A team is only as good as its record says it is and the Chicago Bulls‘ 9-13 record is not very good. High moments such as their wins over the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Milwaukee Bucks are juxtaposed with tough (for varying reasons) losses to the Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns.
Before suffering a 119-111 loss to the Golden State Warriors, Bulls head coach Billy Donovan went into his bag of tricks searching for a spark and came out with a change to the starting lineup – out were youngsters Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams.
In their places were Alex Caruso and Javonte Green, respectively.
The two demoted Bulls are doing their best to take the decision – which Donovan has suggested is not short-term – in stride.
Pausing The Paw
“I kind of expected it,” Williams said accordion to NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls insider K.C. Johnson. “Not necessarily the change that he made, but we haven’t been playing to the level that we know we need to play to. So obviously trying different lineups is just part of figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. I’m with whatever to win. Just trust the process and control what you can control as a player.”
Williams finished the loss to Golden State with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting with two rebounds. The points are a slight improvement over the previous two games (both starts) when he averaged 3.5 points while going 1-for-12 from the floor.
His defense has not been consistent either.
On the season, Williams is averaging right around 9.0 PPG just as he has in each of his previous two years.
But recently, he openly said he can be a superstar in this league.
This came after recording an 11-point, six-rebound, two-block performance in a 123-119 Bulls loss against the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder. In Williams’ defense, he was also in the middle of a nice streak of strong performances.
Williams’ tone has changed considerably from where it was then after his latest setback.
“I know what I bring to the table on both ends of the floor,” Williams asserted. “I think I’m really good on both ends. I can still get better on both ends. Obviously, everybody wants to be a starter and play 48 minutes. But whether you start or come off the bench, you want to do your job. It’s never like I want to see whoever took my spot do bad or anything like that. Because we’re all on the same team.”
Green finished with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting with four rebounds and had a team-high plus-11 plus-minus.
Uno Dos Benched
Dosunmu’s reaction was much more matter-of-fact judging from Johnson’s reporting. Johnson mentioned the fact that the difference in their draft years and pedigree – Dosunmu was the 38th overall pick in 2021, Williams fourth overall in 2020 – was notable in regard to the significance of Donovan’s decision.
“I just took it as this is what it was,” Dosunmu said, per Johnson. “Try to continue to get better. My motto, whether I start or not, is each day I want to get 1 percent better. Nothing has really changed. I want to get better, keep learning at both ends.”
The Chicago-native Dosunmu recorded nine points, five rebounds, and three assists off the bench, faring better than his replacement, Caruso who had two points on 1-of-4 shooting and was minus-17, though he did add six assists and had just one turnover.
On the season, Dosunmu was averaging 2.9 assists to 1.7 turnovers as a starter.
Dosunmu is also posting the worst net rating on the team at minus-18.8 with Williams close behind at minus-16.8, per Cleaning The Glass.
What Comes Next?
“I trust Billy and the coaching staff,” Williams said. “I’m all for it if they think it can help the team.”
That is great to hear. But this didn’t work, though the Warriors are an extreme example of an inopportune time to experiment, especially on the road. Still, if this change doesn’t fix what ails the Bulls, and Lonzo Ball’s status remains the same, where do they go from here?
Just 22 games into the season, it would be hard to imagine the team that sat atop the Eastern Conference coming out of the All-Star break last season is in this position.
Their slide last season appears to have been more predictive rather than a symptom of all the injuries they endured. Not that they’ve been healthy this year with Ball and Zach LaVine both undergoing offseason knee surgery as well as Andre Drummond and Coby White each missing six games or more.
But Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas pushed this continuity and what he does next will be extremely critical to the long-term health of this franchise.