Bullies on the Block: Thoughts from the Cheap Seats

Credit: USA Today
Could Kris Dunn and Dennis Smith Jr. be swapped at the trade deadline?
By Chris Pennant (@kwandarykitten)

A few musings as the Chicago Bulls move dizzily through another week of foundering in the NBA ocean…

The League Measuring Stick?

Just as contending basketball teams are measured by how they perform against other contenders, NBA teams in general can measure themselves by how badly the beat the Bulls this season.

The Warriors and Trail Blazers, as evidenced by their comfortable victories last week over Chicago, don’t have too much to worry about. The Jazz and Lakers, on the other hand, needed all four quarters to beat the Bulls. The Lakers are without LeBron for a few more games. What excuse do the Jazz have?

On the Wings

Speaking of the Jazz, new acquisition Wayne Selden had a nice game against them with 11 points off the bench. Selden’s playing time has fluctuated since coming over from Memphis, and it’ll probably stay that way as Jim Boylen shuffles lineups and trade offers come in. Chandler Hutchison (more on him below) also had a solid effort against Utah, including a defensive stop of Joe Ingles on a drive and a strip of Rudy Gobert leading to a fast break layup. See the clip for more.

Foreshadowing in Houston?

A few weeks ago, I tossed it out that Houston didn’t have much backup for Clint Capela and they might consider grabbing Robin Lopez as insurance. Now, Capela is out four-to-six weeks with a thumb injury, while Chris Paul and Eric Gordon are also on the injured list. James Harden is doing everything possible to carry the team, but they lost an OT thriller to the Nets this week with power forward Gary Clark in the starting lineup.

Nene and Lopez have similar stats per 36 minutes and per 100 possessions (Nene is a better rebounder), but now that Lopez deal doesn’t seem so far off.

Parker’s Band

Jabari’s back, from outer space!

As expected, the Bulls have not found a team willing to take on Jabari Parker’s onerous contract, so he’s been back in the rotation the last two games. To his credit, he hasn’t shown a drop off in offensive performance, logging 11 points and seven boards against Utah and 18 points against the Lakers. The Bulls were also plus-8 total in his time on the floor in those two games, a rarity due to his listless defense.

The Bulls will continue to shop Parker as the trade deadline approaches, and as Dallas looks to ship off Dennis Smith Jr., they might be willing to eat Parker’s contract and take on Kris Dunn, who increasingly looks like the odd man out in Chicago (kudos to my man Danny M. for this idea).

‘98 to Futility: A Thread

If you haven’t read Jack Silverstein’s thread on the listlessness of the post-dynasty Bulls, do yourself a favor and pull it up here. He unearths a detailed history of how the franchise pushed Phil Jackson out in favor of Tim Floyd (hmm, kind of like Thibs and Fred Hoiberg in recent times…), missed out on Tracy McGrady in the 2000 free agency rush and overall cratered what could’ve been a two-year rebuild at most. (Depressing fact: the Bulls had Bruce Bowen on the team in 2001 and waived him.)

Beast of the Week: Here are Chandler Hutchison’s shooting percentages over the six games he’s started recently: 25, 40, 43, 43, 57, 56. Pretty good, no?

When you consider that Hutch’s minutes haven’t varied too much in that span (he’s played somewhere between 22 and 30) and he hasn’t had fewer than seven or more than 10 FGA in any of those games, it’s clear that he’s getting more comfortable shooting the ball and he’s also registered a positive plus-minus in three of six starts, including a +5 in the 12-point loss to Portland.

Predictions for the Future: It would be lazy to just write “LOSS” here every week, but that’s what the Bulls have been doing. They haven’t won since 2018 and are on an eight-game losing streak. They haven’t scored 20 points in the first quarter of their last three games and are dead last in the league in points per game (100.9) and points per 100 possessions (101.8). Hardly a winning combination.

Fortunately, the club’s western swing ends tonight at Denver and the schedule softens a bit from here on. If you’re a real S&M fan, be sure to tune in to the Cavs game for another tankalicious dual display of basketball.

Saturday vs. Heat – L

Monday at Cavs – W

Jan. 23 vs. Hawks – L

Jan. 25 vs. Clippers – L

One Last Thing: It would have been a big blow for the Bulls’ already forgettable season if Wendell Carter’s thumb injury had been serious with initial reports suggesting the rookie center might be out for at least a month. However, tests reportedly came back negative on any damage to Carter’s ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), which means he will not require surgery and is now listed as day-to-day. Breathe easy, Bulls fans, the injury vampire has been satiated for now.

Until next time, beware of bullies.

Chris Pennant covers the Chicago Bulls and basketball in general for WARR
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