Bulls

There's more questions than answers with Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen

There's more questions than answers with Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen

When the Bulls’ season ends in a couple weeks, there’s a good chance the biggest question will go unanswered, thus creating an uneasy feeling headed into the summer.

To the fault of no one, it’s possible we’ve seen the last minutes of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn together. Dunn is in a walking boot while LaVine’s knee tendinitis will keep him out for at least another week, and considering the way he’s played or been deployed, there’s not much for him to gain from playing again.

Markkanen could return in the next couple days if his back loosens up, but his greatest value in these final weeks was seeing how he meshed with his two co-stars.

The minutes they’ve played together haven’t provided any clear answers as to a pecking order, or even if there’s any effectiveness.

Yes, Markkanen has been a revelation and has more room to grow than the other two, while Dunn reclaimed his name after being labeled a bust following a disappointing rookie season.

And it’s probably unfair to judge LaVine on anything considering most evidence shows it takes at least 18 months to get back to full health from an ACL surgery. But given the objective of the season, the Bulls will likely walk away with an “incomplete” on their report card—and that’s probably optimistic.

The small sample size has shown moments but those moments have occurred when one was missing from the three. Dunn’s signature stretch was when LaVine had yet to debut, and LaVine’s flashes of control happened when Dunn was out with a concussion.

They’ve only played 12 games together and to the eye, it’s looked disjointed. The mismatch lineups certainly play a part in things looking so scattered, but even a closer look hasn’t shown more than a mixed bag.

According to NBA.com, the 3-man lineup has an offensive rating of 97.5 points per 100 possessions and a defensive rating of 119.2 points per 100 possessions. Even if you’re not into the advanced stats the way some are, it’s hard to ignore the numbers when the eye isn’t giving you much to combat it.

“I don't take too much into it just because of the fact Zach really joined the team full time with not many reps with that group,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “Most of his contact practices were with Windy City. I am confident when we get all those guys together, especially this summer headed into training camp, we'll be a lot further ahead of where we were this year.”

Their collective plus-minus is minus-21.8 points and so much of that can be attributed to the trio not creating easy looks for each other. Dunn and Markkanen developed a decent chemistry, especially in December when Nikola Mirotic fueled a surge that saved the Bulls from temporary embarrassment.

“He was playing at such a high level,” Hoiberg said. “You look at his numbers during that stretch when I think we won 10 of 12, and went 15-11 I want to say in that six-week stretch in December and into January, and then unfortunately he had the bad concussion in the fall against Golden State.”

It also probably saved them from a sure-fire top three pick in the draft this summer, as they’ll resort to leaning on lottery luck to obtain a true franchise changer. LaVine was the centerpiece of the trade that delivered the trio to Chicago, and he’s admitted to frustration—which is to be expected given his recovery putting him behind from the start.

“I’ve had some parts where I’ve been frustrated, and I’ve had some parts where I’ve been happy with my play and the team’s play,” LaVine said earlier this week. “But I didn’t have any expectations really coming into it. I was excited to get back on the court and get back out here and playing, stuff like that. It’s been good overall just from the standpoint of me playing, and getting my rhythm back, getting with the team.”

LaVine and Dunn are in a unique situation where it appears both need the ball to be most effective, while also struggling to play without it. Will Dunn develop an outside shot respectable enough to allow LaVine easier driving lanes to the basket? And will LaVine find a way to make himself a threat off the ball to unlock a more deadly Dunn-Markkanen pick-and-roll?

He (Dunn) had a little bit of success, we put the ball in Zach’s hands a lot in that Minnesota game, and put Kris in the left corner where he did hit a couple shots playing off of Zach,” Hoiberg said. “Zach’s a guy that’s going to be a guy that has the ball in his hands quite a bit with the make-up of the team, and Kris has to be a guy that can be a reliable shooter.”

Markkanen will undoubtedly take another step in the offseason, even if he doesn’t play another minute this season. He doesn’t need to, anyways.

The wayward looks on the Bulls faces of their 135-102 drubbing at the hands of the Denver Nuggets said it all. Human nature is kicking in with this bunch, even if some of them have an opportunity to make names for themselves on an individual level.

The collective spirit has taken a few punches but by and large they’ve competed all season and should be commended. Wednesday night could be called an aberration of sorts.

“These guys are getting an unbelievable opportunity right now, to come out and prove they belong in this league, prove they belong in the rotation and prove they belong long-term with the organization,” Hoiberg said. “And we’re just obviously way too inconsistent with it. You can’t take it for granted. You got to go out, you got to fight, you got to scrap, do a lot of the little things. We’re not doing that.”

And even though Hoiberg is right, if everything revolves around Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen, how can the ancillary parts be truly assessed when they’re not out there to play off?

