The regular season has yet to arrive and the dramatic antics of a new NBA calendar year are already upon us, as the Chicago Bulls found themselves locked in a preseason war against the Nuggets as the game extended itself through two whole overtime periods. Denver rallied in the fourth quarter to overcome a 10-point deficit, but it was ultimately the Bulls who claimed victory, outscoring the Nuggets 21-12 in extra time.
In typical fashion, DeMar DeRozan led the way for Chicago, contributing a team-high 19 points and 4 steals. Although it’s just the preseason, I have to say I’m quite pleased to see the Bulls emerge victorious in a game where Nikola Jokic shot 80% from the field and the Nuggets as a team dropped 20 three-point bombs on the Bulls.
Although the team has had a few hiccups, there’s a lot to feel good about with this year’s Chicago Bulls roster. Here are last night’s highlights, including two stud players and a third who was a complete dud.
Here are 2 studs and 1 dud from the Bulls’ double-overtime win over the Nuggets.
Stud: Alex Caruso
If there’s any player who truly impressed me last night, it has to be Alex Caruso. Although the All-Defensive First Team guard was in the running for the starting point guard position, we saw just last night why he’s so effective when he’s allowed to go full speed in a bench role rather than conserving his energy to play in excess of 30 minutes as a starter.
In just 15 minutes of action, Caruso drained four triples and totaled 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist. That per-minute production is simply incredible, and explains why Caruso posted a game-high +11 plus/minus. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Caruso to stay this hot from deep each night, but if the Bulls can continue to create good looks like this, it’s a great sign for things to come.
Dud: Patrick Williams
While Caruso did a great job of asserting his presence in the game, that couldn’t be further from the truth for Patrick Williams. For years now, the greatest critique of Williams’ game has been his lack of aggressiveness and willingness to shoot the ball.
Billy Donovan addressed this at Media Day, claiming one of his biggest goals was to get Pat active on the boards and upping his offensive output. When Williams only has 2 points and 3 rebounds to show for himself after 19 minutes of playtime, that’s a problem. It would be one thing if it were simply an off-night for him, but he only took four field goal attempts.
Rather than shifting the blame to Williams’ All-Star counterparts, it’s time for him to take control of his career and create these opportunities for himself. If he’s not willing to try it in preseason, will he ever?
Stud: Zach LaVine
Zach LaVine perfectly displayed what we want to see from the Bulls’ top options on offense, laying the perfect blueprint for a player like Williams to follow. Although Zach’s three-point shot wasn’t falling — hitting just one of five long-range attempts — it did not dissuade him from actively impacting the game.
LaVine tallied 17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals on the night, shooting an impressive 7-for-10 from inside the arc to compensate for his threes not falling. With Chicago willing to take more threes each game, it’s easy to see how much more space LaVine and DeRozan have had to work with. We could just chalk this up as opposing defenses taking it easy in the preseason, but I believe there’s a real chance it carries over to the regular season if Chicago remains committed to this new offensive philosophy.