It has been a rough season for the Chicago Bulls. They enter Tuesday with a 21-53 record, currently on track to finish with the franchise’s worst record since 2003-04. Otto Porter Jr.‘s arrival via trade spurred a 6-3 run through the Bulls’ following nine games. However, Chicago has since fallen into a 3-8 slump.
With eight games remaining, the Bulls are crawling towards the finish line, saddled with nagging injuries to key players. Rookies Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison are officially done for the year. Porter has missed the last three games with a right rotator cuff strain. He could also miss the rest of the season.
Meanwhile, starting guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn are dealing with lingering ailments. LaVine has a thigh contusion while Dunn is dealing with back issues. Both are essentially day-to-day, but neither will be playing on Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors.
It’s a bleak scene set for the final weeks of the Chicago Bulls 2018-19 season. What could fans possibly have left to watch?
Four of the Bulls’ five starters are sidelined heading into Tuesday’s tilt. This leaves ample time for the backups to prove they deserve a spot on the team next season, or at least a chance elsewhere.
Wayne Selden Jr. and Ryan Arcidiacono are set to be restricted free agents this summer. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has a team option for next season. Antonio Blakeney, Cristiano Felicio, and Shaquille Harrison are all under contract for next season, but could be let go to make room for someone else.
With only a handful of games left, their play will help the Bulls front office determine if they want to invest in them as part of the franchise’s future. They will all be playing hard to prove their worth. The hustle should convert into entertainment for the fans watching.
The Lauri Show
Lauri Markkanen is the last starter standing heading into Tuesday game. Averaging 18.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game on the year, he has shown Bulls fans that he is the team’s frontcourt anchor moving forward. That will be put even further to the test against Toronto.
This is the first time since the end of last season that the Bulls will have Markkanen available but not Dunn or LaVine. Both were shut down for the final 14 games of 2017-18 due to injuries. Lauri played in eight of those games, averaging 17.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Now, he ends this season in the same position. It will be interesting to see how his game has grown since last time.
The Competitive Schedule
Even with the Bulls’ injury issues, the final schedule isn’t very forgiving. Six of their final eight games are against the Atlantic Division: two each against the Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks. They also have dates against the Portland Trail Blazers and Washington Wizards.
Toronto, Philly, and Portland are all playoff-bound squads that will be favorites in their matchups. The Wizards have an All-Star in Bradley Beal and two former Bulls in Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis. Much like their Feb. 9 and Mar. 20 meetings, these two will be looking to show Chicago what they’re missing.
The Knicks games likely won’t be cakewalks, either. Both teams have young and injury-depleted rosters, which will even the playing field. Also, the familiarity of playing two games over eight days could make the matchups more competitive than normal.
The 2018-19 Chicago Bulls definitely aren’t as enjoyable as expected. However, with a young roster competing as a unit and for their individual futures, there are at least a few aspects about this team worth watching as the season wraps up.
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