With LaVine still in quarantine, Bulls' playoff chances slipping away

  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine could be out another week, coach Billy Donovan said.

    Bulls guard Zach LaVine could be out another week, coach Billy Donovan said. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/29/2021 1:16 PM

Zach LaVine is getting impatient and the Bulls' season is slipping away.

LaVine missed his eighth straight game Wednesday, a 113-94 loss to Tom Thibodeau's New York Knicks, due to NBA health and safety protocols.

 

He sent out a tweet, later deleted, that read, "These protocols are for the birds, I'm good."

The Bulls are 4-4 without LaVine, have gone 7-12 since adding center Nikola Vucevic in a trade with Orlando and are two games behind Washington for the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference.

There are 10 games left in the regular season and coach Billy Donovan said Wednesday it's still not clear when the Bulls' top scorer will be able to return.

"I think we're hopeful this is probably going to take another week is our best guess," Donovan said. "There will be things that he'll have to do going into this week that are set by the league in terms of the policies and protocols.

"Once he does those things I think that he'll be able to rejoin the team, but I still think he's got a little bit of time away from us. So I don't anticipate him coming back for our home game against Milwaukee (on Friday)."

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While some playoff experience would be good for this group, there is a silver lining to the late-season slide. The Bulls sent two first-round picks to Orlando in the Vucevic trade, but this year's pick is reportedly top-four protected.

So if the Bulls miss the playoffs and get lucky in the lottery, they could get in on an impressive 2021 draft class and then have to give up first-round their picks in 2022 and 2023.

Needless to say, a point guard like Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham or Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs would be an interesting addition. It's a longshot, but the NBA did tweak the draft lottery odds two years ago in an effort to give teams less incentive to tank. As of Thursday morning, the Bulls and Toronto were tied for the league's eighth-worst record.

In the meantime, Vucevic continues to post good offensive numbers (22.5 points, 10.6 rebounds) since joining the Bulls. Coby White (18.3 points) has stepped up in LaVine's absence and Lauri Markkanen seems to have found his 3-point shooting touch.

But the Bulls have a tough remaining schedule and the Wizards have won nine of 10 games. Unless the return of fans on May 7 can give the Bulls a huge boost, their playoff chances might be waiting for next year yet again.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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