Chicago Bulls: 5 biggest reasons we own a losing record

Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
2 of 5
Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images) /

5. Players inexplicably playing through injuries

The Bulls medical staff and front office are notoriously bad at communicating player injuries to the media and, thus, the fans.

This season was no exception, starting off on the wrong foot (or hip) with the news that dropped all the way back on October 26th that Otto Porter Jr. was playing through a recurring hip injury which lead to his minutes being reduced as OPJ fell to the newest buzz word in the NBA: “load management.”

In the first 4 games of the season, the career 48.2 percent shooter was shooting 25.7 percent while averaging just 24.8 minutes per game. During that span, the Bulls went 1-3, with a glaring deficiency at the 3 spot.

Now, with recent news about his continued bone edema, anyone who knows something about physiology knows that when the body suffers injury its prone to compensating for the missing range of motion or strength. There’s no way to prove it for sure, but it could easily be true that playing through his hip injury contributed to his current injuries.

Or take, for example, our supposed franchise player: Lauri Markkanen. Lauri has been a disaster this season more often than not, with inconsistency all over the place (more on that later), but when Jim Boylen revealed on November 12th that the seven foot shooter had been playing with a sore oblique for at least two weeks, some of the poor production could be easily explained. During those two weeks, Lauri shot 36.8 percent and 33 percent from behind the arc. The Bulls went 2-4 during that span.

The fact that we didn’t know about the injury above for two whole weeks just highlights the lack of transparency from the medical staff, Bulls PR, and, yes, admittedly the coaching staff (who inevitably blew the whistle when it came time to point fingers).

But the solution is easy and widely practiced around the league: Sit injured players. During that same 6 game stretch where Lauri shot 36.8 percent, Thaddeus Young shot 45.8 percent. We are paying Thad near $13 million a year to play basketball, not because he has some great potential down the road. He’s already a known commodity in this league, so why couldn’t he get free run for two weeks while Lauri fully healed (and kept his confidence up)?

The Bulls need to sit players that are not 100% if it’s affecting their play. In December 10th’s official NBA injury report, a brief search for the term “sore” yields 16 players across the league sitting for some variety of soreness, including one for a sore oblique and 4 for a sore hip.

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

4. Lack of wing depth

Let’s be clear, a “bubble” team that should be fighting for a playoff spot needs the chips to fall their way more often than not to be successful. Of the 8th, 9th, and 10th place teams ahead of the Bulls, most are key-injury free except the Orlando Magic who sit in an impressive 8th despite the absence of Nikola Vučević.

This is because they have serviceable backups in Khem Birch and Mohamed Bamba to fill in the gap of their starter missing.

The Bulls also happen to have had a key injury for the last 16 games. It just so happens that the Bulls injury is in a position that has absolutely 0 depth.

Things would look much better if Otto Porter was logging 28-30 minutes a game at the small forward position. In 15 games last season, he averaged 17.5 points per gams on 48.3 percent shooting, shooting and an outstanding 48.8 percent from downtown. And all this was accomplished with essentially the same roster.

But here’s the problem. Close your eyes. Who was supposed to be the backup at the small forward position to begin with?

There’s a few answers here, from Chandler Hutchison (as long as he’s healthy) to 3 guard lineups made up of some combination of Zach LaVineTomáš Satoranský, Coby White, Kris DunnRyan Arcidiacono, and Shaquille Harrison. The problem is that these lineups really only workout ideally in 5-8 minute stretches, with Otto eating up and maximizing all the rest of the court time.

Sans Otto, and Hutchison for the most part, the Bulls have had to pretty much rely on 3-guard lineups, which allows opposing swing men, from Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s dominant 38-point performance on Nov. 14 to Glenn Robinson III‘s 20 point outburst in a Bulls loss on Dec. 6, to just manhandle us at will.

And before you start clamoring for Denzel Valentine, understand that his recent offensive outburst is definitely nice to see, but rather pedestrian in the grand scheme of things. Also note that Zel played guard all through college. Point guard, as a matter of fact, so in my opinion rolling him out there at the three is just another version of the three-guard lineup.

The solution so far has been Harrison, Hutchison, or Dunn in the starting lineup, and it hasn’t panned out too well. I am going to propose a more radical solution: Start Thaddeus Young at small forward. He has the passing and shooting ability to fill in for a few starts, and he has been solid this year unlike the three listed above. He also has the size to guard players like Giannis or LeBron James, so why not try it?