Here’s how the Bulls can deliver a strong finish to season

The last time the Bulls took the court, they played well against the second-place team in the East but lost a close one in Cleveland.

After a week off for the all-star break, they'll take on the top team in the East on Thursday when Boston makes its first visit to the United Center this season.

The Bulls will be short-handed. They lost forward Torrey Craig for 2-4 weeks after he suffered a right knee sprain over the weekend. Patrick Williams will be out at least a couple more weeks with a foot injury.

To repeat a point that's been hammered in this space a few dozen times, the ending of this season is irrelevant. Play-in, playoff or neither, the Bulls can still build a better team for next season with some smart moves.

That said, here's a checklist the Bulls could follow to make the most of the final 27 games. Granted, the most important task is getting Zach LaVine in a position where they can trade him, but that's on hold until the fall, with LaVine recovering from foot surgery.

Coby in crunch time

DeMar DeRozan is still really good in fourth quarters, and things seem to be trending toward the Bulls re-signing DeRozan for at least two more years. But it's time to give White some late-game experience.

White gave it a shot in the Cleveland game and threw a pass off Nikola Vucevic's hands for a turnover while trailing by a point. Not really anyone's fault, but they didn't score. Let White keep trying, and if he chooses a pass to DeRozan, that's fine.

White's improvement this season is a huge win for the Bulls. As long as they're missing Williams and Craig, Ayo Dosunmu should also be playing most of the important minutes.

Improve the defense

When this season flipped on Nov. 30 — the day LaVine left the lineup with a foot injury and White took over more of a lead role — the Bulls made some nice strides defensively.

From Nov. 30 to Dec. 31, they ranked seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. From the start of the season through Nov. 28, they were 22nd. It looked like the Bulls might be on the road to repeating last year's defensive improvement, when they ranked No. 1 from Jan. 1 to the end of the season.

But the defensive strength didn't last. The Bulls fell to 11th in January, 22nd in February. Not having Williams hurts, since they've had to play with undersized lineups for much of the time. So the fix won't be easy.

Force-feed forwards

Yes, the roster is short-handed, but coach Billy Donovan should still cut back the minutes for White and DeRozan. This is a great chance to get Dalen Terry and rookie Julian Phillips some minutes, at least 20 a game.

One of the most important pieces to roster building in today's NBA is player development. So either play Phillips or send him to Hoffman Estates. In a small sample size, he's been one of the Bulls' better defenders.

Try something new

With Williams and Craig both sidelined, the Bulls could move Terry Taylor into the rotation or give two-way center Adama Sanogo some minutes.

Keep in mind, the Bulls have an open roster spot, so they could sign someone to a 10-day contract. Here's a suggestion: 6-9 center-forward Chimezie Metu, who was just traded from Phoenix to Memphis and waived.

The Bulls might need new backup bigs next year and Metu is a USC product, so he'd fit right in. Now, if Metu was a perfect player, he wouldn't be sitting at home. But last year in 66 games for Sacramento, he averaged 16.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes. Worth a shot for 10 days.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.