Now that the personnel-acquisition phase of the summer is nearly complete, I’m getting excited to see what Coach Thibideaux will do with players the front office has assembled. One thing I always appreciated about Doc Rivers Boston teams has been the way they play offense-instead of hewing to a single orthodox philosophy, they tend to mix and match, based on personnel.
That said, here are three teams I expect Thib’s Bulls to borrow from.
1: The San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio’s drive and kick scheme can serve as a pretty nice model for the Bulls. Every team in the NBA would love to play like the Spurs, but few teams have the personnel to make it work. Like Tony Parker, Derrick is an attacking guard with a good midrange game, and Boozer is a power forward who sets great picks, has a high basketball IQ, passes and can score from many spots on the floor (check out hoopdata.com: Boozer is an above average shooter, as a PF, from every part of the floor inside the three point line).
The Bulls lack a Ginobili, and the overall level of three point shooting that the Spurs surround their big guns with, but especially Kyle Korver is on to spread the floor, and in the fourth when the game is tight, expect a lot of drive and kick with the Bulls’s two best offensive players dictating the action.
2: The Utah Jazz
With so many ex-Jazzmen on the roster, this is a no-brainer. For a great primer on Utah’s flex offense, read this great piece by Kevin Arnovitz. If the Bulls open up with a Rose/Brewer/Deng/Boozer/Noah starting lineup, starting the game off in the flex makes sense. The flex calls on the point guard to be a maestro, and set up opportunities for others. Driving the ball is a weapon the PG has, but not the main engine of the offense-the focus is on all 5 players moving and working as a unit. That suits the starting lineup, which has a lot of good, smart team players but lacks long range spotup shooting.
Starting in flex with Brewer, Rose defaults to more of a playmaker/outside shooter, which is how he is going to open game anyway, given his unselfish nature. In essence, when Brewer is on the floor, Rose will let Ronnie attack the basket in his stead.
The flex is sometimes less effective in late game situations where the game slows down and players tend to pass less by nature. That’s when I expect Rose to “beast” it in iso or a two man pick and roll in the San Antonio-style offense.
3: The Phoenix Suns (with Boris Diaw)
In many ways, I feel Joakim Noah is the biggest offensive wildcard of the coming season. He’s a tremendously unique big man who doesn’t have a great outside shot but is comfortable handling the ball, making passes, and attacking off the dribble. He is much more than a glorified garbage man, though he excels in that role, and will always play it. Thibideaux should look at the ways Phoenix utilized Diaw’s passing skills and try to incorporate some those sets for Noah.
I noticed last season that when Noah got a touch on offense, that generally meant the ball was moving, often side to side, and the offense was generating good looks. When Noah was outside the play, that often resulted in an iso possession. If Thibs can harness Noah’s skillset, it could make for some unorthodox, but effective sets: I could see Noah pulling out opposing centers in some modified Dribble Drive Motion sets, for example, especially if his jumper continues to improve.
Overall, I think the defense is going to be elite, and the offense has the potential to be exciting, but probably not special. If this team is going to be a championship contender, it’s probably going to come from the defense first. As far as efficiency rankings, the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons give some hope: they were second overall in defensive efficiency, but 18th for offense. If the Bulls can be top 4 in defense, and 15th or better on offense, it’s going to be fine season: if they are top 10 on offense, like Boston was in 2008, they could make it to the Finals.
As the roster currently stands, there is a dearth of three point shooting that needs to be remedied, but the Bulls should have enough firepower to win the Central Division, especially if Derrick and Joakim continue to make strides.