Denzel Valentine’s career night against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers last Saturday would be easier to place into context if he were playing alongside Dunn or LaVine or Markkanen, hitting eight triples by finding the open spots in the defense.

Instead, one could merely write it off as the same type of aberration as a 30-point loss to a Nuggets team desperate to stay in the Western Conference playoff hunt.

“It’s different because personally, I’ve been through a lot of roles: Starting, coming off the bench, back starting without those three guys," Valentine said. "It’s definitely been challenging but at the same time I have to come out and play better. And we can compete a little bit better.”

And even with 11 games remaining, the images produced won’t provide much answers for the true big picture.

In expected move, Bulls name Tomas Satoransky starter over Kris Dunn

In expected move, Bulls name Tomas Satoransky starter over Kris Dunn

In quite the clever move, the Bulls solved their so-called point guard controversy by renaming the position “lead guard.” This is a nod to Jim Boylen’s multi-ballhandler system.

Whatever it’s called, Tomas Satoransky will start in it for Thursday’s preseason finale and the Oct. 23 regular-season opener in Charlotte.

In an expected move, Boylen made that news official following Wednesday’s practice. Satoransky will start alongside Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. Kris Dunn and Coby White will come off the bench.

“I’ve been happy with both of them. They’re both in good places. I think this is what’s best for our team, and I think it will be great for both of them individually,” Boylen said of Satoransky and Dunn. “Kris has to be kind of our defensive force in that second group. He can impact the game coming off the bench. He’s embraced it, I’ve spoken with him, and we had a good conversation about it. He’s all about winning, and I’m really proud of him.’’

Boylen cited Satoransky’s shooting ability to space the floor and quick and accurate decision-making as primary factors behind the decision. He reiterated the organization’s belief in Dunn, who had six steals and 11 deflections in last Friday’s preseason game in Indiana and can be a defensive force with the second unit.

“You know I’ve always said he’s a terrific kid. I’ve always said he’s for the team. I’ve always said he’s very coachable,” Boylen said of Dunn. “Those things haven’t changed how I feel about him and what he’s done. But I do think that he’s in a really good place. I do think he had some introspection and got some time away, and it was good for him. He said it, we’ve said it, he’s prepared to help the team win, and that’s his mindset. That’s what we need. We talked earlier in the year, it’s going to be about sharing and sacrifice, and he’s going to come off that bench and help us win.”

Barring foul trouble, Satoransky likely will play in the range of 30 to 32 minutes, while Dunn could be in the 18 to 22 minutes range. Boylen consistently has talked about the need for sacrifice for the Bulls to make the jump to a contending team.

The Bulls aggressively pursued Satoransky during July free agency, acquiring him in a sign-and-trade transaction with the Wizards and agreeing to a three-year, $30 million deal whose final season isn’t fully guaranteed. He quickly endeared himself to Boylen by not asking about starting during the recruiting period, merely saying he wanted to be a part of what the Bulls are building.

“I love the way he throws the ball ahead,” Boylen said. “I love his command of our offense already. He’s obviously a terrific shooter. He can play off those guys, he can play on the ball and off those guys and create space. Him and I have a real good connection and he’s got a really good feel. And I feel confident in him running that first group.”

Satoransky averaged 11.2 points and 6.6 assists in 46 starts at point guard for the Wizards last season after John Wall went down with a season-ending injury. He also started eight games at small forward. It’s this versatility that Boylen envisions using in a backcourt rotation that includes LaVine, Dunn and White.

“I’ve felt really good with them on the floor,” Satoransky said of minutes with the starters. “For me, it was getting used to every player, not only with certain lineups. But I felt really good, especially last game. I think we have a lot of shooters on the floor. That gives us an advantage and spacing to attack, especially for Zach. Hopefully we can continue to get better and have options there.

“I try to run the team, put them in the best position where they can succeed. Run with pace. Keep the spacing. Try to organize the team. That’s what I’ve been trying to do for my whole career. And do the little things. I think it’s expected for me to come up with energy on the defensive side. I’m trying to do that and compete for every ball.”

Boylen favorites Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaq Harrison also are available, as are Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison, who has yet to play with a hamstring injury.

Dunn remains the team’s best on-ball perimeter defender and has returned to the Bulls saying and doing all the right things after an offseason of reflection that briefly involved him wanting a change of address. In fact, sources said in July that the Bulls held substantial trade talks centered on Dunn, at one point trying to re-acquire Justin Holiday from the Grizzlies in a sign-and-trade transaction.

Instead, Dunn reported to September voluntary workouts with a strong work ethic and clear mind. He has drawn raves from coaches and teammates alike for his team-first attitude.

“We’re developing Coby White as a basketball player,” Boylen said. “We’re not going to put him in this situation where he’s a 1, he’s a 2 or he’s a 3, he’s a this, he’s a that. He’s a basketball player; he’s a baller. He plays well off other people. He plays well with the ball in his hands. He plays well off a live catch. He can run pick-and-roll. He has positional size, toughness, physicality. Not concerned about somebody saying he needs to be this or that, he just needs to play.”

