Lauri Markkanen suffered an unfortunate injury during practice that will keep him out 6-8 weeks. To give the injury some perspective, here is a tweet from Jeff Stotts.
The 6 week mark will be 11/9/18 and the 8 week mark will be 11/23/18. Assuming he will miss the same amount time as Batum, Lauri will miss all of preseason, and about 12-15 games in the regular season. This is a big blow for the Bulls, as Markkanen is one of the cornerstone pieces of this current rebuild. Hoiberg’s rotation will now need to change, and luckily for him he has options.
Markkanen was expected to start at PF, but the Bulls will now have to replace him. The Bulls have Bobby Portis who can play the position, and has started there in the past. But Portis played well in his 6th man role, and even mentioned he likes the role. “I like the role, I get to come off the bench and score a lot. Who doesn’t like that role?” Portis said that before the season on his upcoming 6th man role. Portis fits nicely in that role, as he brings scoring to the 2nd unit. And if anything else, tons of energy. I feel the 6th man role is perfect for Portis at this point. But what other options do the Bulls have?
The Bulls signed forward Jabari Parker this off-season. While the plans were to start Parker at the SF position, the 4 year forward has played most of his career at the 4. And for what it’s worth, has had most of his success. The idea of moving Parker down to the 4 seems to make the most sense, as you know he would be comfortable there and is best there. And we already know Portis is comfortable off the bench. The only problem that would create is who starts at the SF position?
The Bulls have 3 options; Justin Holiday, Chandler Hutchison, and Denzel Valentine. Valentine suffered a mild ankle sprain in practice the other day, and he will be out 1-2 weeks. He should be ready for the regular season, but will miss some of the preseason. Holiday and Hutchison will get the 1st opportunity to start and impress in preseason. Hutchison is a rookie, so I would expect to see Holiday starting at the 3 Sunday in the Bulls 1st preseason game. But what do each of the 3 bring to the starting unit?
Justin Holiday: Holiday started 72 games for the Bulls last season, but in a slightly different role. The Bulls started last season short handed, and Holiday was asked to do more than he is capable of. Through the first 23 games last season, Holiday averaged 14 points a game. But was really inefficient as he shot 37% from the field, 35% from 3, a true shooting % of 49.6% and an usage of 20.7%. But the next 25 games the Bulls were healthier but more importantly had more talent around Holiday. With lesser of a role and attention on him, Holiday’s numbers improved. He averaged 12.7 ppg, less than before, but he was more efficient. He shot 40% from the field, 42% from 3, a true shooting % of 57.0 with a usage of 16.0%. It is clear with talent surrounding Holiday, he can do what he is most comfortable doing. Which is catch and shoot, rather forcing up shots with the shot clock running down. Less usage for Holiday is good, and that is what he would have in the starting lineup.
Denzel Valentine: Denzel started 37 games for the Bulls last season, and was better as a starter than a bench player.
What is not listed there is the usage. Valentine as a starter had a usage of 16.4%, and with the bench had a usage of 18.5% off the bench. And a true shooting % of 55.3% starting vs 50.1% off the bench. Clearly with talent around him, Valentine can give average efficiency and shoot above average from 3. Valentine also provides good rebounding, gathering 17% of his team’s defensive rebounds, which is top in the league at his position. He also was responsible for 18% of his team’s assist when out there, which for his position was also top in the NBA.
Chandler Hutchison: Hutchison is a rookie, so we don’t have much to judge him on. Summer league showed us a little bit. He was 2nd on the team in assist, he showed an ability to handle the ball and find the open/cutting man. He made 8 of 16 threes, but struggled from everywhere else shooting 33% when he wasn’t shooting a 3. Hutchison was labeled a wing player with good defensive potential, and he showed potential this summer league. That is Hutchison’s biggest argument to start, as he can be a better defender than both Holiday and Valentine. And with Lavine and Parker, having a good wing defender is necessary.
I ideally want to start Hutchison because of his defensive potential, which I see being a big need from that 3 position. But I want him to earn it, I want to see him play well in preseason before giving it to him. We don’t know how good he will be right away, throwing him out and just hoping he can be good could hurt his development. To me until he proves it, this is between Holiday and Valentine. And at this point I would start Holiday at the 3 and move Parker to the 4 following this Markkanen injury. Neither are an ideal 3, I prefer to have Valentine’s play making on the 2nd unit where it is more needed. Let Holiday start, and expect more efficiency from him with Lavine, Parker, and hopefully a better offensive player in Kris Dunn.