Ahead of most games, Liberty Ballers conducts a question-and-answer session with someone possessing in-depth knowledge of the Philadelphia 76ers’ imminent opponent. Up next is Larry Golden, who co-hosts Bulls 101, a Chicago Bulls podcast.
How do the absences of Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball alter what Chicago aims to do on both ends?
I think when it comes to the absence of Lonzo on offense, he is really missed in terms of three-point attempts, and being able to rebound defensively. His ability to push the ball on the break and make baseball passes that result in baskets is missed as well. He is shooting 42 percent on 7.4 attempts per game beyond the arc, so the spacing he provides on offense is missed. The Bulls also don’t rebound as well when Nikola Vucevic isn’t on the floor and that’s something he definitely helps with.
Alex Caruso’s defensive impact at the point-of-attack is surely missed, especially because Nikola Vucevic is mainly a drop coverage big in pick-and-rolls. With Lonzo and Caruso both out for 6-8 weeks, there is just not the same ability to give opposing offenses resistance on certain actions. Caruso is also an underrated passer and has made sound decisions as a ball-handler all season. He is a great cutter/connector piece off the ball, and communicates on both ends, which is needed at the moment for this Bulls squad.
How do you want the Bulls to approach the trade deadline? How do you think they’ll approach the deadline?
The trade deadline used to be a very disappointing day for Chicago Bulls fans. Yet since Arturas Karnisovas took over as vice president of basketball operations, the excitement for the deadline is abundant. I think this team needs to add a low-usage offensive player that is very sound defensively. I think the beauty of Arturas Karnisovas is that you can’t really put a finger on where he may go at the deadline. Last season, Bulls fans were caught off guard with the acquisition of Vucevic. If I had to guess, I would say a move around the margins and another move for an upgrade at the backup center spot is what will occur.
What’s one matchup you’re keeping tabs on for this game?
I think a lot of Bulls fans will say Nikola Vucevic vs. Joel Embiid. But for me, it will always be Zach LaVine vs. Matisse Thybulle. If you look at the history of this matchup, Matisse, in my opinion, has gotten the best of Zach. This season, in two games, Zach is averaging 29.5 points on 25 shots, while also shooting just 29.4 percent from deep. Matisse makes Zach work a lot harder to get his buckets.
Biggest pleasant surprise of the season?
The pleasant surprise has to be rookie Ayo Dosunmu. He has completely outplayed what anyone could have expected. With Lonzo and Caruso out of the lineup, he has taken full advantage of his chances. In the eight games since Caruso’s injury, Ayo is averaging 11.8 points on 61 percent true shooting and 39 percent from three on 3.5 attempts a night. All season, Ayo has shown promise on both ends. Offensively, he’s a good connecting player, while defensively, he’s a pretty darn good on-ball defender.
Biggest disappointment of the season?
For me, the biggest disappointment is Troy Brown Jr.’s play. Coming into the season, I thought he could come off the bench and grow into an impactful rotation wing. He plays very hard and gives a ton of effort. But he still has a bunch of mental lapses and gets beat backdoor pretty frequently defensively. I had higher expectations for his play and maybe, they were just a bit too high.
What’s one thing Sixers fans should watch for in this one?
The one thing Sixers fans should look out for is Nikola Vucevic regaining efficient, high-volume scoring. I am very interested to see how the Bulls run their offense against the Sixers, with Vucevic really getting his rhythm back, especially around the basket. I wonder how Joel Embiid deters them and him from that. Over last 10 games, Vucevic is averaging 22.5 points on 61 percent true shooting, while also shooting 36 percent on five attempts a game beyond the arc.