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Jason Goff to join NBC Sports Chicago's Bulls coverage team

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USA Today

Jason Goff to join NBC Sports Chicago's Bulls coverage team

Chicago, IL (October 16, 2019) – NBC Sports Chicago - THE NEW, EXCLUSIVE HOME FOR EVERY BULLS GAME - has announced Chicago sports media personality/NBA expert JASON GOFF will be joining the network as host of Bulls Pregame Live/Bulls Postgame Live beginning this season.  The announcement was made by Kevin Cross, Senior Vice President/General Manager, NBC Sports Chicago.

Goff’s first official appearance on NBC Sports Chicago takes place on Wednesday, October 23 for the network’s multi-platform coverage of the 2019-20 NBA SEASON OPENER, as the Bulls travel to face the Eastern Conference rival Charlotte Hornets (an expanded, one-hour Opening Night edition of Bulls Pregame Live presented by Coors Light begins at 5:00 PM CT, Bulls-Hornets tip-off at 6:00 PM, Bulls Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois immediately follows the game).  NOTE: Every Bulls game will also stream live on NBCSportsChicago.com and the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app.  

In addition to his Bulls Pre/Postgame Live hosting duties, Goff will also make additional appearances throughout the season on a variety of NBC Sports Chicago’s programs and cross-platform portals, including SportsTalk Live and the network’s “Bulls Talk” podcast.  

“Jason is an impact player who joins our already outstanding Bulls content team,” said Cross.  “His deep knowledge and lifelong passion for the NBA, especially the Bulls, will benefit all of our fans on all of our platforms.  We couldn’t be more excited for the upcoming NBA season as the only home for Bulls basketball.”

“I’m looking forward to joining the NBC Sports Chicago team and the exceptional Bulls coverage we provide to Bulls fans all year round,” added Goff. “I was that kid watching Bulls games in his basement on SportsChannel and now I have a chance to help cultivate that same energy to Bulls fans old and new on NBC Sports Chicago, it’s just a dream come true.”

Goff, a native of Evanston, Ill., has been a fixture on the Chicago sports media scene for close to two decades.  After attending Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Goff began his sports broadcasting career at WSCR AM 670 “The Score” in 2000 and quickly escalated to become one of the station’s top producers.  In 2007, Goff was named producer of WSCR’s “The Boers and Bernstein Show,” a role he held through 2012 before leaving Chicago for Atlanta to become the WZGC-FM 92.3 “The Game” new full-time evening host, along with handling pre/postgame hosting duties on the Atlanta Hawks Radio Network.  Also, while in Atlanta, Goff was an integral part of SiriusXM NBA Radio’s national relaunch, as he hosted the station’s popular midday show featuring former NBA greats Sam Mitchell, Malik Rose, and Kenny Smith.

Goff returned to Chicago in 2014 as a primary host for national NBA shows on both SiriusXM NBA Radio and Bleacher Report on SiriusXM.  In 2015, Goff returned to WSCR and was named midday co-host with Matt Spiegel on “The Spiegel and Goff Show” and later moved to afternoons joining Dan Bernstein on “The Bernstein and Goff Show.”  Most recently, Goff continued hosting stints with SiriusXM NBA Radio, along with SiriusXM Big Ten Radio, and also with ESPN Radio’s “The Spain and Company Show” featuring host Sarah Spain, and the “GTL Show” featuring Goff, Taylor Twellman and Rachel Lindsay.  In addition, Goff has made numerous appearances local television appearances on WFLD-TV’s (Fox 32 Chicago) “The Final Word with Lou Canellis,” along with “Windy City Live” on WLS-TV (ABC 7 Chicago).

NBC Sports Chicago, a partnership between the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago White Sox (MLB) and the NBC Sports Group, features over 275 live pro games in high definition each year.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago delivers extensive pre/post-game coverage for its core pro team partners, as well as Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs multi-platform coverage, plus - local sports discussion programs that includes SportsTalk Live, and massive cross-platform coverage provided by the network’s growing digital platform, NBCSportsChicago.com, the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app, and its variety of fan-focused social media outlets. Fans can follow the network on Twitter via @NBCSChicago.  

NBC Sports Regional Networks is NBC Sports Group’s portfolio of nine regional networks that delivers more than 2,200 live sporting events and original content to more than 35 million homes. Aligned within Eastern and Western Divisions, the NBC Sports Regional Networks are: NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia +, NBC Sports Washington, NBC Sports Washington + and SNY; and NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago/NBC Sports Chicago+, and NBC Sports Northwest. For more information on NBC Sports Group properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios, headshots and logos, please visit www.NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com.

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