Back in Action(!), Two Meetings With the Hawks, Thompson Campaigns for DeRozan, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Back in Action(!), Two Meetings With the Hawks, Thompson Campaigns for DeRozan, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

So it begins.

After a much-needed and productive All-Star break, the Chicago Bulls will begin their 23-game gauntlet tonight at the United Center. The next several weeks of action for the Bulls will make up the second-toughest schedule in the NBA. While hope remains that this group can eventually add their missing rotational talent back into the mix, exactly when that will be remains up in the air. With that being the case, the team will have to find a way to play some of their best basketball of the regular season in a depleted fashion. Sure, it’s nothing new, but it’s a lot easier said than done, especially in a conference where only 2.5 games separate the top-5 seeds.

•   The Atlanta Hawks will make up two of the Bulls’ next four contests. And while the record would suggest this is one of the easier matchups for the Bulls over the next couple of weeks, the Hawks’ recent play might imply otherwise. Trae Young and Co. have won 11 of their previous 16 games to inch themselves back into the play-in picture. They currently share a winning percentage with the 9th-place Charlotte Hornets, who have started to trend in the wrong direction in recent weeks. The Hawks have claimed the NBA’s 7th-best net rating since mid-January, and they have done so in a familiar fashion: Getting buckets. Since January 15th, they sit just behind the Bulls with a 48.7 field goal percentage. The Hawks also happen to sit just above the Bulls in points scored per game, averaging the sixth-most at roughly 116 per game.

•   The good news is we know the Bulls can win a shootout. Heck, we even saw them do it without Zach LaVine against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings during this recent five-game winning streak. However, neither of those teams have Trae Young, who (like him or hate him) is more than capable of carving up this short-handed Bulls backcourt. I still give the Bulls’ combined star-power the edge over this current Atlanta team, but this is an experienced crew who fought all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season. They know how important this final stretch will be for their playoff hopes, so the Bulls will have to match their desperation to avoid jumpstarting a Hawks resurgence.

•   More good news: The Bulls have Ayo Dosunmu. Again, Young can give even the best defenders fits, but Dosunmu has already shown twice this season that he is up for the challenge. According to the matchup data provided by NBA Stats, Dosunmu has held Young to a 2-9 shooting performance during his roughly 8 minutes guarding the All-Star this season. The rookie has also forced Young into two turnovers and blocked him twice. His transition speed, defensive footwork, and length have looked like a partial antidote for some of what Young brings to the table, and the Bulls can only hope things continue to look that way tonight.

•   All-Star Weekend may not have been the most memorable from a league-wide perspective, but I’m sure Bulls fans will have it at the top of their mind for quite some time. Seeing a representative on each of the three days – especially seeing two on the last – was another comforting reminder of how far things have come since the balance of power shifted in the organization. Who knows how long it will stay this way, but the Bulls’ situation is the best it’s been in many years, and this break served as a strong reflection of that.

•   Anyway, the BullsTV crew put out a recent episode of All-Access that documents the most recent All-Star Weekend trip for LaVine, DeRozan, and Dosunmu. I recommend you give it a watch for some positive Thursday vibes. Not only is it great to see LaVine and DeRozan mingle with some of the best in the world, but it was awesome to rewatch them hit some of the All-Star Game’s biggest shots in the 4th quarter.

•   Seriously, though, this has got to be worth something, right?

•   I think this is often forgotten but so important: Maurice Cheeks – a hall of fame point guard – is on the sidelines every day for the Chicago Bulls.

•   The Bulls didn’t just sign a big man, they signed a hype man.

•   Tristan Thompson could not have looked more at home when he spoke to the media for his first time as a member of the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night. He displayed a precise understanding of his teammates and spoke highly of what he believes this team is capable of accomplishing in the coming months. As I’ve written before, we have to wait to see exactly what he brings to the table before we talk up this midseason addition too much, but it’s hard to think of a better post-trade deadline acquisition for the Bulls right now. Thompson was clearly one of the better big men on the buyout market, and I think the Bulls can benefit from his playoff experience.

•   Cool with me.

•   Draft the best guy, IMO.

Author: Elias Schuster

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