Opponent Scouting: Chicago Bulls. (19-47)

Tonight at 8:00pm EST the Pistons will be on the road in Chicago to face the Bulls. The Pistons are on one day of rest after beating the Timberwolves as are the Bulls after beating the Sixers.

The Them:

The Bulls are very bad although they’ve shown some signs of life recently. They come into this game with the 29th ranked offense and 24th ranked defense in the NBA. They are 5-3 since the all-star break and a couple of those wins are against real teams in Boston and Philly. The return of Lauri Markkanen has been big for them.

The Bulls are led by Zach LaVine, who is scoring 23.8 points per game on good efficiency. LaVine is a freak athlete with a good first step to get into the lane, he also is a really good shooter. As far as scoring goes, he’s pretty close the the full package, his issues are with all the non-scoring stuff. He remains a poor facilitator and a terrible defender. After LaVine Lauri Markkanen, the Finnisher, has followed up an impressive rookie season with what is becoming a hugely impressive sophomore season after missing the start with injury. 19 points and 9 rebounds per game on good efficiency is spectacular for a 21 year old and he’s diversified his offensive game so it’s not quite so dependent on him just hitting 3-pointers.

New addition Otto Porter has been excellent and looks like the Bulls may have guessed right that he is capable of more than he was allowed to do in Washington. Porter is scoring 18 points per game on great efficiency as a Bull, although he probably won’t shoot 49% from deep forever, and he is also one of the few guys of their “young core” who is a good defender. He’s the glue-guy that does all the right stuff.

After their main 3 guys they have some other pieces. Wendell Carter is hurt but that injury (combined with the trading of Bobby Portis) has forced the Bulls into playing Robin Lopez more, over the last 10 games he’s playing over 30 minutes per game as opposed to just 17 minutes the rest of the season. Lopez is a great do-it-all center who is a tough defender and rebounder and a capable finisher on offense. Kris Dunn is a pretty good defender, but he’s still utterly terrible on offense.

After that it’s fairly grim. Luwawu-Cabarrot might be a decent wing player some day, Wayne Seldon is a shooting guard who can’t really shoot, Ryan Arcidiacono is a white guy who is a real gym rat and lunch pail guy who fought his way onto the team.

This team is much better with the addition of Porter and actually playing Robin Lopez, they are still pretty bad though.

Matchups to watch:

  • Blake Griffin vs. The Bulls: I’m not sure if the Bulls will dare to leave Lauri on Griffin or if they will toss Porter at him. Either way, Blake should have a clear advantage. The challenge will be that Markkanen will force Blake to play defense at the other end, and Blake has often struggled with guys who can shoot.

  • Drummond vs. Lopez: Drummond is on a great stretch of play, but Lopez has given him trouble in the past. Lopez’s combination of constant vigilance and strength can keep Andre off the boards. Andre will have to stay focused even if he’s not getting as many easy baskets as he often has been lately.

  • Pistons vs. LaVine: My guess is that Bruce Brown will get a lot of this assignment, Ellington will also spend time here. LaVine is a very flawed player but make no mistake, this guy is a really good scorer. if the Pistons let him get loose he will be a big issue. Also important for Brown to make VaVine defend at least a little bit.

  • Pistons bench vs. Killing it: Ish Smith and Luke Kennard (and to a lesser extent Langston Galloway) have been carrying the bench to some great games lately. The Bulls bench is really quite weak, if they Pistons bench plays like it has recently then this should be a great opportunity for them to really take hold of this game.

  • Pistons vs. Putting this away: The Pistons have back-to-back games against this Bulls team, which despite their recent success I will still call a inferior opponent. (IF they keep playing like this I will eat my words, but a few games doesn’t change what they’ve been all season) After that they play the Nets and Heat. If the Pistons could manage to win these 4 in a row, they will be very solidly cemented into the playoffs. Do poorly and it will likely be a fight to the end.

So in conclusion….

Wink knowingly at your friends if:

  • Blake is scoring at will and my fears will ill-founded.

  • Bruce Brown is ready for Zach LaVine.

  • Luke Kennard is bombing away once again.

Run for the hills if:

  • LaVine gets loose.

  • Blake still can’t close out on shooters and is paying dearly for it.

  • The Pistons shooting generally goes cold (it’s going to happen at some point.)

Opportunities for me to look stupid:

  • Pistons win.