Four score feels like seven years ago for Bulls starting that position

By Chicago 5 Min Read

Welcome to the Bulls’ starting power-forward spot, where dreams of scoring double digits go to die.

Please check the ego and any wild ideas of getting frequent touches at the door.

Patrick Williams was given the first crack at it, five games to be specific. The former No. 4 overall pick scored eight points in the opening-night loss to the Thunder, and it went downhill from there. He had three points against the Raptors, was shut out against the Pistons, had a hopeful nine against the Pacers and was shut out again in the loss to the Mavericks.

And just like that Williams was out and veteran Torrey Craig was in.

The curse of that position, though, stayed intact.

Craig had three points in his debut as a starter, showed some hope from that spot with seven in the loss to the Nuggets but then had just three points in the win over the Jazz on three shots and took a zero in Wednesday’s overtime loss to the Suns.

In nine games, the Bulls are getting 3.6 points per game from the starting power-forward spot on 13-for-46 shooting (28%) and 4-for-22 from three-point range (18%). Unless your starting power forward is named P.J. Tucker, that’s completely unacceptable.

And that’s why coach Billy Donovan is keeping Craig’s name in the starting lineup, but written in pencil.

“I think right now I like the way Patrick is playing and what he’s doing [with the second unit],’’ Donovan said. “Not to say it couldn’t change. Things could definitely change for us. But I think for the minutes that Patrick has gotten coming off the bench, I think he’s done a good job. He’s taking advantage of his opportunities. Just in my conversations — not that we’ve talked about it a lot — but I think he feels comfortable with where he’s at right now.

“Could we go back to that? Maybe, but it’s not like, ‘Hey, let’s go five games and then Patrick you’re back.’ ”

Williams might not want to go back anytime soon.

Playing with that second unit, he has almost forced to be aggressive in getting up shots. Donovan has been staggering one of his “Big Three” — DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine or Nikola Vucevic — with that second group, but the line for the pecking order is much shorter when there’s only one out there.

Williams’ scoring is up to 7.5 points per game off the bench. He’s rebounding more aggressively, and his three-point shooting is climbing back up to 36%.

Life has become a bit different for Craig, however.

His scoring average has dropped from 5.8 points per game to 3.2 since he became a starter. The difference is that Craig is built for playing alongside high-volume shooters.

He has proven that with the Nuggets, Bucks and the last two seasons with the Suns.

“My role is pretty much the same no matter what group I’m with,’’ Craig said. “I don’t recall if I got much run with the starters back in training camp, but I can fit in with any unit. It’s just the way I play, to adapt to different situations, different lineups.’’

That might be why Craig has a bit more staying power in the starting lineup. While Williams seemingly turtled with that first unit, Craig is still rebounding and offering some rim protection from that spot.

The wild card that could change all of that is if Donovan decides to start Alex Caruso.

But for now it’s Craig’s spot to hold down.

“He’s been around a lot of different high-quality offensive players,’’ Donovan said of Craig. “He knows how to function in those situations. To give space, knowing when to cut, giving extra possessions on the offensive glass. He’s taken on incredibly tough defensive assignments throughout his entire career. 

“I think Torrey is going to be who he is all the time.’’ 

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