It was tough to write this one until I was absolutely sure we could beat a Nets team without Kevin Durant or James Harden. The Bulls beat the Nets on Sunday 115-107, where they controlled the game from tip to the buzzer. I’m happy to report that I don’t have to commit fandom seppuku, and the Bulls still are very much relevant in the NBA playoff race this season.
The Bulls are currently 13.5 games back of the Philadelphia 76ers (the 76ers have yet to play the Memphis Grizzlies as of the writing of this article) and they sit in 10th in the Eastern Conference, which is good enough to get into the play-in for the playoffs. Really, that’s all they need to shoot for because the goal is to get into the playoffs and try to make waves, then build around Nikola Vucevic and Zach LaVine in the offseason.
The addition of Vuc came with a certain list of expectations though, and while their recent slide isn’t the end of the world it also decreases their playoff odds. It’s clear they want to win now, but they will need a healthy and competent roster around their two stars to do that.
So which players are going to get the playing time for this playoff push? Is Zach LaVine suddenly bad now? These questions and more burn bovine-inspired marks into the brains of many fantasy players. So just relax, sit back, and let me sort it out for you as someone who watches every single game.
*If a player isn’t mentioned, it’s safe to assume they have almost no fantasy value if the roster remains healthy.*
Is Zach LaVine suddenly bad now? Since the All-Star break, he has scored fewer points, grabbed fewer boards, stolen the ball less, and he’s shooting the ball 4% worse than before the break, including over 3% worse from behind the arc.
While it’s true that Zach LaVine has fallen back down to earth a little bit, it’s not time to hit the panic button just yet. Some regression was to be expected, as he’s still shooting over 50% from the field on the season. LaVine has also been dealing with an ankle injury for a number of those games and he has admittedly struggled to learn how to play next to the Bulls’ newly acquired second all-star, Nikola Vucevic.
In the first three games with Vuc, LaVine has managed only 17.7 points per game, 4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 37.7% from the field. All of those are much lower than his season averages. However, the last two games have been much more promising. He has averaged 24 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 46.2% shooting.
He’s starting to come around and after a short dip in usage, LaVine is starting to see the same usage he was seeing before they acquired the big man. He will be fine, though some field goal percentage regression is in order after a blazing hot start. If you drafted him, you probably drafted him in the third or fourth round and he is poised to meet or exceed that value by the end of the season.
Nikola Vucevic owners probably didn’t care much when their star player was traded to the Chicago Bulls. Yeah, he’d have to compete with Zach LaVine for touches, but the Bulls are assuredly pushing for the playoffs this season, and they have some work to do.
The early returns have been a tad bit on the underwhelming side as Vuc has seen a reduction in minutes, points, rebounds, and, most notably, the three-pointers. But all of that will come around, and it’s promising that he’s actually shooting the ball better from the field and getting more assists.
Much more concerning has to be the fact that Vuc hasn’t reached his usage with the Magic in a single game yet with the Bulls, but it’s only a drop of a few percentage points. As the Bulls continue to learn how to look for the big man, particularly Coby White and Zach LaVine, his usage should creep back up again.
It’s still too early to tell exactly how Vucevic will fit with this Bulls squad, but there’s obviously no reason to panic. He’s a 1st round value on the season, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. He’s playing the best basketball of his career and he’ll get a chance to prove himself in the playoffs in one of the biggest basketball cities in the world.
It’s hard to see the rainbow at the end of this storm if you are a fantasy owner rostering Lauri Markkanen. He was demoted to the bench on the 29th of March and he seems to be headed to a role where he will get 22-23 minutes off the bench.
He can still provide value there as a player who is often center-eligible that can bang down three-pointers, but he’s only managed 9th round value on the season on a per-game basis according to Basketball Monster. When it comes to total value, it’s even worse because of his extensive injury history.
The good news is that he is shooting the best percentages of his young career. The bad news is that he doesn’t contribute much of anything outside of scoring, and that goes for real life too. He’s still worth a roster spot as an above-average role player, but if you find yourself on the cusp of the playoffs and need a little extra oomph, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger and drop him for someone more promising.
Everything said about Lauri Markkanen can be said again for Coby White. He just doesn’t look great out there. He flashed some promise at the start of the season, but since his demotion to the bench, he has shot just 37% from the field and 29.3% from beyond the arc. Those are horrid numbers below his season averages.
He is only 20 years old, so he gets a bit of leash here. He can still develop into a very good scoring guard off the bench, similar to a Lou Williams or Ben Gordon. The experiment of having him at the starting point guard spot is over though, and it’s hard to see it ever being an option again.
