Coby White and Lauri Markkanen are out of the Chicago Bulls’ starting lineup, and it isn’t because of injuries or Covid-19 protocols. The two young prospects, long believed to be cornerstones of the Bulls’ multi-year rebuild, are now leading the Bulls’ second unit as the team gears up for a playoff push.

“They’re probably not going to be featured guys, just calling it like it is,” head coach Billy Donovan said via Rob Schaefer of NBCChicago. “But they’re very important pieces to our team, and we need them to play at a high level.”

It’s a harsh reality check for both Coby White and Lauri Markkanen, especially with the expectations thrust on both players at the start of the season. White was handed the starting point guard position at the start of the season, and while his raw numbers have improved from his rookie year, his PER has regressed from a mediocre 11.9 last season to an even worse 11.4 this season. Defense has also been an issue for the beleaguered point guard.

For Markkanen, consistency has been the 23-year-old’s Teumessian fox. The ragged play, along with the Bulls’ acquisition of two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic, has resulted in a diminished role for the forward. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the four-year veteran who’s headed to restricted free agency in the offseason.

Not all is lost for both players, though. The bench roles could turn into a blessing in disguise as both White and Markkanen now have free reign to just be basketball players, as opposed to filling specific roles that both may not be too comfortable with had they remained in the starting lineup for the Bulls.