Westerlund: Observations From Bulls' Win Over Hawks

Zach LaVine stayed hot, and Coby White keeps impressing.

Cody Westerlund
October 17, 2019 - 10:46 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The Bulls concluded their preseason with a 111-93 win against the Hawks at the United Center on Thursday evening. They went 2-3 in the games in which results didn’t matter.

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The real fun gets started when the Bulls visit the Hornets next Wednesday for their regular-season opener. Until then, let’s check out the observations of the evening.

--- Rookie 19-year-old Coby White was the Bulls’ sixth man in a contest that coach Jim Boylen treated like a dress rehearsal for the regular season, and White lived up to the instant offense billing. He had 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 6-of-8 on 3-pointers, and it came easily for him. (Required preseason caveat: 21 of the points came in the second half, when the Hawks didn’t play many of their regulars.)

“He’s had one of the best rookie camps I’ve seen,” said Zach LaVine, who scored 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting. “Obviously, we know he can shoot and score the ball, but the way he’s handled himself, he’s been aggressive. He’s playing his game. We like it.

“He’s going to be special. He knows it. We know it. We believe that we can help him out.”

White entered with 6:59 left in the first quarter and then at the 7:28 mark of the third quarter. He zoomed up and down the floor and smoothly glided into the paint on several occasions in addition to his dead-eye outside shooting.

Given White’s inexperience, I thought it would take him some time to establish himself as a key figure in the Bulls’ rotation and to find his way. He’s making that theory look silly.

There will be bumps along the way, but White can be a key contributor immediately. He averaged 19.2 points on 45.5 percent shooting and 43.2 percent 3-point shooting in 25.8 minutes in five preseason games.

“You can put him in anywhere, he’s going to get the job done,” LaVine said. “He’s fearless. He’s not scared of anything. He’s not scared of the moment.”

--- Thursday provided a window into the Bulls’ rotation for the season opener. Tomas Satoransky, LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. started. The second unit was comprised of White, Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono, Thad Young and Luke Kornet.

Here were the minute totals for the Bulls in the first half, which provides the best glimpse, given that the second half featured garbage minutes and starters not playing their final stint.

LaVine – 16:21
Carter – 15:09
Markkanen – 14:28
Satoransky – 13:47
Porter – 13:21
White – 11:27
Dunn – 10:13
Young – 9:32
Kornet – 8:51
Arcidiacono – 6:51

Multiply those figures by two, factor in a few more minutes for the starters in potential crunch time and that’s what the Bulls’ minutes load projects to look like early in the season.

--- Denzel Valentine didn’t crack the Bulls’ 10-man. Arcidiacono did, serving as the de facto 10th man. That made for a smaller second unit for the Bulls, as Dunn and White were also on it. White fits best off the ball anyway and will serve as an offensive fulcrum of the unit.

Why was Valentine out of the rotation?

“Because I have a different 10-man rotation,” Boylen said, displaying little interest in the topic. “He’s not in the 10-man rotation.”

What would he need to do to get in it?

“He needs to stay ready,” Boylen responded.

--- Carter started and played 22 minutes after “tweaking” his left thumb – the one he had surgery on last January after tearing a ligament – at shootaround earlier in the day, which created some doubt about his status. Carter finished with eight points and eight rebounds while struggling with his touch, shooting 3-of-9 from the field. He admitted postgame his thumb was sore but added he was “good.”

A good sign: After he was slowed by tailbone, ankle and thumb ailments during training camp, Carter looked spry. He had a pair of dunks, including one in transition, and three blocks.

“I thought he was better today, I thought he was more active,” Boylen said. “I thought his rim protection showed up today. I thought his conditioning showed up today.”

--- Dunn was a defensive force for the Bulls, disrupting the flow of Trae Young and the Hawks in the first half for a long stretch with really aggressive on-ball defense. He will fill a needed role on the second unit if he can keep that up.

--- Too often, Thad Young ends up with the ball on the perimeter. Opponents don’t respect him there, and that was showcased by them leaving him unattended out there in the preseason. Young shot 10-of-27 in the preseason, including 1-of-8 on 3-pointers.

The Bulls have a pair of big men in Markkanen and Kornet who must be respected from the 3-point line. Young should dive to the hoop in pick-and-rolls, set screens to free shooters, use his craftiness in the post, serve as a dribble hand-off man from the high post and crash the offensive glass. He doesn’t need to spot up.

-- LaVine averaged 23.3 points and shot 59.3 percent in 24.0 minutes per game in four preseason games. He also got to the free-throw line 18 times in that limited action. 

--- Markkanen attempted 42 field goals in four preseason games, and 24 of them were from 3-point range. He got to the free-throw line just seven times in nearly 91 minutes. Markkanen was basically relegated to being a spot-up shooter most of the time. The Bulls would be wise to get him more looks going to the hoop.

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.