Winner.

•   Could the Cubs bring home an old friend?

•   … Or two?

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Author: Elias Schuster

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