Coming off the first win of the season, the Chicago Bulls stroll into Charlotte to face the Hornets for the second time in three days. The last matchup ended in dramatic fashion as Zach LaVine scored 30 points for the fourth consecutive time this season. While the taste of winning may be sweet now, choppy waters lay ahead for this young squad.
Kris Dunn is expected to be out 4-6 weeks with an apparent MCL sprain in his left knee. As unfortunate as that may be, the Bulls will have quality play from a rotation of point guards including Ryan Arcidiacono, Tyler Ulis, Shaq Harrison, and Cameron Payne. Yes, Cameron Payne With a dominant display of shooting going 7-11 from deep, Payne made a statement to all of his critics that he is a professional for a reason. While torching Charlotte’s perimeter defense, the guard from Murray State also added five rebounds and four assists. Fred Hoiberg isn’t expecting Payne to be Steph Curry every game but consistency is required and Payne will bring that if he wants to remain the starter.
Bobby Portis is out of action for 4-6 weeks due to a sprained MCL as well. Averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds through the first 4 games of this season, Portis was due to have a break out season and unfortunately that is sidelined until the near future. Already down Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr playing with the normal rookie jitters, the Bulls are running quite thin in the front court. Almost replica scenarios of the starting point guard slot, a rotation of Carter Jr, Robin Lopez, Felicio, and Jabari Parker will have expanded roles at the power forward and center positions as the Bulls are down two power forwards. Currently, Hoiberg only has three players over the height of 6’8 to play in the front court.
Down three vital players to the Bulls’s success, the question of whether to tank has already been raised by many only four games into the season. Four games. While losing Lauri, Dunn and now Portis may seem like this season is over before it starts, I assure you it isn’t. The one thing Bulls fans lack is optimism. None of the players mentioned are coming off surgery or injuries that require an extensive amount of rehabilitation. Their adjustments back to live NBA action may take some time but I feel the need to remind people that the young core of LaVine-Dunn-Markkanen has yet to play a minute of basketball together this season. Yes, it might suck for the time being but no, the sky is not falling.
Chandler Hutchinson, the Bulls 22nd pick of 2018 NBA Draft had 8 points in 13 minutes against Charlotte on Wednesday. With his explosive play and athleticism on display, he showed Chicago that he deserves more playing time and he gets his wish as he starts at power forward tonight in Charlotte for the injured Bobby Portis. Hutchinson is a four year college player who averaged 20/7/4 while shooting 38% from deep his senior year. While he may be starting at power forward and only stands at 6’7, this season the league is gravitating away from the prototypical 6’9 to 6’10 power forward as the Boston Celtics start 6’8 at power forward. The Lakers even started 6’9 Kyle Kuzma starting at center. Position less basketball is here to stay