Chicago Bulls showing issues that could be tough to fix
Remember before the season started, we talked about how the Chicago Bulls could go in either direction?
Well, three games into the campaign, there are discouraging signs.
That's not to suggest there's no hope. Zach LaVine still has all-star potential. Coby White looks like he'll be a very good player. The team chemistry and execution is bound to improve.
But here are some concerns: The Bulls wanted to play fast this season and their front line looks really slow. They wanted to shoot a lot of 3-pointers and are connecting at a 28-percent clip.
The shooting might improve. The lack of athleticism on the roster will be a tough fix. How many years ago did Gar Forman say the Bulls wanted to become younger and more athletic? The first part was accomplished.
Coach Jim Boylen talks a lot about Otto Porter Jr.'s positional size, but it has made him a poor fit at small forward. After arriving in a trade from Washington last season, there was a stretch of about 10 games where Porter seemed to be exactly what the Bulls needed.
Like several guys last season, he checked out early. Now the Bulls are waiting for him to check into this season. In three games, Porter has averaged 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds, while shooting 26 percent.
Porter's performance, along with a minutes restriction, leads to questions ranging from "is he healthy?" to "does he even like basketball?"
Porter lost 50-50 rebound battles to 6-foot-1 Terry Rozier and 6-4 Grayson Allen last week.
The front line of Porter, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. has struggled to compete.
When Thaddeus Young and Luke Kornet check in off the bench, the Bulls don't get any quicker, but at least Young works hard. Chandler Hutchison should be back from a hamstring injury at some point, but there's no guarantee he'll make a difference.
Charlotte attacked Kornet defensively with screen-and-rolls as soon as he checked into Wednesday's game, and Boylen basically didn't play him in the second half. The Bulls need Kornet to hit 3s; so far he's 2-for-9.
Not to bombard you with bad news, but has anyone noticed that Benet Academy's Frank Kaminsky -- he's the nephew of Bulls assistant coach Karen Stack, for crying out loud -- is averaging 15.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in Phoenix? And the Suns beat the Clippers late Saturday.
The jury is out on Lauri Markkanen's third season. He piled up 35 points and 17 rebounds when the Hornets used a 6-7 power forward to guard him. It was a much different story against Memphis' Jaren Jackson Jr. and Toronto's Pascal Siakam. He scored 18 points, with 18 rebounds, in those two games combined.
Point guard Tomas Satoransky has been OK. He's not the best defender, but he sets a good tone for the offense by moving the ball and trying to make plays for teammates. Boylen has ridden the three-guard second unit of White. Kris Dunn and Ryan Arcidiacono frequently because the Bulls have been desperate for both a spark and more speed.
The only thing Boylen can do is stay positive, and he accomplished that goal after Saturday's lopsided loss to Toronto. For the remainder of Bulls history, they'll always be able to point to the 2004-05 team that went from an 0-9 start to homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs as proof that anything is possible.
"I feel like we've had a lot of good looks (from 3-point range)," Boylen said after Saturday's loss. "We forced 23 turnovers, which I think is good. That's something we've been doing. We can build on that. We had 12 offensive rebounds. There's a lot of things that we're doing that we worked on and we talked about. Mentally and physically we have to compete for longer stretches and we have to be tougher."
As the season progresses, the Bulls might still feel good about the star potential of LaVine, Markkanen and White. The fact that they owe Porter, Young, Satoransky and Cristiano Felicio a combined $59.5 million next season could limit their ability to fix this roster.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls
Bulls game dayBulls vs. New York Knicks, 6 p.m. Monday at Madison Square Garden
TV: NBCSCH; Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The Knicks (0-3) are looking for their first win, but they have been competitive against some quality opponents. … This game could be a good rookie showcase. SG R.J. Barrett, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, leads New York with 21.0 ppg. Bulls rookie guard Coby White is at 16.7 points through three games. … SF Marcus Morris (16.3 points) and former Pelicans PF Julius Randle (16.3 points, 10.7 rebounds) are the Knicks' other main contributors. … The Bulls went 1-2 against New York last season, splitting two games at MSG.
Next: Cleveland Cavaliers, Wednesday 6 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena
-- Mike McGraw