Maybe instead of flat-out trying to lose, as some have suggested, the Bulls should focus on individual goals that could lead to long-term improvement.
A good place to start is getting Lauri Markkanen the ball and seeing if his outside shot can become more consistent.
Lauri Markkanen’s shot attempts and scoring average by month:
Games FGA PPG
October 5 11.6 15.6
November 15 13.1 14.2
December 13 13.0 14.7
January 14 12.9 17.1
February 3 15.0 15.0
While Markkanen’s rookie-season performance has generally been very good, he has run hot and cold from long range. He went 0-for-6 from 3-point land on Monday against Orlando, but still managed to register his first 20-point game since he scored 33 at New York on Jan. 10.
“We wanted to try to get Lauri on the block early in the game,” coach Fred Hoiberg said after Monday’s win. “He had some wide-open looks. If he makes a couple of those he’s normally going to knock down, Lauri’s looking at a 30-point game.”
Since returning from three games off for the birth of his son, Markkanen has gone 3-for-17 from long range. But if this season has taught us anything about the 7-foot Finland native, he can do more than station himself as a spot-up shooter.
Markkanen can put the ball on the floor, and with his athleticism he can score in a variety of ways around the basket. Using screens to create mismatches has been a significant part of Hoiberg’s offense this season, using both Markkanen and the now-traded Nikola Mirotic.
Markkanen took 13 shots from 2-point land in the victory over Orlando, hitting 9. This was one short of his season-high for 2-point shots in a game. The plan, however, should be to get Markkanen more looks, period. After getting just 7 shots Friday against Minnesota, Markkanen’s 38 shots in the past two contests are the most he has had in any set of consecutive games.
Markkanen was asked Tuesday if he has felt the so-called “rookie wall” after playing in 50 NBA games.
“I love what I’m doing so I can’t really be exhausted,” he said. “I’ve had good games. I’ve had bad games. I don’t know if I’ve had a really long period of time where I can’t do anything. If my shot isn’t falling, I’m trying to do other stuff to help the team. So hopefully, I’m not facing that going forward.”
What about hitting the lack-of-sleep wall, considering he has a newborn at home.
“It’s not too bad,” he said. “He sleeps all the time.”
Markkanen will stay busy during the all-star break, since he will participate in the Rising Stars game as well as the Skills Challenge.
“I’m practicing a little bit (for the Skills Challenge),” he said. “I’m not worried about that. I know everything I can do on those drills. So I should be good.”
When the break is over, the Bulls are hoping to get a better look at Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn playing together for an extended period. Markkanen has averaged 14.8 points since Dunn went out with a concussion, compared to 17.1 points during the stretch when the Bulls went 14-7 with Dunn at point guard.
“Kris helps a lot,” Markkanen said. “His scoring ability helps not just me but different guys as well. I’m looking forward to having him back.”
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls