Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against the Heat


Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against the Heat

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Wednesday tilt against the Heat on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. The point guard carousel.

Jerian Grant will get the start for the Bulls, but the real story here is how Kris Dunn progresses. Back from his dislocated finger, Dunn needs to grab the starting reins sooner than later. As last season's No. 5 pick, he's integral to the future. The sooner he starts putting it all together for the Bulls, the sooner the rebuild gets moving. It's a point guard league, and the Bulls need to show they have one. Dunn looked solid in his season debut, and Grant is able to play off the ball; playing the two together with Justin Holiday on the other wing is arguably the Bulls' best backcourt. Keep an eye on this "competition" between Dunn and Grant.

2. Lauri gets a difficult task

Lauri Markkanen has proved to be a matchup nightmare two weeks into his NBA career. Through six games he's averaging 15.6 points and 9.6 rebounds in a whopping 32.3 minutes. He's got at least two 3-pointers and eight rebounds in every game, and the Bulls are 19 (NINETEEN!) points per 100 possession better offensively when he's on the floor. But he'll be tested against a super-athletic Heat frontcourt that includes James Johnson (yes, that James Johnson), Kelly Olynyk and Jordan Mickey. One could make the argument that this is the toughest defense Markkanen has faced to date. He's passed every test he's faced thus far.

3. Offense...may be difficult to come by

There's a chance Hassan Whiteside returns to the Heat lineup for the first time since Opening Night. That would make life a lot more difficult on a Bulls team that ranks dead last in the NBA in offensive efficiency by a considerable margin. In fact, the Bulls' 91.0 offensive rating would be the worst mark from any NBA team since 2008. They'll improve over the course of the year - Nikola Mirotic would help - but right now life is difficult on Fred Hoiberg's group. And against a Heat defense that has looked solid much of the year (aside from their ugly loss to the Timberwolves on Monday), expect a low-scoring affair at the United Center.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.  

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

Just as we all predicted, two rookies stole the show in L.A.

There's not often hype surrounding a game between two of the NBA's worst teams, but Tuesday's Bulls-Lakers matchup was intriguing to many because it offered a chance to see a pair of top rookies compete. 

Oh, but you didn't think we meant Lonzo Ball and Lauri Markkanen, did you?

Nah, it was two different, less-touted first-year players that ended up stealing the spotlight at the Staples Center. 

Kyle Kuzma and Antonio Blakeney may not be household names, but they sure played like they were in the Bulls' 103-94 loss. 

Kuzma, the Lakers rook drafted 27th overall, has been a spark for Luke Walton's squad all season long. Boasting a terrific scoring arsenal, the Utah product carried the load for the Lakers' offense in the first half, dropping 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He finished the game as L.A.'s leading scorer with 22 in 40 minutes. But if you still need a more in-depth scouting report on Kuzma, just let Lonzo break it down:  

More importantly for Bulls fans, though, was the play of their undrafted guard who's signed to a two-way deal. 

Blakeney, the unofficial Summer League MVP, came off the bench on Tuesday and immediately left his mark on the game. The 21-year-old out of LSU posted 15 in the first half, finishing through contact as well as connecting on outside jumpers. 

Blakeney's shooting isn't reliable quite yet, but his energy has clearly influenced Hoiberg's rotation. The guard went from playing one NBA minute in the Bulls' first 11 games to playing 75 in the last four. Given that his two-way deal allows him to only spend 45 days with the team, it'll be fascinating to see how creative Gar Forman and John Paxson will get with his contract if this type of production continues. 

In a season that's obviously going to have its share of rough moments, an offseason flyer hitting is a huge plus for the rebuild. 

As for the recognized rookies, Lonzo's shooting woes persisted and Markkanen had maybe his worst offensive performance of his young Bulls career. Combined, they finished 7-for-30 with 21 points. Not ideal.