Sad reality is Bulls are not built to win

  • Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, center, is pressured by Chicago Bulls' Thaddeus Young, left, and Wendell Carter Jr. during the first half Monday at the United Center.

    Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, center, is pressured by Chicago Bulls' Thaddeus Young, left, and Wendell Carter Jr. during the first half Monday at the United Center. Associated Press

Updated 11/19/2019 6:36 PM

The Bulls are doing this all wrong.

The complete history of NBA basketball has proved that a team cannot win without veterans on the floor. Yet here were the Bulls on Monday night trying to beat the Milwaukee Bucks, the team with the league's best record last season, with a closing lineup of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Coby White and Ryan Arcidiacono.


It turned out about as well as expected. The Bucks outscored the Bulls 17-2 over the final 6:21 and won by 14.

Let's quickly review the easy guide to whether you're an improved NBA team: Did you take the game to the final possession with a chance to win? Then the answer could be yes. Did you lead in the fourth quarter and get steamrollered when the opponent decided to take the game seriously? Then no.

So forget about whether LaVine should shoot more midrange jumpers, whether the Bulls should run more pick-and-roll. Film study and practice reps aren't going to put this team over the top. They need a couple of experienced guys on the floor who can teach the young guys how to win.

There are no exceptions to his rule. Even the extremely young Bulls team that made the playoffs in 2004-05 had Antonio Davis and Adrian Griffin to lean on.

The best thing for LaVine right now is not a deeper analytical dive into his shot chart. He needs a chance to be the second-best player on the court for a while. LaVine is a talented player, but the best team he's played for in the NBA is the 31-51 Minnesota Timberwolves.

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He doesn't know how to win games and it shows. Between careless turnovers, inattentive defense, not boxing out, forcing tough shots -- he often doesn't do enough good things to outweigh the bad. And it's not his fault. He needs an apprenticeship in "How to win at NBA basketball."

LaVine is the focal point because he's the team leading scorer, but the same could be said about Markkanen, White and just about everyone else on the roster. After Markkanen's hot stretch last season, opposing teams decided to get more physical with him and it's been a tough adjustment. White had his shot going late in Monday's game, but couldn't escape the defensive attention often enough.

The problem is there aren't any solutions right now. Thaddeus Young was brought in to be a veteran presence, but if he plays in the fourth quarter, either Markkanen or Carter has to sit. Otto Porter could probably help, but so far he's been the same inconsistent, injury-prone player he was in Washington.

Point guard Tomas Satoransky was supposed to help guide the offense. He's done some things well, but he and LaVine might be the NBA's worst defensive backcourt. That's why coach Jim Boylen has been using Arcidiacono to close games lately, because he's one of the best defensive players in the rotation.


At some point, the Bulls need to settle on the two or three young guys they want to build around and trade the others, with the intent of getting a mix of youth and experience. Until they can do that, they won't be a serious playoff contender. Too bad they already declared a goal of making the playoffs this season.

I posed this question to Boylen on Tuesday at the Advocate Center, even though the answer was obvious. Really, what else can he say?

"I'm just going to keep coaching them and helping them and supporting them and we've had moments where we've figured it out and done well and moments where we haven't," Boylen said. "New York we had some moments where we figured it out. Detroit we figured it out, made some shots and won those two games at home. That's the kind of stuff we've got to have."

Good enough to beat the Knicks and a Detroit team that was missing two starters. That's an accurate assessment of where the Bulls are right now.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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