Bulls fared better with two-way players this season

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bulls two-way player Max Strus suffered a knee injury in December, but he stayed on the roster for the rest of the season.

    Bulls two-way player Max Strus suffered a knee injury in December, but he stayed on the roster for the rest of the season. Courtesy of the Windy City Bulls

 
 
Updated 5/8/2020 8:06 PM
Thirteenth in a series

Last year when the Bulls lost point guard Tyler Ulis to a hip injury early in the season, they signed another two-way player to replace him.

This season, the Bulls lost another two-way player to a season-ending injury. Former DePaul forward Max Strus suffered a torn ACL in December at the G-League Showcase in Las Vegas. But he stayed on the roster for the rest of the season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Maybe the calendar had something to do with that, but it seemed like the Bulls felt good enough about Strus' future to keep him around. Before the NBA season was suspended in March, Strus was back at the Advocate Center doing some light basketball drills.

Who knows what the Bulls' new basketball operations crew has in mind for next season, but this wasn't a bad year for the team's two-way players. Strus could fill a need as a 3-point shooting small forward, while Adam Mokoka flashed some potential as a "3 and D" player.

The Advocate Center has been shut down since the season was suspended March 11, but Strus has been able to keep his comeback on schedule.

"Rehab's been going really well for me," Strus said in a phone interview. "I've been able to stay on the schedule I was on before all this happened. I was doing rehab over at Rush (Medical Center) at the Orthopedic building, because the team was traveling so much. So I was going to Rush three times a week and they've stayed open this whole time.

"I'm fully running again, I'm jumping. Just started jumping about two weeks ago. I can shoot and stuff like that. Right now would probably be the time basketball things would be starting to pick up, but I don't have anywhere to do that."

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Without the knee injury, the 6-foot-5 Strus might have gotten a decent amount of NBA playing time, since Bulls small forwards Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison missed the majority of the season with injuries. Strus saw action in just two games with the Bulls, for a total of three minutes.

For the Windy City Bulls, Strus averaged 18.2 points and 5.9 rebounds in 13 games. He was Windy City's second-leading scorer behind 6-6 forward P.J. Dozier, a player with connections to new Bulls boss Arturas Karnisovas. Dozier was a Denver Nuggets two-way player, but since the Nuggets don't have their own G-League team, he and Bol Bol were sent to play with Windy City.

Karnisovas, of course, was general manager of the Nuggets last season. The reason he chose to send Dozier to Windy City probably had more to do with the large number of flights between O'Hare and Denver. Dozier averaged 21.4 points in 18 games for Windy City.

Mokoka, meanwhile, wasn't especially impressive during summer league, preseason or most of the G-League season. But he kept improving and opened some eyes while playing for the Bulls in a March 2 game against Dallas. Coach Jim Boylen sent Mokoka out to guard Mavs star Luka Doncic in the fourth quarter of a 109-107 Bulls win.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Doncic was coming off an ankle injury, so there's no point in getting carried away with one game. But Mokoka showed some impressive defensive skills, was able to lack onto Doncic and limit him to 2 points in the fourth quarter.

Technically, Mokoka was the Bulls' best 3-point shooter this season. It was a very small sample size (6-for-15), but the 6-foot-5 wing from Paris, France definitely gave the Bulls some food for thought.

During the final week of the G-League season, Mokoka posted 27 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists for Windy City in an impressive win at Maine.

The Bulls were hoping to improve player development at their Hoffman Estates affiliate and it seemed to work. The Bulls' best G-League success stories, Spencer Dinwiddie and Alfonzo McKinnie, but ended up playing for other NBA teams.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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