Ball security is a major issue with Coby White, and it was abundantly clear in a few late-game meltdowns when the Bulls reserves could not handle full-court ball pressure. His decision-making isn’t up to snuff either, as evidenced by his assist-to-turnover ratio.
There’s still hope, but it’s probably time to cut bait on Coby White and consider him a sunk cost. He’s only managing 15th round value on the season in per-game value, which just isn’t good enough to justify a spot in most leagues.
You could almost hear the collective sharp intake of breath from the Thad Young owners as the trade deadline came, and then a communal swear as the Bulls acquired Nikola Vucevic AND Daniel Theis. It looked like all that talk of Thaddeus Young playing less was true, and that his role had been diminished.
Not so. Thaddeus Young has actually played MORE minutes per game since the trade deadline, and he continues to have a career year in his 14th NBA season. His numbers have all actually gone UP after the trade deadline acquisitions.
The Bulls have even opted to go ultra big in some scenarios, sliding Thaddeus Young to the small forward position. Donovan isn’t afraid to use that lineup at all, and it’s a boon to Thad’s fantasy value since it means he’s less likely to lose minutes.
Let’s not get carried away though. He’s only managing 7th round value on the season. But considering the fact that most of us (myself included) scooped him off the waiver wire, it’s just found money at this point. We will all take it and for the rest of this season, Thaddeus Young looks to be locked in to return mid-round value the rest of the way.
Tomas Satoransky has seen his fantasy value skyrocket since missing the start of the season while being in the league’s health and safety protocols. Since sliding into the starting lineup, Sato has managed double-digit points and 5.9 assists per game. He buoys his fantasy value by contributing 1.4 steals per game as well.
Did you know that Satoransky has managed to shoot 51% from the field this season? That’s crazy for a guard that doesn’t have the ball in his hands a ton, and it’s likely a big reason that Sato has managed 8th round value over the last month of the NBA season.
Sato is only rostered in 25% of Yahoo! leagues, and that should definitely be higher. There is no true player that will challenge him for that starting role, and the continued struggles of Coby White means he might even be in line for more minutes down the stretch. He’s not going to give you eye-popping lines, but steals, assists, and good percentages are the name of the game here.
Beyond this year? It’s far more unclear. There are still rumors that the Bulls have their sights set on Lonzo Ball. However, for this season Sato’s value is safe. Go grab him now and win your league.
Patrick Williams is often the forgotten starter in Chicago, and for good reason. He is insanely efficient, but his usage is just 15.4% on the season. He’s worth a flier here and there as he has been getting hot in specific games, and he’s been playing more confidently as of late.
But we’ve seen this before from the 19-year-old and it’s just not consistent yet. He has a very bright future and it’s smart of the Bulls to play him big minutes to develop him quickly, but this season he isn’t worth a roster spot in fantasy.
Daniel Theis is fantastic for the Bulls, and I hope they see that sooner rather than later. I’d much rather Theis play next to Vucevic or Thaddeus Young than Lauri Markkanen as I think he’s an excellent rim defender and doesn’t need a ton of usage.
For fantasy though, Theis definitely lost a lot of value when he was moved from the Boston Celtics to the Chicago Bulls at the deadline. He’s getting about four fewer minutes now and his low usage hasn’t jumped at all. He’s worth a stream for blocks (1.1 on the season, 1.7 with the Bulls), but otherwise, he can be safely left on the wire.
Denzel Valentine is like the Houdini of the Chicago Bulls roster. One game he’s in the roster and playing 20+ minutes, and the next game he’s a DNP-CD or getting five minutes or something. He’s not at all consistent enough for a roster spot in standard leagues, but streaming him for points and three-pointers here and there makes a lot of sense. He’s a decent DFS target too since he’s so up-and-down and you can catch him at minimum pricing.
Leave Denzel Valentine on the wire and stream as needed.
Garrett Temple was once sneaky value on the Bulls roster as he provided some veteran, solid minutes at a thin position. After the roster moves though, he’s basically fallen out of the rotation. He might get some games with 20+ minutes here and there, but he’s no longer worth a look in any format.
Troy Brown Jr.
I’m actually really high on this kid, and every time I see him play he does something exciting. I was covering the Washington Wizards last season and had the opportunity to watch this guy play an awful lot on a Wizards roster without John Wall or Bradley Beal.
He looks like he will really push Denzel Valentine for minutes, and against the Nets, he got a whopping 28 minutes and grabbed seven boards. He isn’t worth a roster spot, but he’s someone to consider streaming if Coby White is going to continue to miss time or fall even further out of the rotation. It’s possible he’s a deep league option or an option during your fantasy playoffs, so add him to your watch list for now.