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Bulls vs. Hawks takeways: a rotation tweak made a big difference

bye Luke

Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As good as it is to see the Bulls finally record another victory after an impressive 20-point blowout win against the Atlanta Hawks, some caution is required with any optimism. Beating a rebuilding rival is always a good thing, but this was never going to be a fair contest.

Like the Bulls, the Hawks were on a back-to-back and were also without forward John Collins, who recently was suspended for 25 games for testing positive to a banned substance. Losing Collins and replacing him in the lineup with former Bull Jabari Parker ensured it would be a ‘double-loss.’ Trapping Trae Young is a much simpler task when he’s without his pick-and-roll partner. There was no risk posed from rookies DeAndre Hunter and Cameron Reddish.

Still, there were reassuring positives: Tomas Satoransky had his best game as a Bull, coming close to a triple-double with 27 points (10-of-13 shooting), eight assists and seven rebounds. Lauri Markkanen have a positive game. Zach LaVine even played some defense!

More than anything, though, this game was about Jim Boylen righting the wrongs from the debacle against the Lakers. So let’s track some of the key changes he made.

Boylen was hammered for running — and not adjusting — his all bench units. That changed somewhat against the Hawks. Opting to leave Markkanen and LaVine in for much of the first quarter, the coach ensured his reserves would be paired with at least one starter. Shortening the rotation inevitably aided this, too.

Bigs rotation

Despite telling us his job as coach is to develop all 15 players on the roster, Boylen wisely contradicted himself by limiting his rotation to nine players, shelving Luke Kornet. Credit to the coach, Kornet needed to sit. And Thad Young also needed more minutes — only playing the veteran forward 17 minutes against the Lakers was perplexing.

Canning Kornet leaves the Bulls with a 3-man rotation up front, one which will inevitably be relying more on Markkanen at center, something the team has routinely discussed. It remains to be seen if this will help lift the Bulls from the bottom of the rebounding standings, but against a small Hawks frontline, the Bulls were easily able to apply this change.

Sliding Markkanen up to center will only occur when Wendell Carter sits, something which Boylen seems adamant in doing very early to use Carter’s minutes more with the second unit. This bothers me: the Bulls should be pairing Markkanen and Carter for as long as possible, but if one of these young bigs needs to spend more time with the reserves, it should be Markkanen.

The reasons:

  1. Staggering the minutes of LaVine and Markkanen ensures one of the Bulls’ best offensive players remains on the floor at all times and, more importantly, is forced into acting as the unquestioned focal point of their respective 5-man unit.
  2. The Bulls need more balance in their lineups — there isn’t much offensive upside in a group featuring Carter and Young up front with Kris Dunn, Coby White and Chandler Hutchison out there, too.
  3. Carter and LaVine have established a solid connection in basic pick-and-roll sets, dating back to the start of last season when Markkanen and Dunn we’re out injured.
  4. We’ve also witnessed Markkanen and Dunn play well together during LaVine’s recovery from a knee injury in 2017.

Backup Wings

Back for his second game of the season, Chandler Hutchison clearly surpassed Ryan Arcidiacono in the rotation. For now, at least, the 3-guard lineups that were leaking points have been shelved in favour of Hutchison’s athleticism and rebounding on the perimeter, two traits this rotation desperately needs.

But what is dead may never die, and so those infamous 3-guard lineups reared its head once more. This adjustment was forced upon Boylen due to Otto Porter suffering a foot contusion that would keep him from appearing in the second half. Here’s hoping Porter is good to go against the Houston Rockets on Saturday. But it did mean the Bulls closed the first half with Arcidiacono on the floor with LaVine and Satoransky, something that warmed the heart of this blogger.

non-coaching takeaway: Carter-gate

Full disclosure: Wendell Carter is my favourite Bull on this roster by a significant margin. It was only yesterday that I wrote this hype piece on the Bulls center.

I couldn’t even go a day without this coming back to bite me.

I’m angry, folks. Mostly because I look like a dumbass, but also because of an injustice that is blatantly occurring in plain sight. And in this irrational state of mind, naturally, I’m deflecting all blame away from our beautiful Wendell (and myself) and lumping it entirely on every referee, past, present and future.

Sure, that may seem harsh and a little misguided, but in the instance of Carter routinely drawing fouls that hold him out of games — as was the case against the Hawks — it’s me who is crying foul, and I’m entirely justified.

[puts on tin-foil hat]

Don’t believe me? Well, like any good conspiracy theorist, I’ve got the tape to unequivocally prove my stance. As I’m sure you’ll agree, most — if not all — of the fouls called on Carter were a complete farce.

Truly, how are rookies DeAndre Hunter and Cameron Reddish receiving a favourable whistle on these calls?

This madness needs to end, and I won’t stop exposing the truth it until it does.