Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Lonzo Ball setback creates rough outlook for Bulls

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Lonzo Ball might not be ballin’ anymore this season.



Only an hour before the Chicago Bulls square off against the Toronto Raptors on Monday night, head coach Billy Donovan admitted Ball’s recovery from his partially torn meniscus back in January is not going in the right direction.

Donovan said Ball will discontinue running “for the next 10 days” to see if he responds better. As the team’s staff tried to ramp up his rehabilitation, his knee did not respond positively. Reports showed he was only allowed to run vertically during this period and was limited to moving laterally.

In response to questions about the possibility that Ball misses the rest of the season, Donovan responded: “I think we’ll have a better feel of that once they get through this next 10 days.”

In 10 days, the Bulls will play versus the Los Angeles Clippers, leaving five games left in the regular-season schedule after that. Remember, Ball would only be allowed to revamp his rehabilitation once that 10-day mark hits.

The road back for the Bulls’ starting point guard looks bleak.

What are the Bulls missing with Ball?

Ball is the team’s x-factor, in my opinion, on both sides of the ball.

His unique abilities mold the team together on both ends of the floor. He initiates transition offense. When Ball was in the rotation, the Bulls averaged 13.7 fast break points per game. Once he left, due to his injury, the Bulls fell out of the top-10 in the NBA in that category.

Ball can deliver passes on a dime. This season, Ball leads the team in passes made, assists and ranks only behind DeMar DeRozan in points created from assists.

Before his injury, he was having the best shooting season of his career. He currently stands at a 42.3 percent clip from three, averaging high-volume shots with 7.4 three-point shots per game. This season he is representing the best effective field goal and true shooting percentage of his career as well.

Ball’s defensive attributions are as impressive as his offensive. He proved this season he can guard positions 1-4, create chaos with deflections/steals and lockdown opponents’ best offensive weapons.

Ball is a multi-weapon player. He overachieves on both ends of the floor and his presence is vital to the Bulls. Without him, the Bulls are quietly missing a large part of their team.

What does this mean for the future?

The Bulls are missing a dimension of their game without Ball.

Offensively, as aforementioned, Ball is a large function of the Bulls’ offense. He is one of the most frequent players in pick and roll opportunities, the second-highest volume spot-up shooter (behind Coby White) and the third-most frequent in transition.

Luckily, for the latter, Ayo Dosunmu took a page out of Ball’s book this season, ranking 12th in the NBA in transition frequency and scoring at a 55 percent clip in that area. He ranks in the highest percentile of any Bull in that arena, according to NBA.com statistics.

His defense will also be severely missed. The Bulls have the 16th rated defense in the league, allowing 111 points per game to their opponents. With the Bulls at full-strength, they likely flirt with being a top-10 defense in the league.

With the recent return of Alex Caruso and the imminent return of Patrick Williams tonight against the Raptors, the defense should improve. Yet, without Ball, the defense is still missing an important aggressor.

As the Bulls continue to plunge down the Eastern Conference standings, they’ll need to figure out a way to succeed without Ball. They are currently fifth in the East, 2.5 games behind the Celtics for fourth place and 0.5 games above the Cavaliers for the sixth spot.

It’s a rough race and it’s about to get rougher.

 

 

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