5 observations as offense goes missing in Bulls' home loss to Raptors

5 observations as offense goes missing in Bulls' home loss to Raptors

The Bulls dropped to 1-2 following a 108-84 loss to the Raptors in Saturday’s home opener. Here are five observations:

The home cooking didn't start

The Bulls set a franchise record for futility last season with just nine victories at the United Center. Coach Jim Boylen mentioned improving that with his end-of-season news conference last April and has been citing it consistently since.

“It’s been a huge point of emphasis,” Boylen said. “But those are just words. You gotta go out and do it.”

The Bulls failed in their first attempt. Despite an improved defensive effort that featured the Bulls forcing 24 turnovers and limiting the Raptors to 42.9% first-half shooting, the offense again featured plenty of missed shots.

The Bulls finished 9-for-35 from 3-point range after entering shooting an unsightly 21-for-72 for 29.2% in their first two games. They shot 29.9% overall with only Wendell Carter Jr. and Zach LaVine in double figures.

"They picked up their defense," Boylen said. "We have to learn that when the ball isn't going in, you still have to guard. When the ball isn't going in, we have to move it more, not less. Those are the lessons of tonight. We will work on those. We talked about them already. And we will continue to grow."

Otto Porter Jr. played through pain

After talk of load management last weekend, Porter played his second game in as many nights. Boylen had said Friday night in Memphis that the Bulls planned to manage his minutes appropriately with the expectation of playing both games.

Porter still isn’t making the same impact that he made when he first came over from the Wizards in last February’s trade. He doesn’t look like he’s moving as well. Though he hasn’t been listed on the injury report, sources said the Bulls are closely monitoring Porter’s hip.

As if that isn’t enough, Porter then needed six stitches to close a cut in his mouth after taking an inadvertent Stanley Johnson elbow while taking a charge early in the second quarter. Porter stayed down on the court for several minutes, leaving a puddle of blood before retreating to the locker room.

Porter was short with his postgame comments about the incident afterward.

"Most likely, yeah," he said when asked if he's sore.

Porter then started the second half but finished just 2-for-7 for nine points in just over 20 minutes.

"He said he's really sore," Boylen said. "But I'm glad he came back."

Asked about how he feels physically with the Bulls managing his minutes, Porter said: "I'm just out there doing my job."

The ball movement stagnated

Boylen has talked about his “.5 principle,” in which whoever has the ball either shoots it, passes it or dribbles it within .5 seconds.

Let’s just say it needs some improvement.

"It's not that they're bad players or bad kids or they don't want to do a good job," Boylen said. "That's the learning moment: You gotta trust more when things aren't going your way."

Too often the Bulls either overdribbled or held onto the ball before moving it. This led to more contested than open shots. No wonder the Bulls shot so poorly with only seven fast-break points.

"They brought the physicality to us and threw the first punch," Porter said. "We didn't really respond well. We can't let (poor 3-point shooting) dictate our game. Our defense is what dictates our play. We have to rely on our defense to get our offense going. We get steals and run-outs and fast-break points. That's where we're good and at our best."

Wendell Carter Jr. showed up, even with his finishing issues

The second-year big man posted his first double-double since Dec. 30, 2018 with a team-high 12 points and 11 rebounds.

But in the first half especially, Carter struggled finishing at the rim. He had four offensive rebounds but missed putback attempts.

"Third game of the season, everybody is trying to find their spots, get their shots," Carter said. "I feel our offense has to stream more from our defense."

Coaches have worked with Carter about regaining his timing after missing most of the preseason with nagging injuries. They also have talked to him about not putting so much pressure on himself because he cares so much for the team that he doesn’t want to let it down.

The point guard rotation remains fluid

With Tomas Satoransky and Kris Dunn offering different strengths, Boylen admitted his second-half minutes for those two players will depend on myriad factors.

“It’s a little bit of feel, a little bit of gut, what’s going on in the game. It’s matchups. There’s a lot of things that go through your head in those situations,” Boylen said. “Sometimes it’s just eye contact with a guy. You see he’s locked in, he’s checked in, and you’re not going to take him out. We discuss those things. We discuss them before the game and we discuss them in-game.”

NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Workout season could be more important than ever


NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Workout season could be more important than ever

With Zion Williamson making his NBA regular season debut Wednesday night, we finally got a chance to see what a No. 1 overall draft pick is supposed to look like: an athletic and versatile skill set, with the chance to impact a franchise for years to come. 

2019 No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant also looks like a franchise-changing talent with his speed and playmaking ability, lifting Memphis into playoff contention.

So, which players will have that kind of impact in the 2020 draft?

Well, for now it’s almost impossible to say. James Wiseman, the 7-foot-1 Memphis center, dropped out of school after playing just three games because of an eligibility battle with the NCAA. His size and raw tools are intriguing, but at this point his offensive game is extremely limited.

Meanwhile, Lonzo Ball’s younger brother, LaMelo is sitting out the rest of the Australian professional league season while he rehabs from a foot injury, another Australian professional, R.J. Hampton, just returned from a hip injury and North Carolina’s combo guard Cole Anthony is getting ready to return from a knee injury to finish his one and done season. 

That’s left NBA talent evaluators scrambling in trying to figure out the top of the draft, with only Georgia’s Anthony Edwards healthy and available among the players projected as the possible No. 1 overall pick. 

So, as we get closer to the end of January, here’s a look at how teams could view the available talent, with the understanding that the draft order will change dramatically as NBA scouts and GMs get a look at how players perform in the most important games of the season still to come.

2020 NBA mock draft 3.0

Kemba Walker and Trae Young being named All-Star starters could help Zach LaVine

USA Today

Kemba Walker and Trae Young being named All-Star starters could help Zach LaVine

On Thursday, the NBA revealed the East and West starters for the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago. Take a look:

Bulls fans will be honed in on the East selections given Zach LaVine's absence, though his realistic chances of starting the game have been slim-to-none since the first month of the season. In the last round of fan voting returns, LaVine was sixth among Eastern Conference backcourt players. He finished there, as well:

LaVine will get a chance to slide into a reserve slot, but the East’s starting backcourt of Kemba Walker and Trae Young leaves a crowded field to contend with. Guards competing for the seven reserve spots include Ben Simmons, Khris Middleton, Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, Malcolm Brogdon and Jaylen Brown. And that's without mentioning frontcourt favorites in Bam Adebayo, Jimmy Butler, Jayson Tatum and Domantas Sabonis.

But a modicum of good news did come from this announcement for those stumping for LaVine: Kyrie Irving's omission from the starting lineup. Irving, who has only played 15 games this season, had been second in fan voting at the time of last returns. Had he snuck in with the starters, LaVine would have also had Walker or Young to compete with for a reserve spot, both of whom he matches up with unfavorably. One has to figure Irving's odds of being selected by coaches as a reserve aren't high.

LaVine's chances still aren't necessarily great, but the coaches' picks for reserves will be announced on Jan. 30. If LaVine is shorted there, as well, there remains the possibility of an injury replacement down the road, which commissioner Adam Silver would select (this is probably his best shot).

Once the final pool of players is decided, they'll be drafted by team captains Giannis Antetokoumpo and LeBron James on Feb. 6.

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