In Or Out

I’ve thought long and hard about this post, not necessarily about the specific content of it, but more whether or not I should actually write it. You see, this is one of my “In or Out” post, in which I express which of the key players on the Bulls roster I’d like to see stick around or be moved off the team. I try not to write these kinds of posts too often because I find they tend to be a bit mean and short sighted. It also sets up arbitrary battle lines between fans; “You don’t like player X, so you’re an idiot.” It also lends itself to hypocrisy, “Weren’t you the idiot that wanted the Bulls to trade player X just last month? Now you want to keep him? Idiot!”

Anyone who has read this blog is probably already accustomed to my flippy-floppy nature. I try to be objective, but I always have “My Guys!” (Kris Dunn, Daniel Gafford) who I routinely give mixed signals on. This is the nature of my fandom. I am a weather vane, fickle in my regard, spinning in the wind. So it’s important to note that these “In and Out” tags that I stamp on a player today will more than likely change after the next game the Bulls play.

All In

There are two guys I am all in on when it comes to this Bulls roster: Zach LaVine and Patrick Williams.

Some guys burst onto the scene after they are drafted and it’s easy to see they are among the most gifted players to ever basket the ball, guys like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Luka Doncic. They quickly separate themselves into the top tier of NBA talent. Other players steadily work their way into that NBA upper echelon. Over the last 3 seasons, Zach LaVine has grown into an elite player, and it’s happened in front of our very eyes. He’s gone from a splashy dunker with an ACL tear, to one of the top 5 scorers in the NBA and a motivated leader on the Bulls. Zach will always have his haters, but I am not one of them. I’m sure you can find posts where I’ve advocated for trading LaVine, but that ship has sailed. Just like Jimmy Butler before him, it will be very hard to find a trade that brings back the “equal value” of Zach LaVine. Top 5 scorers do not grow on trees. The Bulls are very lucky to have LaVine on the cusp of his prime, and I wanna ride it out and see just how much more growth he has in his game.

Patrick Williams doesn’t know how good he is or can be. He is the 20 points/10 rebounds a game player we all hoped Lauri Markkanen was. So far, Williams shooting has been excellent, yet rare. He has been a very passive player, letting the game come to him, and looking to pass more often than shoot the ball. He needs to make himself a focal point of the offense. To his credit, with Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr both sidelined, the rookie has been more aggressive both on offense and in corralling rebounds. He posted his first double/double, 16 points and 10 rebounds, in last night’s revenge win over the Orlando Magic. With the young bigs sidelined, and Otto Porter Jr in-and-out of the lineup due to his inflamed back, Williams needs to stay aggressive and show more of what he can do for the Bulls. The ceiling’s the roof for Patrick Williams.

On The Fence

Wendell Carter Jr is still the best defender on the Bulls. His absence is felt on a nightly basis. And that’s the problem, HIS ABSENCE IS FELT ON A NIGHTLY BASIS. I’m not angry with Carter for being injured, I’m angry with the Bulls for not having enough defenders to cover up the gaping hole that Carter leaves when he’s gone. I know the Round Table just got here, and I know this season is all about “evaluation,” but it’s really tough to see yet another injury plagued season hurting the trajectory of this team. Okay, mini rant done. As good as Carter is as a defender, I am on the fence with his future as a Bull because I doubt he can be an everyday center in the NBA. He’s a good rebounder, for his size. Until he learns how to take a charge, he’ll never be a great rim protector, for his size. He routinely fumbles the ball while trying to receive a pass or grab a loose ball on the move, because of the size of his hands (?). He rarely wins tip-offs, because of his size. You see the trend here, right? I’m not sold on Carter as a center because of his size, and I don’t want him playing Power Forward because he doesn’t have the NBA level skills for that position, especially on offense. So, this leaves me in a quandary. On the one hand Carter is a + defender, on the other hand he is physically limited. He’s like the Center version of Ryan Arcidiacono.

I’m Out

Lauri Markkanen and Coby White have both been disappointing players for me.

I sooo want Lauri to be an NBA unicorn, but after 3 seasons, I don’t think he actually is. Sure, he can string together stretches of games where he scores 30+ points and looks unstoppable, but those stretches are laced with even longer periods of Lauri barely scoring 15 points and not contributing to the rest of the stat line either. In a “bounce back/contract” season, Markkanen is averaging 19 points, 6 rebounds and not much else a night. Blocks? Less than ½ a game. Assists? On a team that has been averaging over 26 assists a night, Lauri doesn’t even average 1 (he’s at 0.9). Steals? 0.6. If Markkanen isn’t scoring, he isn’t doing much of anything. Now maybe that’s harsh criticism from an uneducated fanboy, but I’m having a hard time justifying all the love I’ve heaped on Markkanen in the past. I need more from him. ‘Nuff said.

I just really wanted to share this amazing, no-look-threading-the-needle pass from Thaddeus Young to Lauri Markkanen. Brilliant!

I need more from Coby White too. This season has been a real test for White, what with learning how to be an NBA point guard and all that. But that’s not the reason I’m out on Coby. He is too inconsistent a player, with too many physical limitations for my liking. He has been a real basket case scoring this season, some nights he’s got it and others he can’t hit the broadside of a double trailer semi. That might have to do with the position change, but we saw the inconsistency last season as well. Much like Markkanen, there are long periods of time when White struggles to score. He also gets layups blocked a ton, which is just a personal peeve of mine. He might eventually become a solid NBA point guard, but if the Bulls are all in on Zach LaVine like I am, then they can’t waste time on a second year player trying to reinvent himself. If the Bulls follow the LaVine timeline, then Coby has to go back to the bench and resume his role as the microwave scoring 6th man, or they have to move on from him. With the Bulls on the rise (?), I’m getting greedy, and I want more out of my team. Coby White needs to play better, or he’s got to go.

Coby White, frustrated as a point guard

Well, that’s it for my “In or Out” post. Even as I finish up here I’m beginning to regret some of my harsher opinions. The truth is, you can make convincing cases on either side for all of these guys. This is sort of a snap shot of one moment in the my fandom. This blog is a glimpse at the emotional roller coaster ride that is being a fan of this team.

It’s always great to hear from readers, so let me know who you’re In and Out on in the comments below. Until the next Bulls related up, down, in, out, or loop-de-loop, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!