Bulls: Attention could shift away from Pau Gasol in Game 2


Bulls: Attention could shift away from Pau Gasol in Game 2

While Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t agree with the assessment that this year’s offense is better than the team he coached four years ago, he acknowledges he can make modifications to the team’s offensive plan if the Bucks choose to shift their defensive attention.

In 2011, Rose was a threat to score 30 on any given night, while being supported by Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, who each scored 17 per game.

But the Bulls scored just 98.6 points per game that year, good enough for 20th in the league. Of course, the Bulls won 62 games and rolled to the conference finals but were met by a familiar opponent in LeBron James, who shut Rose down in fourth quarters on the way to a 4-1 series win.

[MORE: Bucks may try to get more physical in Game 2 vs. Bulls]

“It’s hard to say,” Thibodeau said. “I don’t agree with that assessment. So you’re probably asking the wrong guy.”

In this series the Bucks have zeroed in on Pau Gasol since his 46-point, 18-rebound masterpiece early in the season but after Game 1, it was Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler who torched the Bucks, combining for 48 points and 13 assists in the Bulls’ 103-91 win.

“It can. That’s sort of the nature of the league,” Thibodeau said. “When you have three primary scorers like we do, we can go a different way. All three of those guys have the responsibility of when the second defender comes, hit the open man. Make the right play. Make the winning play. We’re fortunate we have three guys willing to do that.”

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Gasol, of course, is a willing passer and the offense has run smoothly when opposing teams run a second defender to him. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see the Bucks switch their strategy and force Gasol to be more of a primary scorer—while hoping to shut down the perimeter players who generated the most offense in Rose, Butler and Aaron Brooks.

In the four other meetings including Game 1, Gasol has averaged 15.2 points per game.

“Every game, you’re making sure you’re making winning plays and playing to win and playing together,” Thibodeau said. “You’re trying to play to each other’s strengths. The challenge is not only bringing the best out of yourself but your teammates as well. That’s how you become a great team. It’s not an individual sport. It’s a team sport.”

Markelle Fultz's contract option reminds Bulls fans of '17 draft night luck


Markelle Fultz's contract option reminds Bulls fans of '17 draft night luck

The 2017 NBA Draft class has started to show their true colors three seasons into their respective careers and we have a good idea of where each player stands with their franchise. The Orlando Magic have made a decent-sized commitment to 2017 No.  1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, exercising their fourth-year team option on the 21-year old guard. This keeps him under contract for the 2020-21 season for $12.3 million.

Bulls star forward Lauri Markkanen, drafted No. 7 overall in 2017, will likely have a decision made soon on his fourth-year option ($6.7 million), but his position with the Bulls was never in doubt, however, what the move by Orlando did was again bring to the forefront how impressive Markkanen has been as compared to the rest of the 2017 NBA Draft class.

Among the top 10 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, Markkanen is second in win shares (6.1) to only No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum (12.0).

Markkanen was not a household name coming off of his lone year at Arizona and had the reputation of a floor-spacer who brought little else to the floor in terms of value, he quickly dispelled those notions, going on a historic tear that resulted in one of the best rookie campaigns in Bulls history.

He was the first Bulls rookie since Elton Brand to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds in a season, and before Markkanen none of the 107 players to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds had made 110 or more 3-pointers in their respective rookie seasons.

Unlike Fultz, who suffered to find his footing with a playoff-bound Sixers team and has yet to play for his latest team in Orlando, Markkanen's career was aided by the fact that the Bulls were thin on frontcourt depth right at the start of the 2017-18 season. Markkanen has not looked back since given an opportunity to be the Bulls starting power forward and has averaged 16.7 points and 8.2 rebounds for his career while shooting 36.2 percent from the 3-point line. 

Markkanen has become better in every aspect of his game and will need a similar sort of leap if the Bulls hope to turn things around in 2020. The Magic reaffirming their belief in Fultz is in no way shocking, but it should serve as a reminder to Bulls fans that the franchise made out quite well by selecting the Finnish big man back in 2017 amid the uncertainty surrounding the post-Jimmy Butler Bulls.

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Zach LaVine excited for Year 2 of Wendell Carter Jr. after injury limited his rookie season


Zach LaVine excited for Year 2 of Wendell Carter Jr. after injury limited his rookie season

Zach LaVine is one of the faces of the Bulls and also isn’t shy about sharing his opinion.

LaVine did the rounds for a number of interviews for a promotion with CarMax and dished on several things Bulls related. One of the eye-catching quotes in an interview with FanSided was about Wendell Carter Jr.

“He was starting to get into a groove when he got injured man, that’s one of the worst things in all of sports,” LaVine said of Carter. ”He’s been in the gym working all year. He has great defensive intangibles as a rookie, especially for a big guy as a rookie. I feel like it’s always tougher for them, but he’s shown different little flashes to where he’s seemed above his experience level, so I’m really excited for him.”

LaVine himself has gone through a solid year-by-year progression in his career, with the exception of his injury-limited first season with the Bulls in 2017-18. If he thinks Carter can make the same type of progress, the Bulls will have a solid player soon enough.

Carter averaged 10.3 points and 7 rebounds per game before missing the second half of the season due to injury in mid-January. LaVine noted Carter’s defense, which was what impressed people most about Carter as a rookie. The next step will be improving his offensive game.

Carter is fully expected to start at center, especially considering he started all 44 games he played in as a rookie. Robin Lopez is gone, but Luke Kornet and rookie Daniel Gafford have joined Cristiano Felicio on the big man depth chart for the Bulls.

For more on Carter, check out our player preview for him as we lead up to the start of the Bulls season.