Bulls Weekly Preview: Kings, Timberwolves, and Heat – March 13-19, 2023
The roller coaster ride that is the Bulls‘ season continued last week with a pair of wins – a shocker over the west-best Nuggets and an unnecessarily difficult win at Houston. Currently, the Bulls hold a half-game lead over the Wizards for the last play-in spot and sit just a half-game back of the Raptors for 9th in the East.
Given where they are in the standings and the difficult stretch of games that lies ahead, one thing is for sure – the roller coaster will likely continue until the finish line.
I said it last week, I am #done buying into this Bulls team being any more than they are. They’re talented … but wildly flawed. One thing I am starting to buy into, however, is the emergence of Zach LaVine as a legitimate star. It seems like Zach took the trade rumors at the deadline personally because since that point he’s been on a tear (which Eli wrote more about here). Let’s hope for more of that Zach during this three-game week.
Meet the Opponents
- 3/15 vs Kings: They’re not doing it so quietly anymore, but the Kings can legitimately win the West which is a wild thing to think about.
- 3/17 vs Timberwolves: Patrick Beverley revenge game???
- 3/18 vs Heat: It’s been almost six seasons, and I still miss Jimmy Butler
Bulls Projected Lineup
- Patrick Beverley
- Alex Caruso
- Zach LaVine
- DeMar DeRozan
- Nikola Vučević
Opponent Projected Lineup
- De’Aaron Fox
- Kevin Huerter
- Harrison Barnes
- Keegan Murray
- Domantas Sabonis
- Mike Conley
- Anthony Edwards
- Kyle Anderson
- Jaden McDaniels
- Rudy Gobert
- Gabe Vincent
- Tyler Herro
- Jimmy Butler
- Kevin Love
- Bam Adebayo
Unavailable/Injured (at the start of the week)
Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns QUESTIONABLE (calf), Jaylen Nowell QUESTIONABLE (knee), Austin Rivers QUESTIONABLE (back), Naz Reid QUESTIONABLE (calf)
Heat: Kyle Lowry QUESTIONABLE (knee), Cody Zeller QUESTIONABLE (nose)
- Bulls: 55.0 EFG% (12th), 13.7 TOV% (11th), 23.9 OREB% (28th), 22.4 FTA/GM (24th)
- Kings: 57.6 EFG% (2nd), 13.7 TOV% (10th), 26.1 OREB% (24th), 25.3 FTA/GM (9th)
- Timberwolves: 56.1 EFG% (8th), 15.2 TOV% (26th), 25.6 OREB% (25th), 23.4 FTA/GM (17th)
- Heat: 52.2 EFG% (26th), 13.9 TOV% (13th), 27.5 OREB% (18th), 23.3 FTA/GM (19th)
What to Watch For
- Bulls: As I mentioned above, for me it’s all about Zach LaVine and whether he can continue to take the next step in his career as an elite scorer or if this is just a blip on the radar. In his last 13 games, LaVine is averaging 30.1 PPG, 54.1% FG%, and a 42.2 3P%. It’s still a small sample size for his career, but this is the most impressive and efficient scoring stretch he’s had in a Bulls uniform. Keep this up, please! Another positive trend I’m watching is Patrick Williams’ emergence off the bench, especially as a three-point shooter. In his last 9 games, PWill is shooting just under 60% from three. For the year, he’s been solid at 41.3% but since the move, he’s upped his shot even further. He’s still just 21 years old, and if he can keep developing that shot he’ll be exactly what the Bulls need. The Bulls need all the help they can get from beyond the arc, so let’s hope LaVine and Williams keep it up.
- Kings: What a fun story to watch unfold they have been all season. In the wide-open Western Conference, the Kings have grabbed their opportunity and ran with it. Sacramento currently sits in 3rd place in the West and a game behind Memphis (who will be without Ja Morant for a stretch) for 2nd place. The Bulls will have their hands full with an elite backcourt and a lineup that can really shoot the three. If the Bulls try to trade twos for threes in this one like they’ve grown accustomed to, it could be a long night.
- Timberwolves: Part of me really wants to find out if Minnesota had the choice again, would they trade a million (four) 1st Round picks for Rudy Gobert? The answer is probably not, but Gobert is still a very good player and will most certainly give the Bulls some trouble down low. I’m interested to see Patrick Beverley’s performance in this one, going back to Minnesota where he helped push them to a playoff bid last season. Minnesota also might be getting healthier by the time this game tips off Friday with Karl-Anthony Towns still questionable. The Minnesota Star-Tribune reported he’s in his “final stage” before returning. Minnesota has won four of six, including three road wins over the Clippers, Lakers, and Kings.
- Heat: Despite an aging lineup and some injuries, the Heat keep chugging along holding a 2.5-game lead over the Hawks for the 7-seed in the East. If the Bulls do make the Play-In, it’s entirely possible that we get this matchup at some point, which would be a ton of fun given the Jimmy Butler connection. Even at age 33 with a lot of miles and a lot of minutes on his body, Butler leads the heat in points per game (22.6), assists per game (5.0), and steals per game (1.9). A win here would go a long way for the Bulls in terms of the Play-In.