The Bulls were hit by the league’s health and safety protocols very early on in this season. After forward Chandler Hutchison tested positive for COVID-19 three additional players were required to quarantine. Of those players, one more ended up testing positive in guard Tomas Satoransky. This left the Bulls to go on a west coast road trip down four players. On top of that, the Bulls were hit with the injury bug as forward Otto Porter Jr went down with a back injury. The Bulls did however catch a lucky break this week as their game against the Boston Celtics was postponed. The Celtics were unable to field a team of at least 8 players and the game had to be moved. Due to that, the Bulls ended up having four full days with no games. That was HUGE for this team as it gave them just enough days to get people back from health and safety protocols.
Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen and guard Ryan Arcidiacono both returned to practice Tuesday. They had been away from the team for 12 days after being exposed to COVID-19.https://t.co/uUuhrtzWPS
— Chicago Tribune Sports (@ChicagoSports) January 13, 2021
With this break between games, it allowed both forward Lauri Markkanen and guard Ryan Arcidiacano to come back from the league’s health and safety protocols. This should now return the Bulls starting five back to normal. Porter Jr had been filling in for Markkanen in his absence until he went down with an injury. The Bulls offense recently has been surging. It will be interesting to see what Markkanen’s impact will be on the offense as he returns.
The Bulls Offense
Over the last five games, the Bulls have averaged 119 ppg, 50.8 %FG, 40.4% from three. This team has been lights out offensively and appears to be playing in a pretty good rhythm. Through eleven games guards, Zach LaVine and Coby White are averaging a combined 45 PPG, 10.8 APG, & 10.3 RPG. They are making their presence known in every facet of the game. If you look over the last five games for the Bulls White is averaging 20.6 PPG and LaVine is averaging 34.4 PPG.
Make no mistake…
Zach LaVine is playing like an All-Star. pic.twitter.com/m6n1O8R2R8
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 14, 2021
If you take a look at the Bulls backcourt as a whole over the last five games they have accounted for a combined 72.8 PPG. The Bulls guard play has been constantly improving over the course of this season. So how will Markkanen’s return altar that?
Markkanen back on the floor
Markkanen only appeared in four games this season before being sidelined. In his four games, he averaged 17.3 PPG, 50 %FG, 47.8 %3FG & 6.8 RPG. At the time was making a difference on the floor and adding to the Bulls offense in a much-needed way. However, in his four games, the Bulls went 1-3. Since he was sidelined the team has gone 3-4 and see an offensive explosion. Will Markannen be ready to go when he hits the floor tonight against OKC? Lauri thankfully was able to get in some practice this week which should help him to warm up after his lengthy absence.
Aw, look how happy he is to be back ❤️
(🎥 laurimarkkanen insta) pic.twitter.com/P9oISH8CW1
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) January 13, 2021
It would be hard to say that Markkanen will continue his hot shooting from the start of the season but it isn’t impossible. Markkanen was using this season to prove to the Bulls that they should have extended him. If Markkanen continues to play as well as he did to begin the season there is no concern whatsoever that he will fit in with the Bulls surging offense. However, if his shooting percentages begin to decline he may need to shift his focus on the court. Hopefully, the practice Markkanen was able to get in this week was enough to get him warmed up shooting.
The Bulls lineups
Another interesting area to look at with Markkanen returning is the lineups. Head coach Billy Donovan has been switching up the lineups on the court due to players being out. He has run with a small ball lineup on more than one occasion and it has been very effective. You also have to look at how replacements like forward Daniel Gafford and guard Denzel Valentine have been performing. Both of them have been taking advantage of their opportunities and Donovan may have no choice but to continue playing them.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 10, 2021
To start the season Donovan was having Markkanen jump in at the center spot at times. He was almost reluctant to play Gafford. Now it simply wouldn’t make sense to not play Gafford. There will certainly be an adjustment period when it comes to the lineups Donovan puts on the floor. With the team’s offensive success over the last five games, it’s key for Donovan to continue building on that. The Bull’s defense isn’t good enough at this stage to be the reason they stay in games. The offense needs to continue to excel to keep them in games. Prepare for an adjustment period tonight as Markkanen finds himself back in action.
If Markkanen comes out and performs to the level of his first four games this offense is going to be unstoppable. Markkanen would be another weapon to an offense that has been firing on all cylinders. If it takes Markkanen some time to get back into the groove of things it may hurt this team offensively. Markkanen should be looking to take high percentage shots as he gets back into the swing of things. Let’s see how Donovan uses Markkanen in his first game back. Hopefully Markkanen is ready to hit the ground running.