The Bulls beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 124–103 as they moved to 2-1 during the preseason. Fans got to see different lineup combinations and a new-look offense that seems to highlight players’ skill sets and be much more efficient compared to the past regime.
While it was a preseason game against a re-building Thunder team, the Bulls played some exciting, energetic, and athletic basketball. It was nice to see, so let’s get into my thoughts from the game.
Patrick Williams Does Not Look 19 Years Old
Patrick Williams does not play his age. The youngest American to be selected in this year’s NBA Draft, Williams showcased some of the reasons why Bulls Executive VP Arturas Karnisovas decided to bank on the future of a kid who did not even start a game during his freshman season at Florida State.
Williams certainly highlighted his 3-and-D capability. He was excellent defensively, and seems to have a very high basketball IQ on that side of the court. He is rarely late on help side defense and showed his athleticism on the defensive side of the ball:
On the offensive side of things, Williams was consistently calm with and without the ball, not trying to do much and force things like many young players do. On top of that, he made his shooting range very visible to everyone:
I really enjoyed what I saw from Williams’ demeanor on the court as the kid finished playing 26 minutes and shot 6/9 from the field, with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Lauri Markkanen Did Not Play Great, But Was Aggressive
Lauri Markkanen significantly regressed during his third season with the Bulls. Part of the reason for this decline was due to the system the Bulls ran, which did not put Markkanen in positions that highlighted his strengths. However, Markkanen was to blame as well. It was apparent his confidence was shook more and more as the season went on.
Markkanen shot 15 times from the field in 29 minutes of play during the win against OKC. Those numbers are on pace for 18.62 field-goal attempts per 36 minutes, which is the aggressiveness the Bulls want to see from Lauri. That level of aggressiveness resembles the 17 field-goal attempts per 36 minutes Markkanen posted during the 2018-19 season.
Markkanen’s aggressiveness will obviously result in more scoring chances for the 4th year player, and Billy Donovan’s offense will put Lauri in better scoring positions than the looks he was getting last year. This should all mean more good looks for Markkanen, he simply needs to hit those shots.
Markkanen did not do that tonight, shooting 4/15 from the field, including a poor 2/9 from beyond the arc.
Coby White is Still More of a Scorer Than Anything Else
Coby White had a very good rookie year for the Bulls, especially post All-Star break. Heading into this season, however, there were many questions about White, specifically about what his role would be in Billy Donovan’s offense.
While I’ve always considered White more of a shooting guard than a primary ball-handler, it seems from these preseason games that Donovan sees it as the opposite and has put the ball in White’s hands more often than not when he is on the floor.
To be honest, White has proven that he certainly has some intangibles as a primary playmaker. He did a very good job in pick-and-roll situations where he made great decisions on going for the score himself, driving and kicking, or hesitating at the top of the key to create room for others. He also showed off some flashy passing skills:
However, White highlighted his scoring ability more than anything else tonight. White shot 11/17 (65%) from the field, which included 5/8 from the three-point line. Most of that scoring came in the 3rd quarter, where White scored 18 of his 27 points.
From a ball-handling standpoint, I still don’t think White has shown me enough to convince me to believe in him as the full-time point guard, exemplified by his 1.4 assist-turnover ratio so far this preseason. However, I have seen enough to at least agree with giving White a shot to prove me wrong. First and foremost, I still believe he is a pure scorer.
Chandler Hutchinson Looks Really Good
I mean really good. Young Pip was the first player who stuck out to me during the Bulls’ scrimmages last month. He looked really aggressive and confident, resulting in a showcase of his athletic ability. Tonight, Hutchinson stayed on theme. He continues to look explosive and confident with the ball. He drove the rim with purpose tonight, resulting in a couple dunks like this one:
Hutchinson also got it done on the defensive end, as he gathered six rebounds on the defensive glass and logged a couple of steals. Hutchinson had a really nice defensive sequence to end the third quarter where he blocked an Aleksej Pokusevski shot and eventually stole the ball from the rookie, leading to an easy Bulls layup on the other end.
Hutchinson has a chance to cement himself in the top seven of the rotation coming off the bench. His athleticism can offer the Bulls a different dynamic on both sides of the ball, as he provides a contemporary skillset to players like Porter Jr. and Markkanen. All he needs to do is stay healthy and he can really be an integral part of this team.
The Bulls round out their preseason schedule with another game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Friday night before they kick off their season on December 23 against the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center.
For more opinions and analysis of every Bulls game, be sure to check out Bulls On Tap, available wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts!