The Bulls, losers of 7 of their last 10, host the Milwaukee Bucks, losers of 8 of their last 10, in a Central Division Suckfest Tuesday night. The first of two meetings this week and the first on the season between these rivals, the Bulls having split their two meetings with the Pacers, Cavs and Pistons thus far. Aside from Mike Dunleavy facing his former team, there isn’t a whole lot to track narratively. Aside, of course, from the now running gag that is the Bulls’ injury issues. Joakim Noah will miss tonight’s game with a knee contusion, as will Luol Deng with his leg injury. That leaves Carlos Boozer as the only returning starter from opening night, which was ONLY SIX WEEKS AGO. The season is a little over a fifth of the way through, and this team is already running on reserves of reserves. Erik Murphy expects to see some time tonight without Noah, as will Nazr Mohammed. Neither of them exactly inspires confidence, though Nazr’s defensive on/off numbers are interesting, I suppose. With only 9 active players (one of whom is Mike James), recent reports have linked the Bulls to the recently waived D.J. Augustin, the 9th overall pick in the 2009 draft and former backup point guard in both Indiana and Toronto. The good news is that he’s a point guard who isn’t Mike James, the bad news that he’s another “shooter who can’t shoot,” which will hardly cure what ails this team.
Can confirm @WojYahooNBA report about Bulls/DJ Augustin…multiple sources expect him to sign with Bulls if he clears waivers tomorrow
— Aggrey Sam (@CSNBullsInsider) December 10, 2013
On the Bucks side, they’ve shown a marked and consistent commitment to tanking, best exemplified by their own “injury issues” and the fact that they employ Gary Neal. With only ten active players of their own, the Bucks look to be playing tank Chess where everyone else is playing tank Checkers. Local product and folk hero Caron Butler is out for at least another week with a knee injury, Zaza Pachulia is out with a broken foot, and the aforementioned Gary Neal has missed time as of late.
While the game is not likely to be a well-played one, there is cause for intrigue. Marquis Teague will look to build off of back to back not terrible performances, Taj Gibson will start again in place of Deng and the young Bucks (Nate Wolters, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Khris Middleton) will see heavy minutes, which should help break things up a bit. At least Drew Gooden is gone.
Chicago Bulls (8-10, 3rd in Central, 8th in East)
C: Nazr Mohammed, 16th season. 1.3 points, 2.6 rebounds per game.
PF: Carlos Boozer, 12th season. 15.6 points, 8.7 rebounds per game.
SF: Taj Gibson, 5th season. 12.4 points, 6.7 rebounds per game. (Update: Mike Dunleavy will start)
SG: Tony Snell, 1st season. 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds per game.
PG: Kirk Hinrich, 11th season. 8.6 points, 5.1 assists per game.
Milwaukee Bucks (4-16, 5th in Central, 15th in East)
C: John Henson, 2nd season. 11.3 points, 7.0 rebounds per game.
PF: Ersan Ilyasova, 6th season. 8.8 points, 4.9 rebounds per game.
SF: Khris Middleton, 2nd season. 11.3 points, 3.9 rebounds per game.
SG: O.J. Mayo, 6th season. 15.3 points, 2.8 assists per game.
PG: Brandon Knight, 3rd season. 10.3 points, 4.3 assists per game.
Key Matchup: Tony Snell vs O.J. Mayo
Mayo is, like many players considered “pure scorers,” not as good as his reputation would dictate. That being said, he got out to a lightning start last season with Dallas and could drop 25-30 without much provocation. Aside from Boozer, who’s had his issues against teams that aren’t the Miami Heat this season, the Bulls don’t really have anyone who can do that. Deng was filling in admirably, but he’s not here. Neither is Jimmy Butler. D.J. Augustin is not the answer. We just have to hope the Thibs Defense can grind opponents into submission, but shooting is important. Tony Snell is still among active Bulls in True Shooting, ranking right behind Mike Dunleavy, so a big shooting night from him would go a long way towards avoiding perhaps the most embarrassing loss this team could suffer.