In the wake of a ton of frontcourt injuries for the Chicago Bulls, big man Cristiano Felicio might be forced to get a bigger role.
The injury situation for the Chicago Bulls went from bad to worse on Jan. 15. In what amounted to a pretty impressive over the Washington Wizards by the final score of 115-106, the Bulls saw multiple players go down with injuries. Of those injuries against the Wizards, the most significant was to rookie center Daniel Gafford. On what looked like a very painful dislocation as soon as it happened, Gafford dislocated his thumb and will reportedly miss two-to-four weeks of game action.
With the Bulls already dealing with the injury to second-year center Wendell Carter Jr., the frontcourt depth is getting very thin in the Windy City. Carter Jr. looks like he could return around the All-Star Break after he sprained his ankle in a January road loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
However, the injuries to Gafford and Carter Jr. could leave the Bulls shorthanded in the frontcourt up to another month for the regular season. And power forward Lauri Markkanen tends to be rather injury prone, so that thought doesn’t help anything.
The gap in the frontcourt depth for head coach Jim Boylen and the Bulls will lead to three players getting bigger roles and more playing time it seems for at least the next two or three weeks. Former New York Knicks center Luke Kornet and veteran forward Thaddeus Young are definitely going to get more playing time and the four and the five.
It should either be Markkanen or Kornet getting the start at the five for the Bulls with Gafford and WCJ out with injuries. Young can get the start at the four if the Bulls want to run Markkanen at the five. That still leaves enough defensive prowess for the Bulls to have a solid frontcourt pairing.
But one player that we haven’t seen that much in a Bulls uniform this season that got playing time in the frontcourt rotation in the Wednesday night win over the Wizards was big man Cristiano Felicio. And the fact that Felicio’s playing time dwindled down to next to nothing this season didn’t phase many Bulls fans.
Whether it be pulling someone up from the G-League affiliate Windy City Bulls or shuffling the rotation in a way that Felicio is buried down the bench, Boylen needs to make some adjustment. Felicio proved over the course of the last year and a half that he is not ready to handle an NBA role in any capacity. In two games played this season, his player efficiency rating is sitting at a -7.6.
The Bulls either need to run more small ball, stack frontcourt depth by way of a trade or signing, or hope that Gafford and WCJ return to the lineup really quick. Giving additional playing time to Felicio is a good way for the Bulls to fall back further in the standings.
The Bulls hold a record of 15-27 after their Jan. 15 win over the Wizards. Next up for the Bulls is a difficult Jan. 17 road game against the Philadelphia 76ers. That will be interesting to see how much playing time Boylen gives to a more sizable big man like Felicio to try and combat the length of the Sixers lineup.