The Bulls were coming into this season ready to roll, with a young core of hungry players, ready to prove they belong. Zach Lavine was completely healthy and had his explosiveness back from his ACL tear. Newly signed forward Jabari Parker was ready for a change of scenery to his hometown team, which would cause his star to rise. The Bulls made a solid draft pick in Wendell Carter Jr., eager to show the NBA what he was capable of. Most importantly, the Bulls cornerstone, Lauri Markkanen, fresh off a fantastic rookie season, packed on 14 pounds of muscle in efforts to get stronger and prepare for the long grind of the season.
That grind has started for the Bulls, unfortunately, it has yet to start for Markkanen. In preparation for the season, Lauri suffered a high elbow strain that would receive an estimated timeline of 6-8 weeks for recovery. However, we are currently in week 7, with Coach Hoiberg disclosing that Markkanen is doing little shooting at this point and that he is probably still 2-4 weeks away from returning to action.
This is absolutely brutal news for the Bulls, who are missing several other players in Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine due to injury. Markkanen, however, is clearly their most missed. Markkanen’s ability to score from all over the floor is a key component in Hoiberg’s pace and space offense. His versatile offense prowess is exactly what the Bulls need right now.
Zach Lavine who is leading the Bulls in scoring and ranks 4th amongst the NBA’s scoring leaders with 27 ppg, has been absolutely stellar. In fact, Lavine is the only player to score 20 or more points in every single one of his team’s games this season. Opposing teams have taken noticed, and now are starting to blitz Zach with double teams every time he gets the ball, which has been mostly successful, mainly due to the Bulls not having another player on the floor with the offensive abilities to keep the defense honest.
Markkanen would immediately fill that void, giving the Bulls a much needed 1-2 punch. Defenses will no longer be able to completely hone in on Zach, in fear of Markkanen making them pay. Along with his offense, his rebounding would also immediately make this team better, either by leading to second-chance points or completing a defensive stop. Markkanen who also isn’t bad on defense is an immediate upgrade to the non-existent defense of Jabari Parker, who would return to a bench role, where he’s proven to be a better fit as the primary scorer of the secondary unit. Lauri makes the Bulls better in every aspect right away.
The Bulls schedule only gets tougher as November goes on. They play the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks twice, Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the lowly Phoenix Suns. With Lauri still on the sidelines, the Bulls are going to need prayer and a little bit of luck if they want to stay afloat until Lauri and the other injured players return. The Bulls have stated they will be cautious with Markkanen’s return, and they could be even more cautious if the Bulls lose the vast majority of their games and GarPax decides to hand Hoiberg the keys to the big red tank.
Get well soon Lauri, no matter which direction the team goes in, they’re going to need you to take a lot of shots with that elbow. The Bulls are back in action tonight as they face the Celtics in Boston.
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