Paris helps prove Bulls' Big Three can thrive together after all

What's next for the Bulls now that they've left Paris? A playoff push, lottery dreams, another fun outdoor team photo in front of Buckingham Fountain?

Recent trends are positive regarding the Big Three. During the past 14 games, Bulls players have produced 11 scoring games above 30 points, eight at about 35 points and five above 40.

All but one of those performances belong to Zach LaVine or DeMar DeRozan. Nikola Vucevic tossed in a career-high matching 43 points against Golden State. To his credit, Vucevic also has 10 straight games with double-digit rebounds.

In other words, the Bulls are starting to resemble a team with three all-stars, sort of what Arturtas Karnisovas had in mind when he rebuilt the Great Rebuild.

Next comes the obvious question: With this much star power, why are the Bulls below .500 and fighting to make the play-in tournament?

The Bulls seem to have disproved one popular theory that the pieces don't fit. Maybe it's because he's feeling healthier, but LaVine really can thrive next to DeRozan. And if everyone keeps feeding Vucevic, good things can happen to the offense.

When considering some of the better Big Threes in NBA history, the Bulls bear a vague resemblance to Boston's 2007-08 championship trio.

DeRozan is a high-scoring wing like Paul Pierce, LaVine is starting to embrace 3-point shooting like Ray Allen, and Vucevic is a reliable inside scorer similar to Kevin Garnett.

The most obvious difference is Garnett served as the defensive anchor of that team, something Vucevic doesn't do. But squint a little bit at the Bulls lineup and you might see a slight resemblance.

Two problems have been holding back the Bulls: Their three stars haven't always functioned well together, and they're counting on too many young players to fill in the gaps.

There's no reason the Bulls all-star trio can't build on their recent success. Every game should feature one of two outcomes - a star has a huge game or all three thrive together.

The game in Paris was one of the best examples, with LaVine, DeRozan and Vucevic combining for 72 points, 29 rebounds and 15 assists in the win over the Pistons.

The Bulls would probably be better off with a true point guard like Lonzo Ball holding it all together, but the current upswing suggests they're starting to figure it out on their own.

"It's getting close to all-star break, so we need to start picking up and playing like the team we're supposed to," LaVine said after the game. "I think these last couple wins, we've been showing the right way we've been playing, sharing the ball. With DeMar coming back, now we're healthy again. Keep it rolling, keep playing the right way and take every game as a challenge."

Another recent trend has been better contributions from the supporting cast. Maybe three or four in double-figures is the winning formula?

That's subject to change, of course, but against the Pistons it was Ayo Dosunmu, Derrick Jones Jr., Coby White and Patrick Williams scoring at least 10 points. Before that against Golden State, it was White, Alex Caruso, Williams and Dosunmu.

But that's obviously been another problem. The ideal complement to a three-star system is a couple of veteran role players who can do the dirty work.

The Bulls are still dealing with plenty of Lauri Markkanen Syndrome, the sad reality that one-and-done college players may need five years and three different teams before they're ready to succeed.

No one would recommend Williams model his game after Kendrick Perkins, who started 78 games for that Celtics team at age 23. But Williams could contribute more when it comes to rebounds, blocked shots, help defense. In fact, everyone on the Bulls could use a few more hustle points, besides maybe Caruso, who has 11 steals in the last three games.

The Bulls have demonstrated this lineup can work. If they go back to yelling at each other on the court about missed defensive assignments, we'll know they've taken another wrong turn.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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During the past few weeks, the Bulls have specialized in high-scoring performances. Zach LaVine, above, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic and finally starting to thrive together. So can the Bulls turn that into more team success post-Paris? Associated Press
During the past few weeks, the Bulls have specialized in high-scoring performances. Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, above and finally starting to thrive together. So can the Bulls turn that into more team success post-Paris? Associated Press
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