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Zach LaVine was a weapon in Charlotte, but the Bulls defense kept shooting themselves in the foot

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another poor showing for the Bulls

Chicago Bulls v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It was more of the same on Monday as the Bulls continued to show little to no resistance on the defensive side of the ball in a 110-104 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets lead shrunk during garbage time, but this one was never close when it mattered. Isolating poor defenders and exposing their weaknesses for easy points, the Hornets led by as many as 23 points deep in the third quarter.

We knew defense was going to be a problem after the roster was assembled, and it’s proving to be true with each passing game. After giving up 116 points in both the win against the Pelicans and loss to the Bucks, allowing only 110 points to the Hornets can be parsed as an improvement (maybe?). Ok, probably not. In each game so far they’ve allowed 60 in the first half.

It’s going to be a long season for all — including us bloggers — if things don’t change defensively. Until then, all we can do is focus on the individuals. Let’s start with the new recruit.

Jabari Parker

He even admitted himself he wasn’t here for defense. But if he was brought here to score, we’ve yet to see it.

Following up a horror 1-for-12 shooting performance against his former team, Parker wasn’t much better against the Hornets, making only 3-of-10. Through three preseason games: 8.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 24.3 and 14.3 field goal and three-point percentage.

“It’s still early”, I often mutter to myself. Still, it’s hard not to question the purpose of the Parker signing. He was brought here to score, but hasn’t. Making matters worse, the effort simply isn’t there — this is concerning given Parker is effectively playing on a one-year, make-good deal.

Case in point, this lacklustre attempt at corralling pick-and-roll. Against Cody Zeller, a big man who is far more likely to roll than pop out for a jump shot, how do you give up such a wide open lane for an easy dunk?

Parker actually hustled harder to inbound the ball than moving to the rim-running offensive player. To be fair, he wasn’t the only player who missed an assignment on this possession — why is the ball-handler allowed easy access to the middle, and where is the help?

What makes this performance even less palatable is when you realize Parker is giving up these easy buckets at the point of attack in his preferred position of power forward.

Parker isn’t the sole reason for a porous defense, so it’s somewhat unfair to highlight only his shortcomings. But with examples this obvious, for a player who’s addition made little sense at the time, it’s hard not to take notice.

Zach LaVine

Heading into the new season, LaVine and Parker shared many similarities: A new, inflated deal, recovering from serious knee injuries, and understanding their worth in a new offensive hierarchy. And of course a poor defensive reputation.

But where Parker has struggled on both ends of the floor, LaVine has at least shown he’s serious about remodeling his offensive game.

The inefficient midrange two-pointers have morphed into strong, attacking attempts at the basket.

Using his speed and vertically athleticism, there have been more easy scores in transition.

But most importantly, the jump shot off screens continues to be a serious weapon.

After leaving the Bucks game with a right thigh contusion, LaVine showed no signs of carrying an injury, scoring 26 points on 9-for-15 shooting in 24 minutes.

His new offensive mindset has been the biggest takeaway from the opening three games of preseason. Assuming this intent holds true into the regular season, even with his still glaring defensive issues, the concerns over his big-money contract will dissipate.

Bobby Portis

Along with LaVine, Portis lead the Bulls in shooting, knocking down 60 percent of shots, scoring 17 points and pulling down 8 rebounds.

Portis has been the most consistent Bull thus far through preseason. Through three games, Portis is posting 18.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, hitting 52.3 percent of his shots. We know he can get you numbers, and can do so quickly. As a volume scorer from the bench, it’s notable that Portis is doing all of this in 23.9 minutes per game.

Heading into the final year of his rookie and extension talks still a possibility, if he continues to perform at this rate, it won’t be just his box score numbers that continue to climb but a dollar figure as well.

Minor Notes

  • This may sound like hyperbole, but it isn’t: Wendell Carter Jr. is the best passer on this team. Monday night he had five assists in only 19 minutes of play.
  • The Bulls have a point guard problem. This is an obvious statement, but was reinforced when Kris Dunn only played 25 minutes due to foul trouble and still accumulated 6 turnovers (Bulls had a turnover percentage of 16.6% last night).

Put simply, Cameron Payne isn’t the solution behind Dunn: last night in 23 minutes he accumulated 3 points and 0 assists, overall this preseason he has a TS% barely over 30% and hasn’t attempted a free throw in 63 minutes. Those backing up Payne aren’t even NBA-caliber.

  • After a very quiet game in Milwaukee, it was notable to see Chandler Hutchison collecting eight boards in 25 minutes off the bench. He also did a good job initiating transition offense, and earned a couple trips to the line - his specialty at Boise St. - though he shot 0-3 from the charity stripe.