Markkanen at center could help Bulls thin crowd at power forward

Updated 9/27/2017 7:24 PM

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg hasn't gotten very far toward trying to pick a starting lineup for opening night. On media day, he placed Robin Lopez at center and said the rest of the spots were yet to be determined.

It may not be too difficult. Newcomer Kris Dunn is a heavy favorite to start at point guard. The Bulls will be low on wings until Zach LaVine returns from a knee injury, so Justin Holiday seems very likely to start at shooting guard, with probably either Paul Zipser or Denzel Valentine at small forward.

The toughest spot to figure out is power forward, where the Bulls will want to get rookie Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic some minutes. There was talked Wednesday about playing Markkanen at center sometimes to help spread the playing time.

"We've been trying to teach Lauri both positions," Hoiberg said at the Advocate Center. "With Lauri being busy with the EuroBasket stuff this summer, he's been behind from where a lot of guys are. He's a smart kid, he'll pick up things quickly."

Matchups might determine the answer on a given night. If any of the three power forwards can handle the defensive assignment at center, Hoiberg might try to create a mismatch since he has several big men who can shoot from the outside.

"An underrated part of (Markkanen's) game is his ability to put the ballon the floor and go around bigger guys," Hoiberg said. "That's where you can get him in some spot minutes at the 5, take advantage of that quickness."

For his part, Markkanen said he'd be willing to play whatever position he's asked.

Dunn makes his point:

Kris Dunn should have a great opportunity to get some experience running a team at point guard. Last year as a rookie with Minnesota, Dunn couldn't beat out starter Ricky Rubio and ended up playing limited minutes.

With Cameron Payne sidelined by foot surgery, Dunn and Jerian Grant are basically the only options at point guard and Grant has played shooting guard at times.

Dunn left summer league after just one game for family reasons, but coach Fred Hoiberg said he's been around since the trade happened on draft night.

"You can see his confidence growing as we go along," Hoiberg said. "That's what you have to have when you are playing that lead guard spot. You have to be a confident basketball player, get us into an offense, get us into a defense. He's been coming along in that area; I'm excited about Kris. He's got the physical tools to be an excellent player at this level."

More praise for Wade:

The breakup of Dwyane Wade and the Bulls has been all smiles so far and coach Fred Hoiberg continued that trend in his farewell message.

"First of all, I'm excited for Dwyane to get the opportunity to go compete for a championship again," Hoiberg said. "I think it's great for the Cavs. He's going to an established situation, he's obviously going to play with a guy that he has great chemistry with and won championships with in LeBron (James). I'm excited for Dwyane's opportunity.

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