How Bulls can Cope Without Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball

Getty Lonzo Ball looks on during an October 15 preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Earlier today, the Chicago Bulls announced that starting point guard Lonzo Ball would be out for an estimated 6-to-8 weeks due to a partially torn meniscus in his left knee, which means he needs to undergo arthroscopic surgery.

It’s another rough blow to a Bulls team that has been ravaged by injuries and Covid all year long, but the Bulls are fortunate to have some flexibility during Ball’s absence.

Tremendous Bench Assistance

Guards Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White have stepped up as of late during their starting tenures, both sharing the backcourt recently. White, the third-year pro, has turned a corner in how to read the game, using a mix of hesitation dribbles and straight-line drives to get to the basket – elements he did not showcase last season.

White is connecting on a career-high 46.2% from the field, including a career-high 39.7% from long range, and has averaged a robust 17.1 points per game over his past 15 appearances. The 21-year-old looks to have taken a substantial evolutionary step which also includes better ball handling, crisper passing and higher defensive awareness.

Sharing the backcourt with White is rookie Ayo Dosunmu, who has warranted several headlines, and will likely continue to do.

While Dosunmu is just 22, he’s playing like a seasoned veteran, sporting a shot-selection that would put most veterans to shame. The 6-foot-5 guard is capable of playing extended minutes on the ball as the primary playmaker, but also moves well off the ball as a scorer who fills the lane and stretches defenses.

Dosunmu has averaged 18 points, 8.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds over his past three games, shooting a whopping 76.7% from the field, and 70% from downtown.

In some ways, White and Dosunmu have been near perfect substitutes for Ball and Zach LaVine, who has also missed time due to a knee injury, and is expected back within the week, according to Stadium’s Shams Charania.

Healthy Bodies Returning

When LaVine makes his return, he won’t be the only guard back. During Wednesday’s win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, defensive ace Alex Caruso made his triumphant return, after missing 16 games due to both Covid and a bad hamstring this season.

Caruso is, by far, Chicago’s best defender and his return to the lineup gives the Bulls more two-way flexibility moving forward. When LaVine is back, the backcourt will consist of Caruso, LaVine, White and Dosunmu. That’s a fairly deep and effective backcourt that should be able to sustain Ball’s absence for what could be in the area of two months.

Further aiding the Bulls will be the return of Javonte Green, who was reported to be on a 2-4 week timetable on January 3. Green can play three positions, allowing players to move around accordingly.

Finally, there’s DeMar DeRozan, who last year averaged 6.9 assists for San Antonio and is a perfectly capable playmaker and ball handler in his own right. While not a guard, DeRozan can handle major chunks of the offense, putting even less pressure on the backcourt.

The Bulls would obviously prefer to have Ball available, but for now it appears they have the personnel at hand to make do.

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