Through 20 games and a tough portion of their schedule, the Bulls are on pace for 28.8 victories. That’s hard to do. So we’ll round up to 29 and get to your questions.
We are now at the quarter flag for the season. How would you rate the Bulls at this point and what do you see for the rest of the season? On a side note, I've been a season-ticket holder for 10-plus years, and this is the most enjoyable Bulls team to watch in quite awhile. --- Mike C.
First of all, major props for calling it the quarter flag instead of quarter pole. I’m not a big horse racing guy, but even I know that quarter pole means there’s only a quarter of the season -- or race -- left. That term gets misused plenty.
I would rate the Bulls as exceeding my modest expectations. I had them pegged at 27-45. They’ve navigated a difficult part of their schedule on pace for 28-29 victories. Beyond that, they have played well, particularly at the offensive end, in more games than not. Their willingness to pass and get good shots seems sustainable, even if perhaps their sublime shotmaking to this point may not be. They obviously need to improve defensively, and limiting turnovers -- another problem area -- would help.
As for your side note, I don’t think that’s insignificant. I liken this team a bit to the 2004-05 Bulls. After years of wandering in the wilderness, fans were so hungry to watch a competitive product. And between how many games this season’s Bulls have been in plus their aesthetically pleasing style of offensive basketball, this team has been a revelation.
What should the Bulls do going forward about the lead guard situation? Coby White is still young and developing but so many of this team's deficiencies revolve around the lack of an elite playmaker. Do they give him time to grow into that (if he can) or do they pursue other options at the deadline or during the offseason? --- Jared H.
My guess would be this position is something they tackle during the offseason. I wrote several times last offseason that they planned to address the position then, which was based off widespread talk around the league, informed speculation and the array of available options. This was a draft fairly deep at the position. And some free-agent options existed as well.
Garrett Temple’s value signing has worked, and it’s too early to judge draft picks definitively, though Patrick Williams’ early returns are very solid. Will the Bulls regret not trading up for LaMelo Ball -- assuming they could have -- or selecting Tyrese Haliburton? Hindsight always is 20-20.
Moving forward, though, my feeling is that addressing the position has to be a priority. I know it’s a position-less league and I also know that White has had moments and truly wants to do what’s best for the team. But he’s not an elite playmaker.
How do you think the Bulls are handling Coby during his slump? Should they try to experiment with him at shooting guard? --- @Coby_Buckets, via Twitter
And sit Zach LaVine? Or slide him to small forward at the expense of minutes for Garrett Temple or Patrick Williams?
When Billy Donovan has tried three-guard lineups, it most prominently has been with White, LaVine and Temple. So the lineups from last season where White played alongside someone like Tomáš Satoranský or Ryan Arcidiacono and more off the ball haven’t happened much.
It’s pretty clear the Bulls are using this season to evaluate White as the lead guard. As mentioned in the previous answer, offseason opportunities existed to address the position. They weren’t taken. I believe they will be in the future.
Should the Coby White experiment at point guard continue or should the front office look for some playmaking point guard who can really maximize the usage of Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.? Clearly, Coby doesn't have the needed skillset. Lauri has been playing really well with Thad on the floor as the playmaker and now I really wonder how Lauri can be utilized in the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop with a good point guard. And I also think Coby is better off playing as the sixth man where he can score more. Also, his defense has been killing the Bulls. --- Srinik R.
Is that all?
Yes, Wednesday proved another example where if you didn’t watch the game and just looked at White’s box score, you might think he played OK. And you would be wrong. He didn’t shoot well from 3, he didn’t guard well and he didn’t organize the team offensively much despite his six assists.
This, obviously, is another byproduct of the White at point guard experiment -- the need for the lead guard to be responsible for the five-man unit. We heard Billy Donovan talk about emphasizing this trait to White far more earlier in the season than we are now. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening behind the scenes, of course. But you have to wonder if Donovan is reaching a conclusion on White’s point guard play. To this point, Tomáš Satoranský’s minutes have stayed low. Does that change?
Satoranský isn’t a true point guard either, but he’s much more adept at setting up those around him and making sure the five-man unit he’s with is humming. I’m worried less about the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop opportunities between a point guard and, say, Markkanen. You can always run that action with LaVine. But it’s likely Markkanen would benefit from playing alongside a true lead guard, especially considering 78.9 percent of his baskets this season have been assisted on.
