Bulls need to take a look in the mirror and make some tweaks
While it’s easy to get caught up in slamming the panic button down after Wednesday’s performance in New Orleans, it’s way too early in the season to turn the Advocate Center into a demolition site. That doesn’t mean some in-house changes can’t be made.
There are plenty of opinions floating around about how to fix the 6-9 Bulls. The problem is that most of them are unrealistic and involve blowing the team up.
With 67 games left in the regular season, it’s an overreaction to want to turn the Advocate Center into a demolition site this soon. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t in-house tweaks the Bulls should explore as they prepare to face the Magic on Friday night at the United Center.
1. Greener pastures
The current starting lineup — Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu — isn’t working. Later in games, maybe, but not to start games. Entering Thursday, the Bulls ranked 22nd in the NBA in first-quarter scoring with 27.7 points per game. In the last three games — all losses — they’ve averaged 23.3 points.
Look at the plus-minus totals for each of the five starters. LaVine’s minus-18 is the best, and most of that has come with coach Billy Donovan staggering him with the second unit. DeRozan is a minus-51, Vucevic a minus-52, Williams a minus-88 and Dosunmu a team-worst minus-92.
Donovan isn’t benching any of his Big Three, so that means Williams or Dosunmu (or both) needs to be bumped to the bench.
Who moves into the starting lineup? That’s where it gets tricky. Veteran guard Goran Dragic has the best plus-minus on the team (plus-66) but is statistically the worst defender. Alex Caruso and Javonte Green are the two best defenders, but at 6-5 each, they’d make the starting group small. If Donovan fixes one thing, it hurts somewhere else.
The most logical move would be to go with Green as a starter over Williams because of the energy he seems to bring to his teammates. Former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau used guard/forward Keith Bogans as an igniter with his 2010-11 team, and Green might have the same impact. At this point, it’s about function, not talent.
2. All eyes on Ayo
Dosunmu is in a tough spot, admittedly struggling to adjust as opponents game-plan for him in his second season. Simply starting Dragic in his place would hurt a defense that’s already shaky and would put heavier minutes on a 36-year-old veteran. But Donovan has shown lately that he’ll close games with Dragic, and that has to continue. Dragic is shooting 44.4% from three-point range in the fourth quarter this season, while Dosunmu is just 1-for-9 (11.1%)
Dosunmu has been a great story since he was drafted in the second round in 2021, but until he starts getting a better grasp of the moment, he needs to sit late in games.
3. Don’t wait until February
The Bulls arguably had one of the tougher schedules to start the season and are still without Lonzo Ball (left knee), whose presence wouldn’t fix everything even if he returned sooner rather than later. It’s too early to start making calls around the league, but hopefully Arturas Karnisovas, executive vice president of basketball operations, isn’t still married to “continuity” being the way forward. Front offices often are in love with their rosters until it’s too late. If the trade deadline comes and goes without a major move, Karnisovas might find out how much that love hurts.