X's and O's idea: Running San Antonio's "Loop"

X's and O's idea: Running San Antonio's "Loop"

The Spurs re-invented themselves offensively from within over the years, growing more unselfish, more create, and most importantly, more unique in the avoidance of copying other teams. They're the blueprint of modern efficient offense, combined with strict-principle defense, and they achieved it on their own, which is both admirable and unique.

Therefore, I suggest the Bulls rip them off. Or, at the very least, "borrow" a play that San Antonio uses which would work on this current Bulls group.

It's called "The Loop" and here it is:

As you can probably tell, the play is heavy on motion, cutting, spacing and reaction. It has some qualities of the old triangle in terms of the read and react action, but it requires something the Bulls have in abundance: Big man passing.

You'll note on a few occasions that Tiago Splitter receives the ball fairly close to the hoop, but passes up the shot in order to sving it to the corner for the open three-pointer. The Bulls have three big men that can do that, as well as swing the ball in a plethora of other directions for that matter. Who is the third? Mr. Mirotic. This guy has more guard instincts than anyone ever thought, and he made some rather intriguing passes in his first year. Albeit inconsistent, Mirotic has the court vision to make the extra pass, and he even has the ability to do it off the bounce when driving from the three-point line and in.

Pau Gasol in particular would thrive here, given his length and ability to move the ball quickly, as he'd mimic the role of Tim Duncan here. With Tony Snell and Doug McDermott taking the Gary Neal/Danny Green roles, and Butler becoming the rather obvious Kawhi Leonard in this format, you sort of get an idea of the Bulls could optimize their ball-movement.

And no, I haven't forgotten about Derrick Rose. He becomes the essential key here. Rose, even after his surgeries, remains an athletic bulldog who can get to the rim quicker and in more explosive manner than Parker. Freeing him up in the 12-foot range, with focus directed on the bigs, Rose could basically torch defenses by changing directions off-ball, receive the bounce pass, and have an open floater or an open lane to work from. If the defense denies him the lane, it's not problem as Rose can swing the ball outside, as you can see at the 2:09 mark of the video in which the Blazers deny Parker's penetration by double-teaming him with Neal's defender, Victor Claver. Parker dribbles once, fully knowing Claver is making the long journey towards him, and buys Neal enough time to take a few steps away from Claver, thus making the rotation impossible to make in time.

Now imagine that with Rose and a wide-open Doug McDermott. The crazy thing here is that, the double team thrusted onto Parker here, wouldn't break Rose necessarily. When Parker receives the ball at the 2:14 mark, he's making a somewhat slow turn. Rose has always been excellent at preparing his body to go hard, after receiving a pass, setting himself up in an attacking mode, ready to strike as soon as the pass reaches him, or even at times, a little before. Against this defense, Rose would go between Claver and Damian Lillard where he'd either finish at the rim, or find the wide-open shooter in the right corner (yep, told you this play is versatile) who in Chicago's setting could be Mike Dunleavy.

And here comes the final punch as to why I'd love to see this play develop on the Bulls.

You could effectively put Jimmy Butler in the Tony Parker/Derrick Rose role and he would be a 6'7 agile menace who could force his way to the hoop time and time again, drawing a ridiculous number of fouls in the process. He's just quick enough to take advantage of the spacing, and he's undoubtedly strong enough to put the ball on the floor two times and break through a rotating defense that hasn't been set yet. Hell, if you want to be creative, you can even put have Butler is a pseudo-big man role on that play and let him force opposing big men to take tough decisions as to stay close to the hoop or follow him out, if he steps away. It'd have a certain Paul Pierce quality to it, and teams would be forced to go ultra small, which Mirotic and Rose can take advantage of, albeit for different reasons.

Now, I mentioned Noah earlier, and in some cases you could use him in this scheme, but it'd be risky. Noah would at the very least have to discover his mid-range jump shot touch again for teams to react to him, otherwise he'll be left alone and every advantage of this play goes away. At the 4:07 mark, the Spurs run a play against Utah that ends up with Duncan draining a 19-footer. John Lucas and Al Jefferson crowd Parker, while Duncan steps away, freeing himself. If Duncan wasn't a deadly player, Jefferson wouldn't run out to contest as he does. In case of Noah from last season, teams would just stay inside to establish rebounding position, while also denying re-entry to the guards, thus milking the shot clock. Thus, for Noah to work in this, he needs to hit The Tornado.

The play, in particular under Hoiberg, would be a nice wrinkle to have amongst the drag screens and transition plays that he'll run. The Loop can both milk the clock, or get an early shot, and it's completely unpredictable when you have multifaceted players with the ability to shoot, drive, and pass. The Bulls have those players, but those skills have not been properly utilized for a long time. This play will do utilize them.

Now, to be fair, the Bulls have attempted something similar in previous years, but in a less versatile manner given their lack of shooters and scoring bigs. Under Vinny Del Negro the play more or less became Kirk Hinrich dribbling around, angling to find Rose trying to get open, after the defense would key in on Rose and close off the rim. When Kyle Korver arrived, Tom Thibodeau would used him in a similar manner as Ray Allen as opposed to Danny Green, endlessly running him off screens and rarely having him make the initial pass that set up a series of movements, thus denying Rose the opportunity to get more open looks.

With a new coach, and with the NBA changing to a more versatile motion and passing-based offense, this would be a good place to start with these Bulls, especially with Jim Boylen on board. He may be the team's defensive coordinator, but he'll undoubtedly have experience with this play, which would have its benefits.


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  • I agree the Spur's offense particularly in the dismantling of Miami in the Finals is/was a thing of beauty to behold. I'm sure Hoiberg was brought in to provide a motion offense with read and reacts somewhat similar to SA and what the Warriors ran this season.

    Regardless of the 'system' they choose to run though it still comes down to having offensively skilled players at every position something which Joakim Noah is not. For those envisioning a Joakim "come back" season whatever.. The guy can not make a lay up let alone a jump shot or a free throw. I'm hoping Bobby Portis can give some decent back up minutes for the Bulls including at center.

    Other then the offensive sandbag that is Joakim Noah, the Bulls will need shooters to keep defenses honest and not collapsing on said motion offense(s). That's why to me the biggest question that needs answered in the affirmative is can guys that were pursued and resources spent in Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic shoot volume threes for a solid to good percentage. If so, then the motion offense will have a chance.

    Maybe as I've already said, Hoiberg being a three point ace he can help both Niko and McD find the form/approach that will make them accurate gunners in an NBA setting. Because if Niko and McD don't start shooting threes effectively that hurts the team offense significantly or on the positive side if they succeed it will help the offense immeasurably.

    Of course Derrick Rose turning to team ball rather then me ball with high volume clanks and crazy turnovers would help things quite a lot. That and Jimmy continuing his efficient scoring ways and solid three point shooting. Hoiberg has a lot of work ahead of him we'll see if he's up to the task. If he plays Klank for any real minutes and makes other front office friendly supplicating moves then vomit bags will be deployed to all Bulls fans via the Red Cross.

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