The Bulls currently sit at a record of 8-12 and are 11th in the Eastern Conference. They have seen some great offensive performances this season as well as some they would like to forget. The Bulls starting lineup has not been adjusted since the season began except due to injury. Head coach Billy Donovan has gone with the young starting five whenever possible.
Starters in Dallas.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 17, 2021
The key phrase there is whenever possible. This starting lineup has only hit the court together six times this season due to health and safety protocols and injuries. However, when they are on the court together they look quite sloppy at times. That is to be expected with a starting lineup whose average age is 21.6 years old. While we certainly understand why Donovan wants to ride with the young starting five we do have to question if a change may be needed. Donovan doesn’t sound like he plans to make a change anytime soon.
Billy Donovan continues to sound like a coach who’s not interested in making any starting lineup changes at this time, even though first unit has struggled for some long stretches. He loves #Bulls’ bench and likes keeping those veterans’ minutes under control.
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) January 29, 2021
While Donovan may not want to make a change right now we should look at the numbers and see if that may be the best thing to do.
Starting five stats this season
Unfortunately for the Bulls starting five they have only played in six games together. In those six games, they have a record of 2-4 and averaged 78.6 PPG as a unit. Though the starting five hasn’t played together much we can still look at the splits where the majority of the group played together. Even those don’t look so great.
not pretty! pic.twitter.com/3kSzmfeV2R
— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) January 31, 2021
We have seen this group click offensively at times but it seems like two guys need to step up for this unit to win the game. They don’t seem to be working with one another well at this stage. When one of the veteran players comes off the bench you can see a clear shift in the team’s performance. Unless shooting guard Zach LaVine and forward Lauri Markkanen are shooting well it seems like this team gets lost offensively.
It’s understandable that this young core would struggle since they have only been playing together for roughly two months now. But that’s something that Donovan should look into adjusting for the good of the team.
Inserting a veteran into the starting lineup
There are a lot of options for Donovan when it comes to adjusting the starting lineup. The first positional change that comes to mind is small forward Patrick Williams. He is in his rookie year in the league and has been starting since the first game of the season. Williams has been a good addition to the Bulls but as a starter, he is still learning the game and at times it can hurt the team. He is averaging 9.7 PPG for the Bulls and he is a very solid defender. He’s not playing poorly he just isn’t producing a ton for the team offensively. Swapping him out with forward Otto Porter Jr. might be an easy answer to get a veteran in the starting lineup. This will also give Williams time to develop coming off the bench.
Another positional change that comes to mind and could be controversial is starting point guard Coby White. While White is averaging 15.3 PPG and 5.7 APG he still doesn’t look comfortable at the point guard position. He seemed to start the year well but he has slowly started to regress. Over the last 8 games, he is averaging 11.6 PPG & 4.9 APG. He is still learning the position so having him come off the bench isn’t the worst idea. Donovan could insert someone like guard Garrett Temple into the game for White and see how that changes the dynamic of the starting five. Temple would definitely add some much-needed defense as to the starting lineup.
I really enjoy watching Garrett Temple play defense. His brain is his biggest weapon.
Watch him guard this SLOB. Senses the stagger is coming so he top-locks to change RJ Barrett's path, finds the shortest route thru four guys, and stays in Barret's shirt. pic.twitter.com/EK7nl6WFBw
— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) February 4, 2021
The Bulls have lacked defense from their starting unit so throwing in someone like Temple would certainly help there. While he may not be scoring at the same level as White he is still capable of doing so. He has scored in double digits in 7 of his 19 games played. This could even just be something to light a fire under White.
Here’s what Donovan will do
As of right now, it’s looking like Donovan won’t do anything. He likes his starting five and wants to stick with them. But it’s important to remember that while he likes his starting five he typically doesn’t close the game with them. He relies on his veteran players to close out games. However, if the starting five puts them in a hole early they spend the rest of the game trying to get back into it. While I like the thought of getting the young guys starts it might be time for Donovan to make a change. If the Bulls continue to let themselves fall behind early in games Donovan may have no choice but to make a change.