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  • Writer's pictureSteve Hinson

Cade Away: Detroit Pistons vs. Chicago Bulls previews

The Bulls have done a lot of stuff over the past seven months. I'm not a fan.

They'll improve on last year's 31-41 record to be sure. But when you're 31-41 seems an odd time to push all of your chips to the middle of the table.

What's the endgame here? Just keeping Zach LaVine? Well, ok.

But that's the criticism of the strategy. For the team this year, they should be competitive from night to night. Against a young, rebuilding team like the Pistons, they should be expecting wins.

The acquisitions of Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, and Alex Caruso will be awkward if LaVine leaves as a free agent next summer, but that doesn't matter much for now. They'll be a fun up-and-down team that knows how to put the ball in the hoop. They won't be much defensively, but whatever.

Given the strength of the top teams in the East with the Bucks, Nets, and 76ers, it's an odd time for the Bulls to go try to compete. But whatever.

Game times

Wednesday, October 20 at 7 pm ET

Detroit, MI

Saturday, October 23 at 8 pm ET

Chicago, IL

What to watch

Of course, all eyes are on Cade Cunningham's ankle. The latest sounds like he's out for Wednesday night, remains to be seen for Saturday.

It's too bad that he'll not be available for opening night in Detroit, but it is what it is.

That means other storylines. Can Killian Hayes look competent with Cade out? Will Hamidou Diallo or Saddiq Bey use it as an opportunity to shine, or will Josh Jackson just take 20 shots? I'm also curious to see how the minutes with Cory Joseph and Saben Lee shake out.

For numbers in the early part of the season, I'm going to be looking at rebounding. The Pistons were one of the worst rebounding teams of the preseason and it makes sense given the personnel. Swapping Mason Plumlee for Kelly Olynyk leaves Isaiah Stewart as the team's only plus rebounder for their position. I expect Cade to help once he's ready, but even then, the Pistons are probably going to struggle in this area.

For the Bulls, I'm curious to see if that gives Alize Johnson a shot into the rotation. I admit, I've always been intrigued by Alize. He's one of those guys who has been awesome in the G League, averaging 19/13/4 over three seasons with good size and athleticism. Then productive in limited minutes when getting a chance in the NBA. He just seems like a NBA player to me. Not a starter, but a contributor for sure.

Johnson only averaged 13.5 minutes per game in the four preseason games, but posted 8 points per game, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists. Per 36 minutes, that's 21/24/6. Not bad.

Really though, he's the type of energy guy who could feast on the Pistons' soft (other than Stewart) interior. The same could be true of Patrick Williams or Derrick Jones Jr., but neither of those two have shown the rebounding chops of Johnson.

Other observations at the end of the Bulls' bench, Alize making the team meant the Bulls waiving another Johnson: our old friend Stanley. At 25, Stanley looks like he's running out of shots in the league. A shame.

I'm also curious to see if Troy Brown Jr. gets on the court for the team. At just 22 years old, he's already tallied over 3000 NBA minutes. He has a nice, well rounded game and dramatically increased his reliance on his three point shot last season. If he can get those to fall (and I think he should, given his solid percentages on free throws and long twos), he could be an interesting long term player.

Happy New Year.

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