If an afternoon game against the Cleveland Cavaliers wasn’t enough to stimulate the senses, can I entice you into a sure-to-be epic against the Atlanta Hawks?
How about the potential of winning consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 23?
Ok, the appeal of this game is quite limited; two losing teams ‘battling’ it out for their position within the bottom five records in the league is a tough draw.
But looking at the Atlanta Hawks, and measuring the progress of their rebuild against that of the Bulls is somewhat interesting.
Just as the Bulls decided to set the foundation of their reboot around Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, the Hawks have handed over the keys of the offense to guards Trae Young and Kevin Huerter — both selected in the 2018 draft — and sophomore forward John Collins. They’ve also accumulated additional future picks when tearing down their 60-win team from a few years ago.
After starting the season slowly, and with rare veteran Kent Bazermore out of action, the Hawks’ trio has found their beat since the new year. Young in particular making a legitimate leap, averaging 17.8 points and 6.5 assists in 2019. Through that time, he’s been well supported by Collins (19 points on 58.6 percent shooting) and Huerter (15.1 points on 42.2 percent shooting). Huerter is questionable for tonight’s game.
How the Hawks core matches up against the young Bulls will ultimately determine the outcome of the game. It will start at point guard, with Dunn being tasked in chasing Young through and around screens while LaVine and Markkanen check Huerter and Collins.
It’s shame rookie center Wendell Carter will miss this game for the Bulls, as his presence would’ve only added to the youth movement taking part in this game. In his stead, Robin Lopez will start at center, with Bobby Portis and Jabari to fill in as backup forwards.
While we gauge individual matchups between recent draft picks, the style of play both teams employ will also be of interest.
Unlike the Bulls, the Hawks have adopted a modernised offensive approach under coach Lloyd Pierce, leading the league in pace and ranking seventh in percentage of field goals taken from the three-point line – compared to Chicago, who rank 24th and 26th in both metrics, respectively, it’s a notable shift in methodologies.
In their first meeting earlier in the season, the Bulls – who were still being coach by Fred Hoiberg at the time – were able to limit the Hawks to 30 percent shooting from three (though they did allow 40 attempts). This largely decided the result of the game, a Bulls win.
To win again, the Bulls must control their opponents attempts and conversion from three, something that wasn’t the case on the most recent West Coast road trip, where coach Jim Boylen informed his players to go under screens and allow three-point shots instead of paint scores.
Hopefully a similar game plan isn’t used against the Hawks – as it foolishly was against the Nuggets – otherwise the Bulls may be gifting the Hawks an opportunity to level the season series, and ruining their own perfect record against fellow-terrible teams.
Matchup: Chicago Bulls (11-36) versus Atlanta Hawks (14-32)
GameTime: 7pm (CST)
Channel: NBC Sports Chicago