Billy Donovan’s Lineup Change is Netting Positive Results

Coby White

Getty Coby White drives the basketball against Aron Baynes in a March 14 game against the Toronto Raptors.

Head coach Billy Donovan made a gamble-like lineup shift ahead of the Chicago Bulls’ Sunday night game against the Toronto Raptors. It paid off in full, by way of a historic performance and a much-needed win.

Chicago put down Toronto handily on Sunday, 118-95, in a game that saw nine guys score in double figures for the Bulls. It marks just the third time in franchise history and first time since 1971 that nine players have scored 10 or more, per’s Stats page on Twitter:

They’ve moved back into the 10th seed slot in the Eastern Conference and just a game back of the eighth-seed Atlanta Hawks. They take on the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder next.

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Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. Respond to Demotions

The Bulls head coach made a bold change in the team’s starting lineup ahead of Sunday night, swapping starters Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. for veterans Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young.

These kinds of moments can often be defining ones for young players, based on how they respond. White and Carter Jr. did well in that regard, combining for 25 points nine-of-21 shooting from the field.

Their head coach praised the two youths for how they responded to the news prior to the game when speaking with the media (via NBC Sports) after Chicago’s win:

I can’t tell you how unbelievable Coby and Wendell were when I met with them. They were tremendous. It just speaks volumes of them in terms of their character and who they are and I think how they feel about the organization and their teammates and the fact that they really want to win.

There was little shell shock from the shift of scenery for White, who started just one game last season. But for Carter Jr., it was his first game not appearing in the starting lineup of his career.

He sounded mindful of his past struggles and trusting of the Bulls head coach following the game on Sunday:

I see myself as a starter. I trust Billy a lot. I think I echo that a lot to him and let him know whenever he makes decisions, I’m always behind him. He’s been a part of winning teams and he knows what it takes to win. And I wasn’t playing well for like the past five or six games, so I understood that he had to switch some things up and it happened to be changing the lineup. I’m here for him and I’m going to do whatever he tells me to do.

After two games scoring and rebounding in single digits, Carter Jr. put together a quality line and was a large contributor in Chicago’s win over Toronto: 12 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and a block in 18 minutes.

He also didn’t record a turnover for the second game in a row.

Does Chicago Have a New Starting Lineup?

Given the much-needed timing of Sunday’s win, it’s safe to presume that head coach Billy Donovan will continue this lineup experiment in Tuesday night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Chicago’s previous starting lineup held a minus-17.6 net rating and saw the Bulls lose four out of five.

The two veterans Donovan promoted against the Raptors combined not only for 20 points but 13 rebounds and 14 assists as well. Satoransky and Young’s chemistry has been a key component in the Bulls’ play this season.

Having the two veterans in the starting lineup should help to adjust what has largely been an incohesive offense. In Satoransky you get a more on-ball distributor, and Young himself is averaging a career-high in assists this year.

Donovan spoke highly of both veterans after the game (via NBC Sports):

I thought Sato and Thad did a great job with their voice, their experience and their energy and the way they played.

The Chicago Bulls’ newest starting five-man rotation is Billy Donovan’s eighth of the season and had previously played only three minutes together on the entire year.

His high-stakes gamble is paying off.

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