The Chicago Bulls have a roster rife with injury and ineffectiveness. So why are they seemingly actively stifling a pair of potential contributors?
When Otto Porter went down it stood to reason that the Chicago Bulls would be filling his minutes with a variety of players. No matter what you think of their talent level, none of the potential replacements had the skillset that Porter does. Though, at least two could combine to give the Bulls what Porter was supposed to.
The first is perpetual trade fodder, Denzel Valentine. When trade rumors aren’t surrounding the third-year swingman, it’s his coach keeping him off the floor and on inconsistent minutes. Of course, Valentine’s decision making often leaves a lot to be desired.
When he’s right, Valentine offers a nice blend of outside scoring and playmaking ability. That last trait should be serving the Bulls well as they have a clear need for a primary decision-maker down the stretch of games. Tomas Satoransky currently fills that role. He does so admirably but he’s almost averse to trying to create for himself.
It isn’t exactly a secret that the Bulls have been open to moving on from Valentine for much of this season. Appearing with an underaged Wendell Carter in a bar probably didn’t do him any favors in regards to his standing with the Bulls powers that be.
Still, this feels like a situation where Valentine should be more useful on the team than the return on a trade would be.
“…Valentine got dealt a bad hand. Injuries occur. Coaches change. Priorities evolve. The flashes Valentine showed in his second season, his only healthy season, shouldn’t be forgotten.” – Kevin O’Connor
Similar sentiments have been expressed in this space as a reason for optimism with this team. That was before the season after the Bulls made their playoff goals announcement. Now it should be an alert to get Valentine in the rotation consistently. Regardless of if he is traded or not, sitting on the bench isn’t helping anyone.
Just a Hutch
Our other wing in focus is Chandler Hutchison. Opinions on him have a much wider range than one would expect for a 22nd-overall pick. One end will forever tie him to the rumor the Bulls wouldn’t trade up for phenom Luka Doncic in part because they had promised to select Hutchison if he didn’t work out for other teams at the combine.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find the truthers. The ones sticking to the pre-draft comp for Hutchison: Scottie Pippen. Yes, they exist. While the comp is still a stretch, we have gotten glimpses of what the Bulls saw in the Boise State product. His coach is taking notice too.
“Coach Jim Boylen said Hutchison is becoming the player the Bulls envisioned when they drafted him in the first round — a driver, slasher and competitive defender able to guard multiple positions.” – K.C. Johnson
The most recent flash came in the Bulls 115-106 overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers. Hutchison had a team-high 21 points on 71 percent shooting. He also grabbed three boards and had two assists. It was the kind of all-around performance that can reinstill confidence that he can be a major contributor going forward in Chicago or elsewhere.
But again, this isn’t a team overflowing with talent. It would make sense in any instance to give a young player extended opportunity on a bad team. Especially a recent first-round pick.
Injury has certainly played a substantial part in Hutchison not seeing the time some of his outbursts suggest he should be. The other factor that is in his control is consistency, something that he has lacked when healthy. For example, he has only once strung together multiple double-digit scoring outings. That was a three-game stretch last season.
When Porter went down it seemed to clear a path for at least one of these wing players to step up. Instead, it’s Jim Boylen shoehorning three-guard lineups or rarely putting his five best scorers on the floor at the same time. It’s a confluence of factors that has the Bulls operating like they are deep enough to eschew what these two bring to the table. We know that to not be the case.