The Bulls have already lost two forwards to injury this year as Mike Dunleavy Jr. continues to sit and Joakim Noah is undergoing shoulder surgery. And now, for the short term at least, the floor-stretching second-year reserve Nikola Mirotic is out for three weeks after having undergone an appendectomy this week. Doug McDermott is poised to see more minutes with the second unit because losing Niko for a few weeks means there is one less perimeter shooter out on the floor. The Bulls need a wing player out there who is a threat to score so that the driving lane can stay wide for the guards to attack the paint.
In their Thursday night demolition of the lowly Lakers, McDermott came out strong and the timing couldn’t be better for him. He scored 15 points off the bench in 24 minutes of play, going a strong 3-for-6 from three-point range. He was a relatively (for him) efficient +5 overall. But most significant to me in the game was that he was being very aggressive and emotional. He dove for a loose ball at one point and was tied up for a jump ball. He also appeared to be trash-talking to his defenders after making shots, which is a great sign for his confidence on the court. The downside of his newfound attitude was an unnecessary hassling of the refs for perceived non-calls. But hey, we’ll take it if it’s a byproduct of him finding a voice on the court.
Indeed, McDermott has good reason to keep shooting in this period of likely increased playing time. He’s having a good shooting year. His three point percentage of .427 puts him in the top ten in the league. Hoiberg has shown his willingness to give McDermott the go-ahead to take shots this year and his teammates actively look for him in the offense. If he can keep up the aggressive, confident style of play he enacted against the Lakers, he could parlay this period of extra minutes into an increased role in the rotation for the rest of the season.
WARRIORS CONTINUE TO ROLL, CRUSHING SPURS AMONG OTHERS
The Warriors (42-4) are now ahead of pace for passing the ’95-’96 Bulls for the most regular season wins in NBA history. Last week’s wins included a much-anticipated match-up with the second-best team in the NBA, the Spurs, but the Warriors ended up utterly dominating, winning by 30. They are sending three players to the All Star Game, including Klay Thompson, who cemented his place among the All Stars with a 45-point game against the Mavericks on Wednesday night.
Harrison Barnes has been in the news a bit this week but mostly in the speculative realm. Rumors have been circulating for a few months that the Warriors are preparing to make a pitch to Kevin Durant when he hits free agency this Summer. To be fair: Every team is interested in trying to get KD. But the prospect of actually acquiring Durant seems likelier for the Warriors than almost any other team: They can offer him a very good chance of winning championships, which is his highest priority. But it’s going to take some cap space in order to make a bid on KD.
This is where Barnes comes in. Harrison chose not to re-sign with the Warriors before this season started, essentially betting that his value will have increased by the end of this season. That’s probably a good bet because teams around the league will be interested in a guy with Barnes’ profile: He’s a proven winner, he’s young, he can shoot, and he plays defense. The Warriors may be willing to let him go rather than offering him a big contract in order to keep that cap room open in case KD would like to see an offer. As much as I’d like to see HB as a career Warrior, I’m not gonna blame the guy if another team comes along offering max money. And that’s a real possibility for him if he plays well the rest of this year and stays healthy.
Former Cyclone Bryce Dejean-Jones Shines in First Chance: Bryce Dejean-Jones is getting a shot with the injury-depleted Pelicans with a 10-day contract. He came out swinging Thursday in his first game with a pretty decent performance that included going 3-for-6 from three point range, 5-for-12 (.417) from the field, grabbing two rebounds and even getting a block and two steals. One concerning fact: he went 1-for-6 from the free throw line, a miserable .167 that will not cut it obviously. But for a guy getting over 30 minutes in his first big NBA game, Dejean-Jones came on strong and showed he’s planning to compete hard for a spot on the bench.
Korver Has a Good Shooting Week: Pella High School grad Kyle Korver picked up his shooting percentage a bit this week for the Bulls after struggling on and off for most this season so far. He went 4-for-4 from three-point range in a loss to the Clippers on Wednesday and shot 3-of-5 from three in a win over the Nuggets on Monday. He cooled on Thursday though with a 1-of-7 three-point performance Thursday in a rough loss to the Hawks.
Hinrich Out with Minor Injury: Sioux City native Kirk Hinrich didn’t play for the Bulls this week as he sat out with a quad contusion. It’s not an injury that should keep him out for long.