The team that beat the Bucks and Celtics should have no problem against the Utah Jazz tonight.
The team that lost to the Magic and Thunder will have every single problem against the Jazz tonight.
Let’s see which quad shows up.
- I’m prepared to rock back and forth in the fetal position for approximately three hours if the Bulls lose to Lauri Markkanen tonight. As if things couldn’t seem more disheveled in Chicago, they now have to battle a former franchise centerpiece that has looked like easily one of the best players in the league this season. Markkanen has gone from nothing more than a glorified seven-foot shooter to a full-blown offensive juggernaut. He’s averaging 21.7 points per game – technically more than Zach LaVine – and shooting 52.1 percent from the field. He’s rebounding far better than ever before and getting to the free-throw line at a career rate. The guy is playing exactly like the player Chicago always hoped he could be, and he now has a chance to make that hurt even more.
- That is, of course, if he actually suits up. Markkanen has yet to miss a game this season but is now considered questionable for tonight’s game with a knee injury.
- I wrote more about Markkanen recently here …
- The good news is that Utah isn’t the same scalding hot team that started the season. The Jazz have dropped four in a row and have fallen to 12-10 on the year. They still hold the league’s 8th-best net rating, but they aren’t playing the same efficient two-way basketball that dropped jaws over the past several weeks. Instead, their defense now ranks just 23rd in the league, as opponents are shooting nearly 48.0 percent a night on this team. They’ve also been one of the league’s worst teams on the glass, allowing opponents to score the third-most 2nd-chance points per game.
- So, all things considered, the Bulls actually feel like a somewhat decent matchup against this Jazz team. They have two high-level rebounders in Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond who can help keep possessions alive or get the ball out fast in transition. Not to mention, they have two high-level scorers who can attack a defense that has now allowed by far the most points in the paint per game this season.
- Of course, there’s also a chance the Bulls are in a position to win and then blow it again.
- If you want to be on the brink of tears about the current state of the Chicago Bulls, I recommend Michael Pina’s latest at The Ringer …
- Simply put, I don’t agree that the Bulls should tank. While I can’t deny that they are in one of the more concerning situations in the NBA – and I wrote about just that here – I’m not exactly ready to press the panic button. Not only do I have zero appetite for another full-blown rebuild after how brutal the past half-decade turned out to be, but I think the front office has put itself in a situation where they have to keep pushing. Tanking right now doesn’t guarantee you a lottery pick. Let’s not forget that this year’s first-rounder belongs to the Orlando Magic and is top-4 protected. Sure, there is a chance they end up with a top-4 pick in this highly-intriguing draft, but there is also a greater chance they walk away with nothing. How could you stomach that?
- Additionally, you just invested max money in Zach LaVine. A course has been set for the Bulls, and Arturas Karnisovas has repeatedly made clear that winning will remain the priority. Now, could I see a world where this organization takes a step back to re-organize this roster? Absolutely. Maybe that’s trading Nikola Vucevic. Maybe that’s trading Patrick Williams. Maybe that’s even seeing what the market is for DeMar DeRozan. What I can’t see right now, however, is a complete and utter sell-off. I think the front office will try to fix the mess they put themselves into before they just wipe the slate clean.
- This freakin’ sucks.
- Speaking of teams that probably should trade their vets …
A Win in Paris, LaVine Making Kids Smile, Playing Through Vooch, All-Star Voting, and Other Bulls Bullets