Bulls

4 takeaways from the shorthanded Bulls' preseason loss to the Pacers

4 takeaways from the shorthanded Bulls' preseason loss to the Pacers

The Bulls dropped to 0-3 on the preseason with Friday night’s 105-87 loss to the Pacers in Indianapolis. Here are four takeaways:

One of Jim Boylen’s main offseason mantras drew its first test

The Bulls’ coach liked to use the word “redundancy” when discussing his input towards management’s reshaping of the roster. Too often last season, Boylen felt, the Bulls had to change their game plan or style of play depending on what personnel was available.

This season, with the additions of versatile players like Tomas Satoransky, Thaddeus Young and Coby White, Boylen’s goal was to play the same way no matter which lineup he used.

Boylen’s decision to rest Satoransky, Young, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr. offered the Bulls their first true test. Results proved a mixed bag.

With Wendell Carter Jr., Chandler Hutchison and Shaq Harrison still sidelined by injury, Boylen started Kris Dunn, White, Denzel Valentine, Luke Kornet and Daniel Gafford. Cristiano Felicio and Adam Mokoka were the first two reserves off the bench.

The Bulls wanted to play fast and keep their 3-point attempts high. White, in particular, stood out with his consistently aggressive offensive approach. The rookie finished with 24 points on 10-for-22 shooting and continues to look unfazed by the big stage. He added eight rebounds but failed to record an assist.

But the Bulls shot just 5-for-27 from 3-point range after attempting 38 and 37 in the first two games. Valentine missed four of five and shot 1-for-9 overall, failing to take advantage of his first big opportunity of this preseason.

The guard rotation is basically set

Boylen’s decision to sit Satoransky with other starters and play Dunn again telegraphed intentions to start Satoransky in the regular season alongside LaVine.

But Dunn continued to show why there’s a role for him as a reserve wreaking havoc at the defensive end. Dunn finished with six steals, which was good since he committed seven turnovers. Dunn continues to struggle with his decision-making. His passes seem a split-second slow this preseason.

White is making it virtually impossible to keep him out of the rotation. Over the summer, Boylen talked with his coaching staff about using White roughly 20-24 minutes per game. So look for him to back up LaVine and play off the ball more but still able to push it in transition in the multi-ballhandler system. He and Dunn can play off each other.

Ryan Arcidiacono showed his value

Some fans and league observers expressed surprise when the Bulls re-signed the gritty guard to a three-year, $9 million deal. But Arcidiacono, who only played seven mop-up minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Pelicans, demonstrated again how he’s the type of player who can sit for several games and then contribute if given minutes.

This doesn’t even take into account Arcidiacono’s strong practice habits.

Arcidiacono scored one basket on a classic, old-fashioned pump fake, spin and scoop in the lane, barely jumping. And he executed one textbook boxout of Domantas Sabonis, who is eight inches taller.

The backup center battle remains legitimate

Assuming Carter is healthy, who backs him up between Kornet and Gafford could be based on the opponent. Both have made impacts in different ways.

Gafford posted nine points, eight rebounds, five steals and two blocks and continued to run the floor like his life depended on it. His defensive presence and energy could be needed on some nights.

Kornet is more offensive-minded but, at 7 foot-1, offers rim protection. He scored on one fadeaway, one-legged jumper in the first quarter that recalled vintage Dirk Nowitzki.

Otto Porter Jr. suffered an injury setback, where could the Bulls look for wing help?

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Otto Porter Jr. suffered an injury setback, where could the Bulls look for wing help?

The Bulls are in a dire spot in terms of their wing depth and that was something that was true before Otto Porter Jr. suffered another injury setback

Chandler Hutchison and the then returning from injury-Denzel Valentine served as the Bulls only real small forwards behind Porter on the depth chart, and Bulls head coach Jim Boylen did not make Valentine a significant part of the rotation until early December. Now, with Porter out and Hutchison still out nursing his persistent shoulder injury, the Bulls are starting guard Kris Dunn at the three with Valentine as his backup. 

Starting the 6-foot-3 Dunn at small forward is quite a tough ask for a Bulls team that has struggled heavily rebounding all season long (Bulls currently rank 29th in the league in rebound percentage). So with the 8-17 Bulls looking nothing like the Eastern Conference playoff contender that they expected themselves to be, they will need to string together a sustained stretch of good basketball to prevent themselves from becoming a clear-cut lottery-bound team (yet again).

