Chicago Bulls: Mavs will push the limits of Billy Donovan’s system

Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

When Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan got the news that his starting power forward Patrick Williams was going to miss a large chunk of the 2021-22 regular season to have surgery, he knew exactly how to fill his place in the lineup. While you could argue that a player like Alize Johnson would have been the more natural fit at the four due to his height, Donovan instead chose to start 6-foot-4 Javonte Green.

This formula had worked for him in the preseason when Williams was also out with injury. The Bulls went 4-0 in the preseason and when Williams came back they carried that streak to another 4-0 start to the regular season.

Since then, the Bulls have lost only three games, two of which came within a couple makes of being wins, but Wednesday night’s matchup against the Dallas Mavericks will provide the toughest test for Donovan’s “small ball” system.

The Mavs size will be a test for Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan’s “small ball” lineup.

Dallas is coming into the United Center Wednesday night sporting the same record as the Bulls at 7-3. This record has come with some of the same criticisms as Chicago’s has with pundits speculating that a lot of their wins have come against bad or undermanned squads. The centerpiece for the Mavericks is their 6-foot-7 point guard Luka Doncic. The Slovenian is averaging 24.7 points and has eclipsed the 30-point mark in two of his last four games. The 22-year-old will keep Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso busy.

Size Matters?

The biggest mismatch that the Mavericks will look to exploit is their depth in size, something the Bulls woefully lack. Donovan will have to make the decision on whether to have Nikola Vucevic who is the Bulls’ tallest player at 6-foot-11 guard 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis or whether to keep him on Dwight Powell and hope the much shorter Green can hold the Latvian well enough.

That is just the mismatch in the starting lineup. Coming off the bench Mavs head coach Jason Kidd has three more 7-footers to throw at the Bulls’ smaller bench including 7-foot-4 Boban Marjanovic. Tony Bradley is the tallest bench player for the Bulls at 6-foot-10 and the next is the aforementioned Johnson at 6-foot-7.

Chicago has already struggled in the rebounding department but has worked on getting that turned around in the last three games.

Injury Report

Forward Maxi Kleber is the only injured Maverick while Williams is out for the Bulls and guard Coby White is still on the comeback trail.

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With the size mismatch in this game, the Bulls will have to rely on their athleticism and pure scoring ability from stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach Lavine who are averaging 26.9 and 26.2 points per game respectively. It will also be important to find a way to get Vucevic going early to get him out of his recent slump.