Bulls should tank in light of Markannen injury

By Michael Urbanec

The Bulls preseason initially featured an aura of cautious optimism, but injuries and sloppy play should worry fans.

Second year forward Lauri Markkanen will miss the next few weeks with a sprained elbow after looking primed to take a large leap forward in the offseason. One of the key criticisms of Markkanen heading into his rookie year was his lanky frame; he responded by showing up to training camp with an extra 14 pounds of muscle.

The Bulls looked sluggish and lazy without The Finnisher when they traveled to face the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday, with former Bucks forward Jabari Parker and guard Zach LaVine helping Milwaukee more than they did their own team.

Parker scored just two points in 19 minutes played and ate a nasty slam from Buck’s center Brook Lopez.

LaVine is still a streaky scorer who can’t defend, so him shooting 3-10 in 17 minutes played isn’t a shock, but his inability to stay in front of his man makes his play a net loss. Perhaps Lavine was not the best candidate for a 4 year, $80 million contract.

The roster outside of the bigger names ranges from okay to suspect. Point guard Kris Dunn took a huge step forward last season after a disappointing rookie season in Minnesota; he was a throw-in when the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler for LaVine.

Dunn is a great defender who makes up for LaVine’s shortcomings, but he occasionally disappears on offense. He’s a solid playmaker, but if the shots aren’t falling, teams can let him do whatever.

The Bulls will rely on young talent heavily this season, with Bobby Portis entering his third year as a scoring post who occasionally tries to play defense and Wendell Carter, Jr. having to fill in the gaps Markkanen leaves.

Markkanen’s injury dampers what looked like a potential playoff squad in a historically weak Eastern Conference, but joining the league-wide tank-a-thon might be best for the Bulls. Duke freshman R.J. Barrett is projected to be drafted highly by NBADraft.net and ESPN, and fits the Bulls style and needs perfectly.

Winning should always be a team’s focus, but right now the Bulls don’t see any benefit from being stuck in the 6 seed to lottery range. They benefit the most from bottoming out and stacking as much cheap, young talent as possible.