The Bulls haven't announced any intentions to make a roster move, but with the buyers and sellers starting to become clear, who are some wings that could potentially help the Bulls and are reportedly available?:

Robert Covington 

Robert Covington is the least likely option for the Bulls in terms of available wing help. It was reported by The Ringer's Kevin O' Connor that title-contending NBA teams have been monitoring the Minnesota Timberwolves and Covington, who has long been one of the league's premier 3-and-D forwards. This season Covington is averaging 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game while shooting 36.9% from 3-point range. Covington is shooting 5.5 attempts per game from 3-point range and is hitting a career-best 90.2% of his free throws. 

Covington has been heavily linked to the Houston Rockets which makes a ton of sense considering that he started his career there and would be able to play a familiar role, acting as a catch-and-shoot specialist next to James Harden. Though Covington makes the most sense on a contending team, he would have value to the Bulls. Covington's contract has two more seasons on it at a reasonable amount (around $11 to $12 million per year) and even once Porter returns, he would be an amazing addition to a Bulls bench that has already been outperforming the starters on a regular basis

Danilo Gallinari 

It was correctly assumed that when the Oklahoma City Thunder made their franchise-changing trades for Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Danilo Gallinari, they would be open to moving the players for the right trade offer. It has been reported that the Thunder are indeed open to trading Gallinari (and others).

The Bulls aren't in desperation mode, but that is OK in regards to Gallinari, as he is an asset that may be able to be acquired at a reasonable price. The Thunder came into Tuesday with an 11-12 record, good for the No. 7 seed in the West, but they may not care as much about making the postseason considering their long-term goal is to collect as many valuable assets as possible.

The Thunder may not necessarily enter "tank mode" but if the 31-year old Gallinari—who is on an expiring deal—is not a part of their plans for next season or beyond, he could be had for a reasonable price despite currently averaging a solid 18.3 points per game. The Bulls have their own draft picks, plus the Thunder reportedly are open to taking back salary, so any combination of Bulls players could work to get a deal done. 

DeMar DeRozan

Despite being in clear need of help on the wings, DeMar DeRozan doesn't exactly fit this year's Bulls but hey, beggars can't be choosers. The Bulls would be lucky to an All-Star talent to their roster in a buy-low move, and DeRozan potentially presents the opportunity to do just that. 

The four-time All-Star has a 2020 player option, which is likely to be accepted and represents the last year on his deal. Depending on who the Bulls gave up in a potential deal for DeRozan, they would be able to pair his proficiency as a scorer (especially in the pick-and-roll, where he is averaging 0.92 points per possession) with Lauri Markkanen and/or  Zach LaVine's abilities as 3-point shooters. 

The Spurs look to be on the cusp of missing the postseason for the first time since 1997 and could be more open to making an in-season trade than they have in the past. He is by no means a great fit in Chicago but there are a few things he does well that could make a difference. DeRozan's 5.8 free throw attempts per game would lead the Bulls and his 57.1% true shooting would be better than any Chicago wing outside of Valentine. If the Spurs and Bulls both continue to slide in the standings, even starting discussions on such a trade could become more of a reality.

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The wait for Otto Porter Jr. continues after another injury setback

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The wait for Otto Porter Jr. continues after another injury setback

The wait for Otto Porter Jr. continues---and continues to lengthen.

Porter, who has been out since Nov. 6, now will be reassessed in four weeks after visiting Dr. Bob Anderson, a noted foot and ankle specialist, Monday in Green Bay, Wis. In a release, the Bulls said Anderson confirmed Porter’s bone injury in his left foot. The team also said the “healing response (is) consistent with a small fracture that has become more clearly defined with repeated imaging over the last five weeks.”

Porter will remain in his walking boot for now. And the Bulls’ depth at small forward, which also currently features Chandler Hutchison out with a bruised shoulder, will continue to be tested.

Kris Dunn will remain in a starting role until Hutchison returns. Denzel Valentine also has taken advantage of his opportunity created by these injuries.

However, Porter’s absence is significant. He's a reliable two-way player who adds shooting, leadership and versatility at both ends. Though he got off to a slow start this season, he had started to play impactful minutes just before he got injured.

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