The Bulls haven’t quite sent out a flare signal for a point guard, but since trading Derrick Rose it’s been a revolving door that doesn’t look to stop moving anytime soon.
The dreaded phrase “point guard of the future” has been uttered four times in the last year or so, and if the old adage about quarterbacks applies to point guards (“if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any”) the Bulls are in deep manure.
It doesn’t take the perfect point guard to fit Fred Hoiberg’s system but of the vague job description one requirement is circled with a big red marker.
“Get the ball to Lauri Markkanen.”
The rookie surprise was the invisible man in the Bulls’ embarrassing loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Saturday night, only getting three shots before halftime after making his first two very early in the first quarter.
Hoiberg tacitly declared the point guard position open, having intimated as much after Kris Dunn’s finger injury started to heal. Jerian Grant has led the Bulls in assists in every game and averages nearly seven in the first five but is shooting 33 percent from the field and six percent from 3-point range.
Dunn, the most recent apple of the Bulls’ eye at that position, struggled in his early minutes Saturday but became productive later — albeit after the Bulls were being waxed by the Thunder.
“They’ll go out and show us. I anticipate Jerian bouncing back,” Hoiberg said. “What I saw the other night was we weren’t making shots, including Jerian in that group. So, yeah, it’s an important 48 hours and we’ll see how it plays out.”
One had better cozy up for Mr. Markkanen, who’s scoring nearly 16 points on only 11.6 shots.
“Especially with the pick and rolls and what we run, it's an easy assist,” said Justin Holiday, who leads the Bulls in scoring at 15.8 points per game. “I think the way our offense is made up, a lot of guys can be your best friend but the way Lauri is shooting it right now and how everything is working, the pick and pops, the screen downs, he gets an open shot. Why not?”
Hoiberg’s offense is designed to have plenty of ball movement and player movement, so it’s easy to spot when it drags or the ball is sticking to one side. But with the way things have gone and this year admittedly being a development year, it would be wise for the Bulls to let Markkanen work out his mistakes now, even if it’s a few bad shots here and there.
“I mean, you just know it in the game if it's a bad shot or not,” Markkanen said. “Obviously, I've got to get more aggressive and demand the ball more. I don't want to make stupid plays like turnovers or things like that.”
The Bulls missed Markkanen plenty of times Saturday, leading to wondering if the rookie should speak up to demand the ball.
It doesn’t seem to be in his nature, at least not so far. Holiday said he missed Markkanen being open once and the rookie told him he was open. Holiday said it wasn’t outrageous or anything, but the statement was noted.
“I don't really think he has to,” Holiday said. “We just have to continue to play the game we have, when he's open, that's what basketball is made to do. The ball is supposed to find where it needs to go. If he's open, give him the ball. I don't think he'll have to demand it. If he's open, give it to him.”
Hoiberg planned on adding more actions to get Markkanen opportunities since it seems like he can’t fully trust his point guards to find Markkanen instinctively. And since most of this is largely surprising, Hoiberg probably wasn’t prepared to initiate.
“We do have to have better recognition. We missed him standing all by himself on a couple occasions,” Hoiberg said. “That can’t happen, especially when he’s the guy knocking down shots for us out there. But we do need to add more actions for him. “He was thrust in a role that wasn’t going to happen initially with the incident that happened right before the opener. Now it’s about adding after seeing what he can do on the floor. He has been so good.”