As I wrote yesterday, Tony Snell has gone from "guy I think is a complete bust" to "guy who looks like he can stick in the league". The transformation isn't so surprising given that he was a rookie, but he improved in several areas that I felt were fairly unlikely.
When I look at Doug McDermott, I don't see complete bust. I see a guy who has a real obvious NBA strength and some legitimate NBA skills that need to be ironed out. So when we look at Tony Snell and ask ourselves how he got from A to B it might be worth applying those lessons to McDermott (and to a lesser extent Mirotic).
Tony Snell got better because he played
Not 10 minute a game, but by playing big minutes in a game. Games where he got a chance to find his rhythm without fear of being taken out. Coincidentally, we saw the same thing from Nikola Mirotic whom struggled mightily playing 5-8 minutes a night but improved tremendously playing 20-30 when their were injuries.
He also played much better once inserted into a lineup with other players who don't suck so his role could decrease. All three of our young players started off set up to fail by being clumped together. It was almost as if Tom Thibodeau thought, let's see how I can create the worst situation imaginable for these guys for a month, prove they stink and then not have to people question me when I bench them.
With Snell playing along side starters at moments recently his role is reduced. He's not expected to do as much, his shot difficulty is down. He's able to make an impact and do the things he's better at with less responsibility.
How can we apply this to our rookies?
First, they need to play.
I recognize this is a season when we're striving to win a championship, so playing time shouldn't be gifted out to develop players. However, when Mike Dunleavy is out, Doug McDermott is his best replacement in terms of skills.
That's a time you can play him without hurting your team. It's a chance to play him when he could get some extended run with other good players. It was a period where the Bulls were getting their asses handed to them every night anyway, so it certainly wasn't going to cost you in the win loss column.
Stop playing Nikola Mirotic at the three.
Yes, it was a good thing to try, but it's not working, and the reasons why are pretty darn obvious. First, Mirotic doesn't do much to space the floor as a three relative to other threes. On to of that the guys guarding him can close out fast and defend the perimeter as their primary focus anyway.
You're taking his biggest strength and neutralizing it. He's not giving the Bulls any extra spacing as a SF nor is he creating any special problems for the opposing team. On the defensive end it's a wreck as well. Either Taj Gibson ends up guarding the three which pulls him away from his strengths, or Mirotic gets crushed by guys he has no hope of defending.
The Bulls are frequently running Gasol into the ground as it is, it shouldn't be a big problem to rest him for an extra five minutes a game to get Mirotic some consistent run in a position where he can succeed.
Showdown vs Cavs
This game doesn't look pretty on the onset. The Bulls will likely be missing Jimmy Butler who's listed as day to day with a shoulder strain. Kirk Hinrich is out, but that's probably not a hindrance of any kind.
If Butler can't go, the Bulls best answer for LeBron defensively is likely Tony Snell or Taj Gibson. Neither of those options sound particularly enticing to me.
Bulls interested in Arron Afflalo?
In news that will make many Bulls fans happy, Chicago is reportedly among the teams interested in trading for Arron Afflalo (thanks to CN71 for the link in the comments yesterday).
The Nuggets were quite excited to get two first rounders for Timofey Mozgov and are now looking for a big pay day on Afflalo, Chandler, or any other vets that aren't in their long term plans.
Either Chandler or Afflalo would be a nice upgrade for the Bulls, but matching salary is a problem, and I don't think Chicago can move Dunleavy in a trade and go the rest of the season without a great shooter. I simply don't trust Afflalo as a shooter given two of his last three seasons have been really bad.
That said, Dunleavy gets a much better percentage of good looks than Afflalo, and maybe Arron's percentages would improve considerably with better looks at the basket. He'd certainly upgrade the defense. It's hard to match salary without Dunleavy though McDermott can be thrown in his place and then maybe removes the need to include a pick.
That said, I'd like to see what the Bulls have in McDermott. I don't think a trade goes down primarily because the Bulls don't have five million in filler to send for Arron. If they did, then I think Chicago would likely be willing to give up the Kings pick and maybe their own to get him given that they just added two rookies last season and neither pick projects out to be a great player.
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