Atlanta game shed lights on weakness

Before I start, understand this is not going to
be a rant, nor an article based on emotional reactions from last night's game.

As it's
been documented since the very beginning of the season, Chicago needs a
secondary playmaker that can score the basketball and make plays off the
dribble. The trading deadline came and went with only a minor move, sending
forward James Johnson to Toronto for a pick. At this point in the season,
playoffs is a given and anything less than a second-round exit, would be
considered a major disappointment. But even elite teams can get better. As history
can attest to, a team is not stronger than its weakest link. Chicago's missing
link is significant and needs to be addressed if the team truly wishes to
develop into a dominant force in the post-season.

Derrick
Rose had an off-night, shooting five-for-21 from the field. This happens, even
to the greatest of them. But it becomes a problem if Rose's struggles directly
lead to the demise of the team at the end of games. In other words, offensively
things need to be adjusted, if not through acquiring someone, then through
development from within. Luol Deng, Chicago's glue guy and one of the premier
wing defenders in the league, is scoring 17 points a night but is doing so
while being assisted on over 80% of his shots. However, right now Deng might
prove to be the Bulls' best bet in making more plays with the ball. It's
well-known that Deng's dribble is subpar, so it'd take a level of commitment
from him in bettering it.

But as
everyone knows, such development takes longer than just a few weeks. This
could, and should, be a summer project for Deng. Even if the Bulls acquire a
secondary playmaker, having a roster with players who can make decisions with
the basketball in their hands, assures more versatility from an X's and O's
perspective in the playoffs. These days the offense runs entirely through Rose,
and it's obvious that this burden will take its toll on him, assuming a deep
playoff run. It would be a shame if Rose carried the Bulls through three
rounds, only to finally run out of gas before the Finals. Those who use his age
(22) as an argument to the contrary, has to keep in mind that the body can
still only take so much, regardless of age. Rose is the primary scorer, the
primary passer and carries the responsibility of being the first line of
defense, every night. He's done admirably, even turning in an MVP caliber
season, but assuming he can work his magic without getting a breather is quite
simply unrealistic.

Luckily for
Rose, and Bulls fans, the front office recognizes this need and attempted to
solve it at the deadline. They went as far as offering Ronnie Brewer and three
first-round picks to Memphis for O.J. Mayo, despite Mayo being in the middle of
his worst season in which he's received suspensions for fighting and substance
abuse. However, Memphis didn't want to play ball with Chicago (a theme we're going
to touch on at a later day) and other wing players were considered. Chicago's
logic for not pulling the trigger on deals that would have seen Omer Asik or
Taj Gibson move zip code is sound and understandable. The team's decision to
hang onto these guys is based on the long-term, visualizing a hard-nosed
defensive front-line winning them playoff games through strong rebounding,
second chance opportunities and defensive establishment.

So where do
the Bulls go from here? They're in the hunt for the title and could make a
Finals run if the dices lands correctly, so what is there to do now that can
improve the team to the point where they have all bases covered?

Well, I'm
no coach or GM, but my line of thinking goes as follows:

Carlos Boozer needs to get more touches in the
post

Boozer,
while not being a strong defender, can flat-out score the basketball. He does
need to be set-up a lot, but he's no slouch when given the ball in the
low-post. Boozer's strength is often too overwhelming for opponents to stop,
and if Boozer is being put on the floor for longer stretches with the second
unit, he should be able to carry the offense to an extent where Chicago
wouldn't give up an established lead. If Chicago can go into the second quarter
with a six point lead and not having to regain it when Rose re-enters the game,
it should be considered a winning formula from an offensive standpoint. Switch
the placement of Boozer's minutes around and make sure to have one of him and
Rose in the game at all times. Force-feed Boozer with Rose sitting, and let him
draw double-teams which Kyle Korver can penalize them for.

Luol Deng and the 10-15 foot area

Reading
that headline could indicate that Deng should be shooting short jumpers, but
not necessarily so. Deng has shown a knack for keeping his cool when pressured
around the key, and his ability to finish plays around the basket makes
opponents hesitant to back off of him. So for him to drive the ball into that
area, should open up the floor. If the double doesn't come, Deng is good enough
to simply out-work and out-fake his man to getting a path to the cup. If the
double comes, he has the necessary court view of getting rid of the ball. To
boot, Deng understands the 3-second rule and has the presence of mind to react
quickly.

