What is Going on With Marko? MVP Ladder, the Lillard-Less Blazers, and Other Bulls Bullets

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What is Going on With Marko? MVP Ladder, the Lillard-Less Blazers, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

I present to you … the Chicago Bulls next four games:

1/30 – vs. Trail Blazers (21-28)
2/1 – vs. Magic (10-40)
2/3 – @ Raptors (24-23)
2/4 – @ Pacers (18-33)

Only 2.5 games currently separate seeds 1-6 in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Meanwhile, the seventh-seeded Charlotte Hornets sit just 4.0 games out of first place. In other words, avoiding the play-in tournament is not a given for any team at the moment, especially one that is as banged up as the Chicago Bulls. I’m not in full-blown panic mode about a tumble down the standings, but the Bulls simply have to find a way to still take advantage of the lighter parts of their schedule. Loses like the ones we watched against the Spurs and Magic are not going to cut it.

•   The Windy City Bulls earned themselves their first three-game win streak of the season last night with a 104-102 win over the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Leading the team to this victory was a familiar – yet often forgotten – face: Marko Simonovic. The big man dropped 22 points with 9 rebounds and 6 assists to go along with a block and a steal. He fell just short of the double-double, which he earned with a 13/16 performance and 15/11 performance in the previous two games.


•  On the season, Simonovic is now averaging 15.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.2 assists on a 54.1 percent shooting clip over 11 games in the G-League. Great? No. Decent? I guess you could say that, but I’m not sure the front office would agree. Simonovic has appeared in just nine games for the Chicago Bulls, averaging no more than 3.9 minutes per contest. When we consider how banged up this roster is and how light their frontcourt depth already was, it feels like we’ve learned a lot about the organization’s current perception of the 22-year-old.

•   The fact Simonovic can not see the floor in the wake of all this adversity is as frustrating as it is concerning. While I understand he needs time to adjust to the NBA game, we have to sit here and wonder how far behind he is from contributing even an ounce? Remember, Simonovic isn’t on a two-way contract. Arturas Karnisovas handed the power forward/center a full-time roster spot on a three-year contract worth up to $4.3 million. Believe it or not, he was the one to get a longer and potentially more lucrative deal than 2nd-round selection Ayo Dosunmu. One of those players is starting at point guard and the other is starting in the G-League. I was adamant about the fact that our expectations for the draft-and-stashed Simonovic should have been tempered, but even I’m left a bit frustrated with how this has played out so far.

•   Speaking of the need for frontcourt help …

•   The MVP Ladder has been updated and DeMar DeRozan has gone nowhere. The Chicago Bulls All-Star starter sits in the No. 5 spot behind Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Chris Paul. While the Bulls may have lost three of their last five games, DeRozan has continued to be one of the most reliable and offensively lethal players in the league, averaging an absurd 33.4 points, 5.6 assists, and 5.4 rebounds. He’s done everything he can to keep this Bulls team competitive in the wake of injury trouble, and the Bulls will need nothing but the same as they head toward the All-Star break.

•   I got to be honest, I know Zach LaVine has missed some time, but I’m surprised he isn’t somewhere within the Top-15 MVP candidates. The guy has been just as reliable as DeRozan on the offensive end, sitting as one of only two players to average at least 24.0 points, 48.0 percent shooting from the field, and 39 percent shooting from downtown (Karl-Anthony Towns is the other). LaVine is also part of the reason DeRozan has been able to surge in the way he has. LaVine’s mere presence as a three-level scorer opens up the floor and distracts the defense to make his teammate’s life that much easier.

•   The Trail Blazers might be without Damian Lillard, but they still have the kind of offensive weapons that can give a spiraling Bulls defense some serious problems. Anfernee Simons has taken the next step since the start of January, averaging 24.4 points and 7.1 assists behind a 44.4 percent clip from downtown. He’s helped the Blazers win five of their last eight games, most recently blowing out the Houston Rockets. Add in other efficient backcourt scorers like CJ McCollum and Norman Powell, and the Lillard-less Blazers still have the talent to get buckets with most teams in the NBA. Consider me scared.

•   ICYMI: The national love for Ayo Dosunmu continues to grow.

•   I forgot to share this the other day, but can you imagine being a member of the Hornets and seeing Jordan do this? I’d be absolutely terrified to enter that locker room and become the next Scott Burrell.

•   Heh. I get it.

•   Keep building out that staff!

•   What are the chances …

Author: Elias Schuster

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