The Chicago Bulls hosted the Houston Rockets in game 1 of the 2020-21 preseason. It was Chicago’s first game in 9 months and unfortunately looked like it as well. The Bulls were blown out 125-104 in a game that was never really competitive. It is only preseason so there should not be panic, but instead a recognition of what went wrong.
The Bulls’ defense had trouble all game getting stops. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins were both good in their return to NBA games. Houston shot the ball well making 24 of 52 threes. Bruno Caboclo made 5 of those 24. Yes, Bruno Caboclo. You do have to give credit to Houston because offensively they were hitting their shots, but what the Bulls didn’t do is make it tough for them.
The Chicago Bulls’ defense was terrible. “We didn’t guard the ball well enough. We didn’t help well enough. And we didn’t block out well enough. We have to build those habits”, head coach Billy Donovan said after the game. And he is right. Looking at the film, the Bulls were very sloppy on the defensive end.
The Bulls could not stay in front of their man last night. It was a consistent problem all game. It prevented the Bulls from ever being able to get back in the game. While Houston shot the ball well, Chicago gave up way too many easy baskets. Easy baskets which got Houston’s offense going.
Offensively the Bulls were way too careless with the ball. The Bulls committed 20 turnovers, and a lot of them were at the fault of who was handling the ball.
The bad defense and turnovers was enough to lose the game. In addition to Houston shooting well, the Bulls got blown out. But in a preseason game the win or lose isn’t really the issue. Coaches don’t even scout the other team, so there isn’t a lot of strategy. But fundamentally the Bulls just didn’t play good basketball. And that has to get better by the regular season.
Billy Donovan in the first half stuck with a 9 man rotation. The starters Coby White, Zach Lavine, Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, and Wendell Carter Jr. Off the bench was Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison, Patrick Williams, and Daniel Gafford. Somewhat a preview of what to expect in the regular season opener. Expected rotational player Thaddeus Young missed the game with a leg infection, and when he returns he is expected to play. Likely meaning Chandler Hutchison or even Daniel Gafford could be replaced by him depending how big or small coach Donovan wants to go. The guard rotation seems it will mainly be handled by Coby White, Zach Lavine, and Tomas Satoransky. Although we did see a lineup that featured Hutchison, Porter, and Williams. While nothing is set in stone, you start to get an idea of what coach is thinking in terms of his rotations.
Noah Vonleh who is competing to make the team played a little under 12 minutes. He scored 12 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. He played with a lot energy and showed a unique versatility offensively for a guy his size. It seems he is battling out a roster spot with either Luke Kornet or Cristiano Felicio. One thing that stood out about Noah Vonleh was he was used at both the PF and C position last night. A versatility neither Kornet or Felicio have. We didn’t even see Felicio play. Kornet played 7 minutes and didn’t do much. But showed some good defense around the rim at times. One obvious way of thinking is you just waive Felicio, and keep Vonleh. But with Felicio making 7.5million in his last season, his contract can be rather useful as a salary filler/expiring contract for trades. If one thing was clear last night, Vonleh is the better player of the three. We know that at least.
Chicago Bulls’ 1st round pick Patrick Williams played his first game, and was quite impressive at his 19 years of age. Williams showed a lot of poise for a rookie, but also was comfortable with the ball in his hands. His first basket was a nice pull up in transition, and he showed a lot of the qualities Bulls’ front office raved about. In 25 minutes Pat Williams scored 12 points, 5 of 9 from the field.
Patrick Williams displayed a lot of touch on his jump shot, and showed some flashes of shot creation. Defensively Williams found himself matched up against smaller quicker players a lot. And while at times it seemed to be too much for him, he also at times was able to stay in front of a player like John Wall. He at least showed solid defensive stance and fundamentals, and makes you believe the kid knows how to play defense. Ideally you won’t have him guarding NBA guards on a consistent basis. I had thought the Bulls might bring him up slowly, but after last night I was wrong. He is playing.
Coaches have said they wanted Wendell Carter to shoot more, which was the opposite approach of what Jim Boylen wanted. Last night under Billy Donovan in 19 minutes, Wendell shot 5 threes but made zero. They weren’t bad shots though, and Billy Donovan echoed that after the game. “This is good for him, because he’s getting the freedom to handle it up top … I want him taking those.”
I didn’t mind Wendell shooting as many 3s as he did. He didn’t look bad shooting them. There just has to be a balance. I’m not sure I want Wendell shooting near double digit 3s a game, but I like they are encouraging him to shoot. In years past he seemed almost afraid to shoot, and in preseason getting him to be comfortable is the right approach. He was a respectable shooter in college, he should be able to average close to one 3 per game and make defenses respect him.
The Chicago Bulls return to action Sunday night in Chicago against the Houston Rockets again, for preseason game #2 of the 2020-21 NBA season.