The Bulls concluded their preseason schedule at 2-3 following Thursday’s 111-93 win over a Hawks team playing their regulars limited minutes at the United Center. Here are four takeaways:
Coby White is a baller
Those aren’t our words. They’re Jim Boylen’s.
“We’re developing Coby White as a basketball player,” Boylen said Wednesday. “We’re not going to put him in this situation where he’s a 1, a 2 or a 3. He’s a baller.”
White certainly was with a dominant second half in which he scored 21 of his 29 points and finished 6-for-8 from 3-point range.
At this point, it doesn’t matter if White ever passes the ball. This is the all-time leading scorer in North Carolina high school history and someone who even North Carolina coach Roy Williams didn’t expect to turn pro after one season.
White is clearly more a scorer than point guard at this point. And that’s fine. Give the Bulls credit for recognizing that and letting him play to his strengths rather than force-feed him.
"Obviously, Coby had a streak as good as we've seen in this building in awhile," Boylen said Thursday. "We did a good job of getting the ball to open people or the hot man."
Welcome to the preseason, Wendell Carter Jr.
With his status unknown until shortly before tipoff because he tweaked his surgically repaired left thumb, the second-year big man started and endured a slow first stretch in which he looked winded. Then, Carter made his presence known in a big way.
He blocked Brandon Goodwin’s driving layup and sprinted the floor to dunk off a Kris Dunn dish. He drew a taunting technical for dunking all over Bruno Fernando. He blocked Alex Len’s dunk attempt. He made a nice touch pass to Otto Porter Jr. for a basket.
In short, he showed why the organization remains so high on him. And in the process, he almost made people forget the sprained ankle, bruised tailbone and now tweaked thumb he has had this preseason.
Carter still needs to prove he can stay on the floor. As Boylen often says, reliability and availability are skills. But it’s a good sign for Carter to finish the preseason on a high note with eight points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
"I thought he was more active," Boylen said. "I thought his rim protection showed up. I thought his conditioning showed up. He missed a couple bunnies he knows he can make. The beauty of him is he does all these intangible things in our pick-and-roll coverages with his communication. He set the two high screens at the end of the half for Zach. Zach comes off clean. I think it's a five-point swing. Those are huge plays. That's the value of him. That's why he's a special dude."
Carter said he hit his thumb on someone and called it "a freak accident" and said it's "still pretty sore" but he'll be good.
"I think I played well," Carter said. "My teammates were being very unselfish."
Kris Dunn dominated defensively before enduring foul trouble
The guard continues to say all the right things about his reserve role, embracing his identity as a disruptive defensive force.
Whether it was motivation to do right by that or memories of Trae Young scoring 49 points in these teams’ epic, four-overtime thriller from last season, Young had a first-half stretch in which he was all over the court. He had three steals and two assists before sitting with three fouls.
“I’m a professional, as we all are in here,” Dunn said. “We have to approach it in a professional manner. I’m with the Bulls. I’m going to play hard each game and each practice and try to help the team win.”
Dunn’s three quick fouls isn’t an issue either. He’s now in a role where he can afford to be that aggressive defensively.
"Guys have to accept their roles and I thought Kris Dunn's energy off that bench changed the game," Boylen said. "His effort, his energy, his focus was great."
Boylen used a regular-season rotation
Carter started alongside Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen. Dunn played with a second unit that featured Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono, Thad Young and Luke Kornet.
That means, at least for now, Denzel Valentine is the odd man out. Chandler Hutchison and Shaq Harrison have yet to play this preseason because of hamstring injuries. So perhaps the rotation will change.
"He needs to stay ready," Boylen said of Valentine.
But Boylen said pregame that he planned to use the final preseason game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Along those lines, the Bulls kept their newfound approach of launching 3-pointers intact. They took 46 overall, including Zach LaVine’s deep heave that beat the halftime buzzer as part of his 23 points in 25 minutes. LaVine continued to score almost effortlessly.