The Bulls have been drafting one-and-done college players — including Coby White and Lauri Markkanen — in recent years. The huge differences between the college and pro games create long learning curves for the players. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
The Bulls have spent the last four drafts bringing in college players that were one-and-dones. With the gap in styles between college and the NBA as wide as ever, and none of those Bulls picks generational talents, coach Billy Donovan has his hands full. Wendell Carter Jr. is still trying to understand his spacing on drop defense.
The Bulls big man admittedly never played that scheme before.
Guard Coby White is still getting confused with his defensive checklist on pick-and-roll, Lauri Markkanen is in Year 4 and still getting comfortable in the post, while rookie Patrick Williams? Heck, the 19-year-old is still trying to figure out the easiest route to maneuver through Chicago traffic and get to the Advocate Center each morning.
This is the reality coach Billy Donovan and his staff are working through.
College one-and-dones have been flooding into the NBA for years now, but are doing so less and less prepared, as the college game and NBA game have maybe the largest divide in style ever.
Sure, there’s a Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and Trae Young that bend those rules because of generational size, athleticism or shooting, but most one-and-done draft picks are Carters and Whites.
And the Bulls have used the last four drafts to load up on them.
No, but a reality that the old regime didn’t take into account, far too busy listening to an analytics department that let numbers and formulas override commonsense.
“I think going from college and being up here now there’s so much of the college game or the NBA game that just doesn’t translate to college at all,’’ Donovan said of the differences.
He would know.
Before taking over the coaching chair at Oklahoma City five years ago, Donovan was a long-time successful college coach at Florida.
“It’s so much different,’’ Donovan said. “You see in college a lot of times these big guys that are playing near the basket, and that’s not the way the game is played up here anymore. There’s really very, very few, I mean certain guys are posting, but you don’t see the true center posting up as much anymore. But I think there’s a lot of difficulties because of one; the widening of the lane, two; the three-point line and how deep it is, and then the fact that there’s no defensive rules. So you can just stand in the middle of the lane.
“I think that’s why the scores are so drastically low in college basketball because it’s really hard to score because you can load up on best players and there’s no rules, and then the three-point line is in, the lane is tighter, and to your point, pick-and-roll coverage the way the game is played defensively, in a lot of ways there’s just no carryover.’’
Is that why the Bulls were a 22-win team last season and have started off 0-3 since the 2020-21 campaign started last week? No, but it definitely makes a rebuild a bigger undertaking than was first thought.
“In the college game, it’s just different,’’ Carter said. “We don’t really worry about time management in college. But in the league, when it comes to being on the court, you’ve got a lot of two-for-ones. Those matter down the stretch. Every possession really matters in the league. But in college you can kind of piss away two or three possessions and still get the W.
“It’s tough, but it’s a beautiful struggle in my opinion. I feel like with us all going through it at the same time, we’re all going to get through this tough time all together. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We all see it. We all put the work in, we’ll all eventually get there.’’
Good thing for the Bulls that Donovan is very patient because it will be tested.
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