Rose, Noah and the running game

With Joakim
Noah back, Rose need no longer feel he can't run with the basketball. With Kurt
Thomas in there, the team often went into a half-court offense to set-up camp.
With Noah around Rose can now attack fearlessly, knowing his center is right
behind him to clean up if it goes wrong, or playing the part as the 6'11
trailer who can run and jump. Either way it should be a score, which in the
playoffs doesn't come easily. If Chicago can make it a mission to force
turnovers and get out and run in the late stages of the season, they could make
a splash in the playoffs at getting easy scores. This would be necessary
against a team like New York.

What's
great about this Chicago team is that they have been fantastic at making
adjustments on the go. They have yet to lose three games in a row, and the
defense has been even better than expected. For the first time since the Jordan
era, Chicago has built a foundation for the road to success. Corny? Maybe so,
but nonetheless true. They have worked from within, improving tremendously
after just one season under Tom Thibodeau. Going into the playoffs, this
feature will be relied upon once again which should be applauded. The team has
gone through major obstacles and come out on top regardless. Their
determination to overcome bad odds is inspiring and their preparation to the
playoffs should never be questioned.

However, a shooting
guard to give us peace of mind wouldn't be bad either. I suggest Kelenna
Azubuike.

Comments

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  • Nice article. I agree with your last statement about signing Azubuike. He's coming off of injury, but if we're signing someone who won't see much playing time anyway, let's sign the guy who has the best chance of helping the team succeed when healthy. Rasual Butler doesn't give us anything that Bogans doesn't already give, but a healthy Azubuike, in my opinion, give us more.

  • In reply to kayak0109:

    I agree. Yes to Kelenna Azubuike.

  • In reply to rkraneis:

    I fourth the motion

  • In reply to mikemuadib:

    But will Thibs stop starting Bogans? I doubt it.

  • In reply to Edward:

    He probably won't stop starting Bogans. But if anyone is able to replace Bogans out of these couple guys that are available, a healthy Azubuike has a better chance of earning that spot over Butler, IMO. He also has a better chance of sticking with the team past this season than Butler. Looks like they're picking up Butler though so oh well. Unless there's an injury, he probably won't get much playing time anyway, so it probably doesn't really matter who it is.

  • In reply to kayak0109:

    Azubuike prolly cant contribute until next year anyway as he's 80% at best...but its a good idea for next year assuming he can make a full recovery. Meanwhile Butler isnt a bad insurance policy but not much more imo. Hopefully he can get some playing time to see if he earns more. He's a better shooter that he's shown this year.

  • In reply to Edward:

    Anyone else torn on who to root for in the Miami/Orlando game tonight? Chicago is a couple wins and a couple Miami losses from taking the 2 seed, but also a few losses and a few Magic wins from falling back in a 3/4 seed race with Orlando. I usually root for whoever is playing against Miami, but this one is tough. Either way, a good triple OT game would be good though so Orlando has no energy tomorrow night!

  • In reply to kayak0109:

    ORL mos def

  • In reply to bullswin60606:

    I'd like Orlando to win in a triple overtime win over the Heat and then we can hand them a defeat tomorrow night on their court! :-)

  • In reply to bullswin60606:

    Most sane read on the Bulls, their path going forward and last night's game. Keep it up Morten Stig Jensen, and don't ever go into the camp of these alarmists calling themselves BULLS FANS!

  • In reply to bullswin60606:

    Rose is struggling with his shot, does anyone know why?
    Seems like a slump, I hope it ends soon.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    he has to take less 3 pts shoot !! normally he should take only when he is wide open to punish defenders who consider him only as a driver. But instead of that he shoots 3 anytime like he's praticing on a real game.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    D Rose being the primary ball handler, distributor, and scorer on the roster + the long NBA regular season = constant wear and tear, so it shouldn't be a surprised that D Rose is going through a shooting slump.

    I agree that the Bulls should run more sets for Boozer in the post. However, I echo the sentiment that Noah has not been confidently looking to shoot the ball from the elbow since he has returned and that this issues has probably allowed his defender to sag off of him. If both Boozer and Noah are on the floor, I can see opposing teams double down on Boozer with the 4 and the 5 and dare Noah to beat them with the jumpshot.

