But, as is consistent with the rest of the season, a seemingly
major injury has afflicted one of the NBA’s aspiring contenders,
and now that we’re officially beyond the halfway point of the
season, everything matters that much more.
The Athletic's Shams Charania reported early Thursday that Lonzo
Ball has a small meniscus tear in his left knee. Hours later, the
Chicago Bulls confirmed the injury, relaying
that Lonzo will undergo arthroscopic surgery with a recovery period
of 6-to-8 weeks.
Alex Caruso just returned after a month absence due to a mixture
of leg, hamstring, and COVID issues, and even so, they’re still
very shorthanded at 28-15.
People are already throwing the Bulls around in trade rumors.
Should they ask the Toronto Raptors about Goran Dragić? Would Caris
LeVert coming from the Indiana Pacers be a helpful fit? Does
acquiring Josh Hart from the New Orleans Pelicans make sense? Could
they get any of the 6-foot-3 scoring guards from the Portland Trail
Blazers not named Damian Lillard?
The Bulls do have usable salaries to
pair, like Jones' $9.7 million, Williams’ $7.4 million and Coby
White’s $5.8 million. They
also have draft picks, including all of their own
first-rounders after 2023 and a collection of second-rounders.
But we’ve seen other contenders elsewhere not behave erratically
and trust their own guys, at least in the interim. In the
own-conference contender bubble, the Brooklyn Nets have turned to
guys like Kessler Edwards, Day’Ron Sharpe, Cam Thomas and David
Duke Jr. at different points, all of whom were a part of the 2021
draft class (though, Duke went undrafted and is on a two-way
And, tied with Chicago, the Miami Heat have risen to the top of
the East despite Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Kyle Lowry having
only played 14 games together this season. How’s that possible?
Just guys stepping up when called upon: Tyler Herro, PJ Tucker, Max
Strus, Caleb Martin (a two-way), Gabe Vincent, Dewayne Dedmon and
Ball's obviously going to be a difficult replacement because of
what he means to Chicago. His perimeter defense is elite, which is
an especially deadly pairing when logging minutes next to Caruso.
He's also developed into a sniper from deep, hitting 42.3% of his
triples this season, the best of his career. And as the starting
point guard, logging 34.6 minutes per contest, Ball is posting 13.0
points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.8 steals per contest.
He's also accounting for a career-best .101 win shares per 48
minutes and is second in box plus-minus on the team behind Zach
LaVine, and his 108 defensive rating ties Caruso for the best among
Bulls guards. In no world is this level of two-way production easy
to replace, moreso when it comes from your starting point
For the Bulls though, as opposed to making any drastic changes,
why not just use what you have? The aforementioned White is turning
22 years old next month, and lately, has been productive in his
expanded role since returning from COVID protocols in December. In
16 games — and eight starts since Dec. 19 — White’s averaged 16.4
points, and 3.1 assists on 50/45/86 shooting splits. In his last 11
games, he’s up to 17.7 points and 3.0 assists per contest while
In other respects, the Bulls have turned to second-round rookie
Ayo Dosunmu. Dosunmu, who just turned 22 on Jan. 17, was an All-American at Illinois, a
national championship favorite last season before losing to
Loyola-Chicago in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 32.
A 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Dosunmu is averaging 7.2 points while
shooting 55.4% from the field and 45.7% from three in 21.3 minutes
per game. He's also providing adequate defense, as expected when he
was drafted at No. 38 overall.
Dosunmu is only at 1.7 assists per game, but has shown more
playmaking ability across his last three outings, his best spurt as
a rookie. Dosunmu’s averaged 18.0 points, 8.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds
and 2.0 steals per game over that stretch, shooting 76.7% from the
floor and 70.0% from deep on 10.0 overall attempts per game.
Continuing to unlock Dosunmu might be the best option for Chicago
in the immediate.
Dosumu, at least for now, could give you the spacing, playmaking
and point-of-attack defense needed until Ball comes back. He won’t
be what Ball is consistently, but it’ll be close enough for now
without having to create mass roster upheaval.
The Heat are excellent at player development, but if you’re the
Bulls, you have to view what they’re doing with undrafted talent
and think you could sustainably get more-than-adequate production
from your talented second-round draft pick in a similar