Crafting the Bulls' ideal rotation after Zach LaVine returns

Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers v Chicago Bulls / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

After seven years of disappointing basketball and locker room dysfunction, it was always inevitable that we'd reach this point with Zach LaVine. How long can somebody be expected to tolerate mismanagement and poorly constructed rosters? How much are the Chicago Bulls to blame for LaVine's selfish brand of basketball and inability to improve his teammates?

As it stands, it would appear the most likely outcome is that the Bulls and LaVine go their separate ways ahead of this year's trade deadline. It's just the most logical conclusion. That being said, that can only happen if interested parties are waiting in line to swoop on his services. Considering Chicago has improved immensely and won 10 of their last 15 games without LaVine, I'm not so sure that's the case.

Like it or not, we have to accept that there's a reality in which LaVine does not get traded this season. Awkward as it may be, the Bulls would then be forced to reincorporate the star shooting guard back into their rotation, potentially messing up this good thing they've got going if they don't play their cards right.

Here's what I'd expect the Chicago Bulls rotation to look like for the rest of the season if LaVine returns to the fold, rather than being traded to another contending roster.

The Bulls will have a few difficult questions to answer when Zach LaVine finally returns from injury.

Backcourt: Coby White, Zach LaVine

Considering how well Coby White has played in the 15 games since LaVine's absence began, there's no chance he will return to his former role as an offensively-minded role player off the bench. Averaging 22.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game over that span, Coby has proven there's much more he has to offer. He'll have less time to achieve this same level of production after Zach returns, however, as I expect his minutes played to decrease back down to about 32 per night on average.

As good as the Bulls have been without LaVine in the rotation, it's impossible to justify paying a two-time All-Star max money and then not play him. Once Zach is ready to play begin, he will. Ideally, he will buy into Chicago's new team-first system now that we've seen how good this team can be when they're all on the same page. If LaVine cannot manage that, it only stands to further worsen his image as a player who doesn't contribute to winning basketball.

Frontcourt: DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, Nikola Vucevic

We keep the same starting five as the Bulls had to begin the season here, but ideally, they'll be used more effectively. Without a true point guard in this starting five, the responsibility of lead playmaker should now be passed over to DeMar DeRozan. He's proven he's capable of creating for his teammates over this stretch, dishing out 10 or more assists in 3 of his last 14 games and even averaging 6.5 assists per game through that whole stretch.

If DeMar accepts less of an offensive burden to focus on being a playmaker, it could help someone like Patrick Williams take a further step in his development. Williams has looked much improved over these last 15 games, and his shooting and defensive acumen are enough to keep him anchored in the starting five.

Nikola Vucevic, on the other hand, hasn't been as fortunate. Although he still deserves to start, the decision isn't quite as clear as it once was. Vooch is in the midst of his worst statistical season in Chicago yet, while Andre Drummond has been winning fans over via his dominance on the boards and the defensive end. I wouldn't be surprised to see Vucevic's minutes take a big hit moving forward, as the coaching staff may favor a player like Drummond who can win the rebounding battle and protect the rim in certain matchups.

Sixth Man: Alex Caruso

Alex Caruso provides enough value to be a starter for most championship-contending teams around the league, and yet the Bulls are lucky enough to have a luxury like him slotted in their sixth man role. I don't expect much to change for Caruso moving forward, his position in the rotation is all but solidified. As long as he keeps the hot shooting and All-Defensive team effort up, he will continue receiving opportunities to close out games.

Primary Reserves: Andre Drummond, Ayo Dosunmu, Jevon Carter

As touched on already, Drummond has done everything and more the Bulls could have hoped from him in the three games since Vucevic went down with injury. Even after Vooch returns, I hope to see Drummond log more minutes and be used situationally to expose mismatches. Drummond is the greatest rebounder in the entire NBA, so losing the battle on the glass to other teams while he sits on the bench is an inexcusable error moving forward.

Ayo Dosunmu should continue receiving big minutes in the absence of Torrey Craig. He may be undersized to play the forward position, but at this point, anything is better than more Dalen Terry minutes. I'd be interested to see Julian Phillips get involved more, but I'm not confident that he has won the coaching staff's favor just yet.

Despite the litany of injuries the Bulls have had to deal with, I still believe that this is a playoff-worthy roster. Now, it's just up to the coaching staff and Zach LaVine to kiss and make up in hopes of getting things back on track before it's too late.

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