    I know some Bulls' fans felt Kirk Hinrich was overpaid and not worth the 8 million that he was being paid to come off the bench. He passed up good shots, dribbled aimlessly along the baseline and his coach, at the time (VDN), could never pronounce his name correctly (what would have happened if VDN was still coaching and both Kirk Hinrich and Kurt Thomas were on the team...). I have been a longtime Kirk Hinrich fan and believe that he would be having a career year if he were still here. Oh well, I don't blame the organization for attempting to free up enough cap space to grab 2 max FAs last offseason, but Captain Kirk is definitely missed in Chicago...

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Azabuike is not going to do anything this year. This is the team the Bulls have. Even next year who can the Bulls get? I would love Stephen Jackson but he isn't a FA. I am interested in Jamaal Crawford coming back to Chicago or Jason Richardson, both are free agents this summer. I know some people won't like Crawford and he is undersized but he can flat out score, and I think that is what the Bulls need. Bring back Crawford!

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    The so-called adage "a team is not stronger than its weakest link" is a fallacy if there ever was one. It serves as further evidence that people buy into things without really thinking about them, or rationalizing them.

    If teams were truly only as strong as their weakest link, how in the world the the 95-96 Bulls set the record with 72 wins with Jack Haley on the team? That team could've had the worst player in the history of the NBA or their roster and they still would've been the strongest team in the history of the league. So, people should stop with that ridiculous saying. And we should begin to THINK before we adopt certain sayings.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Great Article

  • In reply to Edward:

    i think that is the first lost where we have to blame rose. he took bad 3pts shoot(0/5). he shotvery pourly (5/20) and turned the ball over 6 time. Most of all he should stop taking 3pt everytime. He force 3. that'S not smart. he waste possessions.
    Once again Deng didnt score in the 4th. neither did boozer. how are we supposed to win in playoffs if players cant help rose in the 4th ??
    Of course, rose played bad because of himself. But in playoffs he will have that kind of "off night" because of double-teams. And that'S where boozer and deng are supposed to step up and win the game.
    It's disapointing to loose each time Rose is off( against the warriors) !! it'S gonna be an issue in playoffs.

  • In reply to kayak0109:

    Nice article. I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking about bringing in Kelenna Azubuike. I'm surprised he hasn't been picked up yet.

  • In reply to joeacook3:

    The Knicks could use a SG and cut him so that should tell you how healthy he is right now.

  • In reply to kayak0109:

    I mentioned in a post the other day that I noticed that Noah has been pretty hesitant to shoot the jumper from the foul line area that he was hitting pretty consistently pre-injury. Sam Smith just mentioned that in his recap from last night's game and said that it seems to be allowing his man to sag off and more easily double/clog the lane for Boozer. Not saying this is the only reason for Boozer's recent offensive woes, but this lack of spacing may be contributing. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

  • In reply to kayak0109:

    I think so too. If you look at his injured hand, he still has some kind of wrap/cast on it. His thumb doesn't seem to be at the normal position...it's kind of stretched out. I know they said 8 weeks/10 weeks to recover from his thumb injury. But, I would give a few more weeks for him to feel more comfortable with the contact(even if he says it is fine) and be his usual self in shooting to his optimum level.

  • In reply to kayak0109:

    We were all in to getting 2 of the Big 3 this summer but we gave up so much doing so and it's amazing how good our record is with losing Boozer and Noah this year due to injury...but we could really use the scoring that Salmons gave us and the extra ball handler in Capt Kirk. I'd love to think what are record would be if we still have either or both of those guys and not have Bogans as our starting SG.

  • In reply to smiley:

    I second that...definitely would like Kirk over Bogans if I had the choice.

  • 1. I think the problem with Deng is not his skills. It is more of energy and focus. It is not that he is a world class ball handler but he is somebody who does too much on defense and running around on offense to get the ball from Rose.
    2. As for turning over the ball, I can't see why is Rose standing towards the sides of the court. Shouldn't he be a little inside so that there is space to throw it. And why not have Asik or Boozer throw it to Noah and then Noah pass it to Rose?
    3. I also think that 3pt shooting should not be Deng's primary offensive weapon. It should be like #4 option. He has a pretty good 15-20 foot jumper and they need to use it when they are trailing. It is better to get some points than zero.
    That said, Rose is in a shooting slump. We need to see if this bad shooting becomes a regular thing like Rondo's or it is temporary(which I hope).