Do you think anybody on this roster will be moved by the deadline? --- @BullsEra21, via Twitter
This is the million-dollar question and a conversation I have with people I talk to around the league as well. This management regime doesn’t strike me as being seduced by short-term competitiveness enough to neglect the big picture. And let’s face it: Veterans like Thad Young are a big reason why the Bulls are more competitive.
The point is: If the right trade opportunity presents itself for, say, Young, my feeling is you have to build out the asset base for the future. To be clear: I’m not trying to get Young traded. He’s awesome to cover and I enjoy watching him play basketball. But is he going to be here in three years if the Bulls are good? Only if he takes a pay cut. Young is the player I’m most focused on as the trade deadline nears.
With the way Thad Young is playing, it looks like he could be a possible deadline trade piece. His contract doesn’t seem to match our timeline for contention. He seems to be such a great leader for the young guys. He’s really helping lead the team out of the negativity of the Jim Boylen era. Do you think he is worth more to the team than what we would get in return for him? Should he be moved? --- Nick S.
This question is more specific to Young but touches on same themes as the previous question and answer. You don’t trade Young just to trade him as he clearly has value, even if he returns next season. So, assuming you get offers for him, you pick what you believe has the most value -- the offered return or what he brings to the Bulls.
I’ve Been Keeping An Eye On Marko Simonovic Over The Last Few Months And I Like His Game. How Smooth Do You Think His Transition To The NBA Will Be? And How Much Better Does He Make This Roster Once He Comes Over? --- Shaq W.
I Don’t Know, But It Seems You’re So Excited About The Possibility That You’re Using A Capital Letter To Begin Every Word.
I’ll just say this: Artūras Karnišovas’ track record on international prospects and his connections in that world are notable.
Has anybody in Chicago spotted Artūras? No interviews in months. I will guess he's working the phones. I think both Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. are better suited at center. So even though this injury to Carter is unfortunate, it will help the front office to make a decision about who is a better fit. --- Aristotelis from Greece
He’s around. Most executives don’t grant interviews much during the season. And, yes, he’s a bit busy these days.
As for the Markkanen/Carter situation, well, evaluation always is better when they’re both on the court. It’s funny because the previous regime absolutely believed the two could not only fit together but complement each other. I have written in the past that I believe their incompatibility to be overrated. But Carter’s availability is beginning to be a legitimate question mark.
What happened to Wendell Carter Jr.'s shotblocking? He came into the league blocking shots at an elite level and looked to be on the path to be one of the NBA's top rim protectors. In the first 14 games his rookie season he blocked 29 shots. This season, in the 14 games before the injury, he blocked only nine. His blocks-per-game have gone down every season from an impressive 1.8 to 0.8 to a measly 0.6. Is it because of a different scheme, and if so, why are the Bulls using a scheme that takes away one of his greatest strengths? Or is something else going on like a drop in athleticism due to injuries?--- Matt S.
This is a good question, though I also think you can be a good rim protector without blocking shots. And Carter has some of the best defensive instincts and ability to master the concept of verticality on the team.
You could pin last season’s drop on the scheme because Jim Boylen’s traps called for the big to play aggressively out on the floor. Billy Donovan isn’t utilizing just one pick-and-roll coverage scheme. And Donovan has said that in the “drop” system that has received a lot of attention, Carter is instructed to stay closer to the rim. So paying attention to this stat as the season progresses is intriguing.
I wonder what you see for Chandler Hutchison in the coming weeks and months? He seems to be in a tight spot, not finding time in the rotation even when Otto Porter Jr. is out and Patrick Williams has been underperforming as of late. --- Mike L.M.
Williams had a nice bounceback second half on Wednesday, which came after you sent this question. But you’re spot on: Hutch is out of the rotation. Donovan fielded a direct question on this before Wednesday’s game and simply said Hutchison “has to stay ready.” You can’t play everybody, and he clearly has more trust in Denzel Valentine as of now.
If you’re looking for larger themes, which I always am, I think it’s noteworthy that Valentine is playing despite not being under contract next season. Hutchison is.
He was only 6 foot, 6 inches during his senior year in high school. He grew to 6-7 his freshman year in college. And now he’s listed at 6-8. Patrick Williams is just a 19-year-old kid who still might not be finished. So what happens if Williams grows another two to three inches? --- Rick L.
Who is the one player from another team that you believe would be a perfect fit with this current Bulls roster? What would you do to get him? --- David M.
LeBron James. Anything.
Thanks for all the questions. Talk to you soon.