Could Harrison be a permanent solution to Chicago Bulls' starting lineup?

  • Chicago Bulls' Shaquille Harrison, left, looks to pass under pressure from Detroit Pistons' Thon Maker, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bulls' Shaquille Harrison, left, looks to pass under pressure from Detroit Pistons' Thon Maker, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019, in Chicago.

Updated 11/21/2019 7:23 PM

The Bulls have had an interesting couple of games, with guys coming off the bench to make surprise contributions.

First it was rookie center Daniel Gafford, who had never before scored a point in an NBA game, delivering a team-high 21 points Monday against Milwaukee.


Then Shaq Harrison, who had played just 24 minutes all season, was pressed into the starting lineup because of injuries. All he did was pile up 15 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and finish a plus-29 in Wednesday's 20-point victory over Detroit.

"The credit goes to them for staying ready," coach Jim Boylen said Thursday at the Advocate Center. "Then when their opportunity came they seized the moment. That's what being a pro's all about. You get your opportunity, you deliver."

There's obviously a small sample size for these two guys, but there are a couple of factors that bode well.

First, the Bulls' lineup seemed to have a glaring lack of athleticism early this season. Adding an above-the-rim type of player in Gafford -- along with the speed of Harrison -- it's no surprise those players gave the Bulls a jump start.

Harrison, especially, had the starting lineup moving fast and playing with precision. The Bulls jumped to a quick 19-6 lead, which quickly disappeared when Harrison took a break on the bench. He'll almost certainly be back in the starting lineup Friday when the Bulls host Miami. One question is, can he bring that sort of infectious energy to every game?

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"That's every night," Harrison said Thursday. "Honestly I don't remember the last time I played a basketball game and haven't gave it my all. That's just how I was raised, how my coaches had their teams back in the day. That's been me since day one."

Harrison, a third-year pro out of Tulsa, got a decent amount of playing time last season. So his strengths and weaknesses are no secret. He's a high-level defensive player who is not very polished offensively.

But anyone who stayed up late Wednesday and watched the Clippers-Celtics game on ESPN saw a couple of guys who might fit that description: Boston's Marcus Smart and the Clippers' Patrick Beverley.

Considering that game might be an NBA Finals preview, it's not ridiculous to suggest Harrison might be a full-time solution for the starting lineup. He got the call against Detroit because both Otto Porter (bruised foot) and Chandler Hutchison (shin splints) were out.


Another plus is Harrison can cross-match with 6-foot-7 point guard Tomas Satoransky, so it's not like the Bulls are playing a small lineup when he's in there. Harrison can guard the opponent's best perimeter player and Satoransky can slide over to a small forward, if necessary.

"I define myself as a utility guy," Harrison said. "You need me to play second base, you need me to play outfield, you need me to play point guard, you need me to play small forward -- I'm out there. I'll do whatever needs to be done in order to get that win."

It's surely no coincidence that the Bulls' two biggest wins of the season -- Wednesday against Detroit and Nov. 6 in Atlanta -- were Satoransky's two best games. He had 15 points, 7 assists and went 3 of 5 from 3-point range against the Pistons.

"He (Satoransky) is a very, very good shooter, especially when his feet are set," Boylen said. "So I think there's just a learning curve in us getting him on the ball, where he makes good decisions and pushes the pace. Then, when he's off the ball, finding him."

Porter will be sidelined for another two weeks at least and the Bulls have back-to-back games this weekend against Miami and Charlotte. So there will be a chance to see if the Shaq lineup can build on its early success.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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