I Really Miss Patrick Williams (And Other Bulls Bullets)

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I Really Miss Patrick Williams (And Other Bulls Bullets)

Chicago Bulls

Four-straight losses.

Three blowouts on national television.

Two scary upcoming games.

One aspirin.

•   Billy Donovan sat in front of reporters for four and a half minutes after Monday’s game. Questions for the head coach appeared as thin as the Bulls roster, and rightfully so. While the effort level may have – fortunately – been more indicative of Chicago’s matchup with the Celtics than the Nets or Warriors, this depleted Bulls team simply wasn’t going to beat a Memphis Grizzlies squad that has won 11 of its last 12 games. Even with Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Javonte Green, Derrick Jones Jr., Tyler Cook, and Patrick Williams, the Bulls would likely be staring at a competitive contest. Not only has Ja Morant ascended to superstar status this season, but Memphis thrives in many of the areas this Bulls team tends to struggle. They rebound better than anyone, they dominant the points in the paint battle, and they have great size and length in the frontcourt. No one needed Donovan to tell them that this was a matchup nightmare after the game.

•   The Bulls’ lack of rim protection and size at the power forward position is a key problem, but it isn’t the main reason they have stumbled into this losing streak. We’ve seen them make up for this hole in the rotation with elite perimeter defense, strong rotating, and communal rebounding. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe Arturas Karnisovas must add depth up front before the playoffs, but the Bulls’ recent issues feel heavily injury-based.

•   Not only is the absence of LaVine and Ball going to have a significant effect on the offensive flow, but the recent injuries to Caruso, Green, and Jones have taken away three of the team’s most energetic and switchable defenders. I think sometimes we forget just how important these role players are on this specific Bulls team. Karnisovas built this roster around three elite offensive players who happen to be below-average defenders. With that in mind, he and Donovan had to plug the rest of the rotation with defense-first guys. Remove even a couple of those plugs, and the boat begins to sink.

•   All of this is why the idea of Patrick Williams has been so important from the beginning. He may not be anywhere near his peak right now, but he provides the kind of two-way upside that is needed in a starting lineup constructed around Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic. Ball can make up for backcourt defensive mishaps while Williams can help in the frontcourt. If a player doesn’t have his shot one night or misses time due to an injury, Williams can knock down the corner 3 or create some offense off the dribble in the midrange. Javonte Green and Derrick Jones Jr. are perfectly suitable role players, but they simply can’t provide that kind of two-way balance in big spots.

•   If it makes anyone feel any better, the Bulls are not the only team to hit a recent funk. Brooklyn has won just four of their last 11 games, Milwaukee has lost five of their last seven games, and Philly has split their last four games.

•   Even in the wake of all these injuries, the Bulls still deserve to stand in the corner for their turnover trouble last night. Memphis might force opponents into the 6th-most turnovers per game, but 18 cough-ups is still far too many for a Bulls team that averages the 7th-fewest turnovers per game. Chicago came out and set a nasty tone with 12 of those 18 turnovers in the first half. Already so shorthanded, there should only be a greater emphasis on taking care of the basketball, so that was beyond frustrating to watch unfold on TNT.

•   Nikola Vucevic has to stand in the corner longer than anyone. While I commend him for his efforts against the Boston Celtics (led the team in points and provided a solid all-around performance), he played the exact opposite game against the Grizzlies. Seven points on 2-13 shooting is unacceptable considering the circumstances. I’ve stood by Vucevic through his struggles this season, and I’ll continue to do so because I do believe he offers this team more than what he gets credit for, but he simply needs to be better than that for his teammates.

•   Alex Caruso continues to be on pace for a return tomorrow against the Cavaliers. Head coach Billy Donovan said the defensive hound will likely be on a minutes restriction, but I’m sure the Bulls would gladly take whatever they can get.

•   In the meantime, it looks like the wait for Green will continue a bit longer.

•   This was silly.

•   One-Stop-Shop Alert!

Author: Elias Schuster

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