Bulls’ frontcourt players feel the depth is just fine

Projected starting power forward Patrick Williams is on the mend from an ankle sprain, but even if he isn’t healthy to start the season, his teammates feel there’s more than enough help at the position.

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Bulls coach Billy Donovan isn’t going to overthink the vacancy left at power forward in the wake of Patrick Williams’ ankle injury last month.

Derrick Jones Jr., Alize Johnson and Stanley Johnson are all candidates to fill the spot over the next few weeks, with Donovan looking not as much at individual skills but at who can help the Bulls work best as a unit.

“I don’t know if I would necessarily look at it as a defensive-minded [player] or offensive-minded,” Donovan said. “I think the biggest thing is how well would somebody in that spot — if Patrick is out for a while — how does the group function well together? How do they function on defense? How do they function on offense? Because you can say we want to get a guy that’s a defensive stopper, but then all of a sudden it’s maybe not a great fit as far as spacing offensively, right?

“They are all going to have to learn to play, so I think that player you’re talking about has to be good on both ends.”

That seems to point toward Jones and Alize Johnson getting the first cracks Tuesday when the Bulls host the Cavaliers in the preseason opener.

Jones is a solid defender and wing who can run the floor and operate above the rim, while Alize Johnson has impressed Donovan with what the coach calls an “unbelievable motor.”

“High energy,” Donovan said. “He’s gonna offensive rebound. He’s always in the middle of something. If there’s a loose ball, if there’s a scrum, if a ball goes up, he’s always involved.”

Williams, meanwhile, is working out on the court and has been testing his sprained ankle more and more. Even when he can return to full activity, the Bulls will need Jones and Alize Johnson to play well, whether they’re starting or not. They lack depth at forward, although Alize Johnson suggested otherwise.

“I think we have a great group of guys at the position,” he said. “Any one of us can play out there.”

Pumping the brakes

Donovan said rookie Ayo Dosunmu, the former Morgan Park and Illinois standout, will get minutes at both guard spots in the preseason. The key for Dosunmu to learn the point is to keep asking questions of the veterans. He has been leaning on Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso but also just needs the hands-on experience to grow his awareness.

“He’s really an aggressive player,” Donovan said. “I think that’s probably the hardest thing in the NBA at the point guard position — you’ve got to be able to read and manage what’s going on. Like, it’s OK to be aggressive, but if Zach LaVine’s made three threes in a row, you have to have awareness of that. If Nikola Vucevic] has just scored two or three points, you have to have an awareness of that.

“He’s just got this mind, he’s just in attack mode, which I love. But he’ll learn some of those other things.” 

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