In my first column covering the loss to the Raptors I pointed out that the Bulls presently can’t win in any standard phase of basketball right now. On offense, they don’t have efficient scoring via the free throw line, three point line, or low post offense. No offense driven by the mid range jump shot is ever going to defeat an offense with a source of efficiency noted above.
On defense, they no longer have the depth or personnel to go with 48 minutes of intensity of ball hawking pressure defense. Lindsay Hunter and Brad Miller playing at their highest intensity are still too slow, Jannero Pargo isn’t a SG defender when healthy, and he’s playing hurt. The starting lineup has athletes, but they all need to play big minutes and will get worn down quickly trying to play a pressure defense.
After that, what’s left? If you can’t win on offense or defense, your team is pretty much screwed right? I’d tend to say yes. I’m not going to pretend I can solve this problem, because the solution probably is “we’re screwed”, but since a blog post pointing out how screwed we are isn’t too insightful, I’ve come up with an idea to make the best of the defense and offense.
First, stop the extraordinarily aggressive trapping after virtually every pick and roll and decide to either switch or run through the screens. The thing is, we’re not trapping effectively, we’re calling traps on guards that really aren’t a threat even off a pick, and we’re getting burned a whole lot trying to recover after the trap.
After the trap the whole team goes in motion trying to help each other and rotate to cover someone else’s guy. However, because we’re never getting enough pressure on the ball off the trap the first pass is typically easily made, and then the Bulls are left scrambling around trying to play catch up.
At times, this defense has worked excellently, and it was a driving force in their early wins, but it takes a whole lot of energy to play it, and we don’t have a whole lot of energy on the floor with a roster short on athleticism and depth. You’re wearing guys out, and you’re not accomplishing a goal.
Instead, trap the really good guards that are going to kick your ass if you don’t trap them, and make Derrick Rose fight through the screen otherwise. This will save energy for the whole team, and it will stop the amount of wide open looks teams are getting after a couple passes. The threat is that mediocre guards start destroying us off the pick and roll, but if you have Derrick go under the screens then you’re forcing mediocre guards to beat you with long range shooting while coming of screens. That seems like an acceptable outcome to me.
On offense the Bulls need to ramp up the pace. They’re presently playing one of the slowest paces in the league, and if they were defending and rebounding at a high level that might be okay. However, their defense is getting it’s ass kicked, and they’re rebounding like one of the worst teams in the league. Leaving guys back and controlling the defensive glass isn’t working because the team is too easily pushed around.
Instead, the Bulls should send their guards streaking down the court as soon as an opponents shot goes up and attempt to get a bunch of cherry picked baskets by having fewer rebounders on defense, but having an excellent transition offense. It sounds counterintuitive.
Improve the rebounding by having less players to rebound. However, by having two rebounders and three guys going to attack you’re going to force the opponents into tough defensive situations repeatedly whenever you get a rebound. The guards need to play effectively and ultra aggressively for this to work, but if it does, they’ll get a lot of three on ones, three on twos, or three on threes to go up against.
All of those situations are huge advantages for your offense. If you make teams pay quickly in those situations repatedly then they’ll stop trying to pound the offensive glass on you and instead they’ll hustle back on defense immediately after a shot is launched. The theory is you’re trying to force the opponent to react to you.
Obviously, this plan has the downside that if you can’t control the glass well enough, make good enough outlet passes, or your guards can’t convert in the transition / early offense then this plan is an utter failure. I view it not as a likely success, but as something you can try to mix things up.
Right now, the Bulls are getting beat in all phases, and their conservative style is turning it into a game of talent in all phases. They need to realize that they aren’t going to win a game of talent too often right now, so they need to increase the luck factor until Kirk and Tyrus are back.