The Bulls continue their preseason slate with a matchup against Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans tonight on NBC Sports Chicago. Here's what to watch for.
1. Tomas Satoransky with the starters
Jim Boylen wants to see numerous lineups during the preseason, but this will be the most important one he watches. Satoransky is versatile, and he could provide some stability on a second unit that may not have much punch, but it’s critical that the Bulls put out their best starting (and closing) lineup each night.
That means Satoransky starting at point guard or, at the very least, playing in bunches with Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter. He shot just 1 for 6 in his preseason debut but filled the box score in 22 minutes, including three assists, five steals and a team-high seven rebounds. That’s exactly the kind of point guard the Bulls need around their heavy-hitters: low-usage, do the dirty work, keep the ball moving and space the floor.
Even if Satoransky isn’t the starter on Opening Night – the unanimous Kris Dunn praise hasn’t ceased from inside the Advocate Center – he’ll log the majority of the minutes at the position. Instead of looking at Satoransky’s final line tonight, consider the looks he’s able to get LaVine and Markkanen and how often he keeps the offense flowing.
2. Daniel Gafford against a big Pelicans frontcourt
Daniel Gafford did on Monday what he did in Summer League: Dominate smaller interiors with his energy and effort. He posted a monster fourth quarter in the Bulls’ loss to the Bucks, but most of his numbers came against a frontcourt of Dragan Bender, Luke Maye and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. It was promising to see him perform well, but those aren’t the types of lineups he’ll see in the regular season.
He may get a good test on Wednesday. Rookie Jaxson Hayes played just five minutes in the Pelicans’ preseason opener, but could see more run in Game 2. The Bulls could even throw Gafford out there against a Pelicans frontcourt that includes Zion Williamson and Derrick Favors.
Luke Kornet and Wendell Carter Jr. could play, so Gafford will need to make the most of his minutes when he gets them, just like he did Monday.
3. Pace, pace, pace
Small sample-size alert, but the Pelicans played lightning-quick in their preseason opener against the Atlanta Hawks. How fast? 116.5 possessions fast. To put that in context, the Hawks led the NBA in pace last season at 104.5 possessions. Behind Williamson, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Jrue Holiday, Alvin Gentry’s group is going to get out and run any chance they can.
That’s good for a Bulls team that actively pushed pace in their loss to the Bucks. This type of game could play right into the hands of rookie Coby White, who showed off his speed on multiple occasions on Monday, including going coast-to-coast in four seconds off a made basket to draw a shooting foul at the rim.
Of course, the more important factor here will be transition defense. The Bulls struggled mightily there a season ago, and if Carter can’t play big minutes, it’ll be on those small lineups to get back and force the Pelicans into halfcourt sets.
4. Kris Dunn on the second unit
We’ve written about it before, but Dunn is best served on the second unit and staggered with LaVine. This will be an excellent opportunity for Dunn to run the show on the second unit and work some pick-and-roll action with Gafford, Thaddeus Young and potentially Kornet (on pick-and-pops).
He’s at his best when he’s driving and attacking, and having White and Denzel Valentine on the perimeter should give him an opportunity to rack up some assists. He’ll also get a nice defensive test against a Pelicans team that will run. As much as him starting on Monday was a big opportunity, tonight’s might be bigger. He can establish himself as the lead ball handler on the second unit.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.