Bulls early season injuries leave them hopeless

By Michael Urbanec

The day after the Bulls got pantsed by the Golden State Warriors and new NBA single game three-point record holder Klay Thompson, the front office decided it was a great idea to accept the options on its three injured missing pieces.

Injured players forward Lauri Markkanen, point guard Kris Dunn and small forward Denzel Valentine have all been guaranteed at least one more season wearing red, and their presence has been sorely missed.

The Warriors dropped 102 points in the first half against a lackadaisical Bulls’ defense in a completely indefensible rout. Thompson dropped 52 points, including setting the NBA record for most three pointers in a game with 14.

The Bulls didn’t adjust to Thompson; their rotations didn’t change, they didn’t press and the team showed zero backbone.

Chicago’s roster is decimated by injuries; Dunn is the best wing defender, but he has yet to play a game due to an MCL sprain. Markkanen is the team’s best player by a wide margin, but an elbow injury is keeping him out of action until Thanksgiving.

Human ball of energy and spiritual successor to Joakim Noah, Bobby Portis is out with an MCL sprain and won’t return for another four to six weeks.

Valentine, a solid wing defender and crafty playmaker, has missed most of the season with an ankle injury he has been struggling with since the preseason.

The Bulls are giving solid minutes to NBA afterthoughts like guards Antonio Blakeney and Justin Holliday. Ryan Arcidiacono is a good jump shooter and defender, but lacks the athleticism to compete consistently at the NBA level.

Watching the Bulls is an exercise in futility; the bright spots are as visible as the Big Dipper while standing at the ground level in The Loop.

The bright spots do exist, however. Guard Zach LaVine has been playing exactly as the Bulls’ front office advertised. He’s an electric scorer who wows fans with his athleticism, and he’s the first Bulls player since Michael Jordan to score 30 points in each of his first four games. When Dunn returns to pick up some of the slack on defense, LaVine can afford to be a little more ambitious on offense; he won’t be asked to defend opposing team’s best guard every night.

Rookies Chandler Hutchison and Wendell Carter, Jr. can be on the floor without hurting a team. They are both young, and while Carter needs to be more than just a break-even player at some point, it’s good that he can play minutes and gain experience early in his career.

Point guard Cameron Payne is playing actual minutes, and, while he occasionally shows flashes of mediocrity, he doesn’t defend, and his shooting is too streaky for him to be relied upon.

The Bulls tackle tough challenges starting Thursday, hosting the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, respectively.