A closer look at three of the Bulls' many issues

  • Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen blocks a pass meant for Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris during the first half of the game Saturday at United Center.

    Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen blocks a pass meant for Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris during the first half of the game Saturday at United Center. Associated Press

Updated 11/17/2019 7:10 PM

The Bulls took the day off and have three home games coming up in the next five days, so this is a good time for some Sunday thoughts.

• What's wrong with Lauri Markkanen has been one of the prevailing questions. Readers of this paper were warned not to get too excited about his 35 and 17 game on opening night, since he had a huge size advantage against Charlotte defenders P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges.


I went back and watched some Markkanen highlights from his good stretch last season. That lasted roughly from Jan. 27 to Mar. 5, a 16-game stretch where he averaged 23.6 points and 13.0 rebounds, which are elite numbers if done over a full season.

There isn't a huge difference in what Markkanen was doing back then. He averaged 6.9 attempts from 3-point range, compared to 6.0 this season.

Sometimes there's confusion about Markkanen being a great long-range shooter. He's not. He shot 34.5 percent from 3 during his killer 16-game stretch, but has dropped to 28.2 percent this season. He's at 35.4 percent for his NBA career from 3.

Last year, Markkanen scored most of his points either from the 3-point line, or by faking the shot and driving inside. He'd take a couple of midrange fadeaways, typically. One thing missing this year is putback baskets. During his hot streak, Markkanen averaged 3.4 second-chance points per game. This season, he's at 1.5.

And Markkanen looked like he was moving better and played with more confidence last season. That has me wondering if that oblique injury is really bothering him. There are times when it looks like he's avoiding contact.

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Maybe he needs a few days off. That would give the Bulls a chance to see how Thad Young operates with the starting lineup, although the Bulls are already thin inside. And Markkanen's oblique injury happened in the sixth game of the season, after his slow start was well under way. So rest isn't a foolproof solution.

• Not sure we've seen anything quite like Coby White's first 13 games in the NBA. His big fourth quarter against the Knicks last week electrified fans at the United Center, and on Saturday, there was a buzz every time he touched the ball or looked at the rim.

But so far, he's been the ultimate feast or famine player. He's either setting records or missing everything.

During the fourth quarter against New York, followed by the first half at Milwaukee -- three consecutive quarters -- White hit 12 of 16 3-pointers

Hitting 12 3-pointers in a game would qualify as the third-best performance in NBA history. The record was set in Chicago last season by Klay Thompson, who went 14-for-24.


So White is something special, right? Well, maybe -- except if you take away that 12-for-16, White has shot 14.5 percent from 3-point range since the third game of the season, 8 for 55.

Will the White heroics start happening more frequently? Who knows? There weren't any on Saturday when the Bulls lost to Brooklyn.

One bright spot with White is he's pretty good defensively. He ranks third on the team in both plus-minus and net rating, behind Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter.

• Zach LaVine expressed some frustration after Saturday's game with the Bulls offense, which looks good at times, can get really stagnant at times, and hasn't featured a lot of accurate 3-point shooting.

But LaVine's comments also explain a story line of the season. The Bulls have a new system, two new assistant coaches who brought ideas from 3-point heavy teams Brooklyn and Houston, and some new players.

There's been a big learning curve so far, probably greater than anyone on the Bulls' expected. So while this team has plenty of issues, there is time to figure it out. The Bulls are 4-9 and as of Saturday, a 5-7 record was good enough to tie for eighth place in the East.

The newcomers haven't fit in very well, and that includes last year's acquisition Porter, who is out with a foot sprain. Tomas Satoransky hasn't made much of a splash and often ends up relinquishing playing time to Kris Dunn or Ryan Arcidiacono when coach Jim Boylen wants keep the energy level high.

Luke Kornet doesn't have the speed to stay on the floor and was dropped from the rotation in the last three games. Young has been fine, but he plays the same position as Markkanen, which makes it tough to get him on the floor in crunchtime. Boylen can use Markkanen at center, but then that takes away Carter, who has easily been the Bulls' best player so far.

Improvement may never arrive with this group, but it is definitely a work in progress.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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