  • In reply to schaumburgfan:

    IMO deng should play as he used to play the last 5 years ie as a spot jump-shooter. He learned basket-ball in europe it means he is a good shooter. He should play that way instead of pump fake then a drive. His drives most of time end-up as travelling-calls or offensive fouls

  • The bulls didn't lose the game because of Rose's poor shooting, they lost the game because his TO's lead directly to too many fast break points. Azubuike isn't a "put the ball on the floor" creator, and his knee isn't 100% yet, so I really don't see what he brings to table in the short term.

    I do agree about getting Boozer more touches in the post and trying to run more, but that is directly related to defense, and the bulls defense is subpar with Boozer and Korver on the floor together. It's really hard to run if your defense is bad.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    I agree...Unless the Bulls are trailing by 15+ points or if they need a bucket in the last 10 sec, Boozer and Korver should never be together. Also, Noah gambles too much on defense by trying to double.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Finally... someone with words of wisdom, Rose cannot be the only go to player on this team from the perimeter. Deng is a good player but be does have some weak spots to his game. Last nights game although it was one game on the road that was given away has to show to some fans that Rose cannot continue to carry this team all of the time when the game is close. No one should have their hopes up too high for this team in the playoffs past the second round. It would be great if the Bulls could somehow get to the ECF or even the finals but without a legitimate shooting guard, that's going to be a tall task to accomplish without a lot of luck involved. The Bulls defense will only carry them so far but when a critical offensive possession comes up, that's where the Bulls have their weakness at times and in the playoffs... weaknesses will find teams most of the time coming up way short. A legitimate shooting guard thus summer will not be an option but a major necessity if the Bulls are to compete for a championship in the near future.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    In the absence of a talented SG, this Bulls teams relies heavily on hustle and intense defensive effort - almost a playoff type effort during the regular season. This will gain many regular season wins. The problem is once playoffs start you can

  • In reply to Reese1:

    exaclty man !! you have just resumed my thoughts !! As i said below, it'S disapointing to see bulls loose each time Rose is off (like game against warriors). Of course Rose is very very very good but in playoffs he'll have a lot of games like yersterday. Normally Deng and boozer are the ones who are supposed to carry the team in this kind of situations but they are simply disapointing. Both didn't score the whole 4th quarter. It's terrible. okay for deng because we are used to see him desappear the fourth but BOOZER !c'mon boozer is an allstar,i don't get it ??

  • In reply to deewaves:

    Yeah Boozer should have had a better game and we would have won if he had. He'll get it together. I believe this team can and will crank it up a notch in the playoffs. Dont worry too much about an off game here and there.

    deewaves, you are a tough customer (and I can appreciate that to an extent). Just dont forget to enjoy this team a little some too. This team is on a exponential ascent lest we forget.

  • In reply to bullswin60606:

    don't worry. it'S my nature. I want bulls to be better because i'm probably one the biggest fans of chicago bulls. i enjoy them even if i still criticize them loool !

  • In reply to deewaves:

    I like this post, too. Since both Boozer and Noah are back it seems to me that Rose's assists are up and his scoring is down which is fine. But in close games, especially where athletic wings and guards doubleteam Drose, he can't get caught up in the air with turnovers. Besides last night, that is also how the last Miami game started and it happened in the Golden State loss. Even the final Deng shot was Drose in the air at the last minute fortunatley finding Deng. If Wade had stayed home and LeBron was in position, what would have happened. I don't blame Drose overall, more the coach. In tight games, there needs to be a better offensive set designed. Going in to Boozer might be better but more offensive movement rather than allowing DRose to be double-teamed or played by athletic taller players and hoping he steps up as MVP seems to be the only offensive plan in tight games. It works sometimes as Rose rises above it. But as stated, if he is off, what is clearly the next option?

  • In reply to deewaves:

    I wish we had Salmons or Ben Gordon for that matter because they could really go off...but especially Salmons with his size and versatility...we should be happy that or upper management made strong plays for the Big 3 with making the roster and cap space but it just didn't happen.
    We held tough and didn't give away Taj or Asik our versatile big men but we are a decent starting SG away from going deep into the playoffs. Stephen Jackson or John Salmons who have good size at 6'6"-8" would be nice about now!
    I didn't see the game yet but Rose is due to have a bad game once in awhile! He has improved so much this year and is a true MVP candidate!

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