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The Bulls have been using a lot of 3-guard lineups

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how often have they been utilized and have they been successful?

2019-20 Chicago Bulls Media Day Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images

Ten guys in head coach Jim Boylen’s circle of trust and a position one-man deep on the depth chart has made three-guard lineups a necessity for the Chicago Bulls this season.

In today’s run, run, run, multiple ball handlers world of NBA basketball, this isn’t super-duper unusual.

Not that this should be surprising, but for the purposes of this exercise, Tomas Satoransky, Coby White, Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono, Zach LaVine, Shaquille Harrison, and Denzel Valentine are considered guards.

How often have the Bulls used three-guard lineups?

A lot.

Here’s the breakdown, with all stats coming from game flows.

In the season opener against the Charlotte Hornets, the Bulls played three-guard lineups for 20:19 of gametime. That has been the low mark of this young season. Against the Memphis Grizzlies, the three-guard lineup playing time number shot up to 35:11. In the ugly loss against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night, three-guard lineups occupied the floor for 28:27 of gametime.

The Bulls have played three full (no overtime) games of basketball this season. That’s 144 minutes of basketball. The Bulls have played three-guard lineups in 83.95 of those minutes, which is 58 percent of the total minutes.

Have they been successful?


Three-guard lineups are a combined minus-19 this year in terms of point differential (added the point differential for each lineup on to figure this out). To be fair, the Bulls have a minus-17 point differential for the season, so it’s not like the three-guard lineups are faring much worse than the team as a whole.

Two of the Bulls’ three most-used five-man lineups so far this year include three guards.

In 15 minutes, the quintet of Thaddeus Young, Wendell Carter Jr., White, Dunn, and Arcidiacono have a minus-9.1 net rating.

In nine minutes, the quintet of LaVine, Dunn, White, Lauri Markkanen, and Carter Jr. have an astoundingly bad minus-14.6 net rating with a defensive rating of 126.3.

One of the reasons for these struggles is that these three-guard lineups create some bad matchups defensively. A specific example of this from the lineup mentioned above, happened in the fourth quarter of the game against the Grizzlies:

The highlight doesn’t start at the beginning of the possession, so we don’t know why both White and LaVine end up on Dillon Brooks, leaving Jae Crowder open.

However, it’s White who ultimately runs out to check Crowder, which isn’t a great matchup. LaVine is a poor defender and you normally don’t want him guarding 3s either. The Bulls end up in scenarios like this where guys have to guard up a position defensively and opponents can create these favorable matchups without even running actions to force a switch.

But, do the Bulls have a choice?

Not really.

The Bulls did a lot of good things this offseason in terms of adding pieces to their roster. One area they neglected, however, was the small forward position.

Otto Porter Jr. is the only healthy, non-two-way contract small forward on the roster. Even when Chandler Hutchison returns, it’s not like he’s going to come in and play 35 minutes a game, so the three-guard lineups will still be frequently utilized.

Whether it’s via the trade deadline, giving a two-way player a chance, or through free agency next summer, beefing up the depth chart at the small forward position is a glaring need that must be addressed.