With John Lucas coming in and willing the Bulls to victory against Miami, Orlando, and Toronto a bunch of questions have popped up about who should play backup PG for the Bulls once Derrick Rose comes back. C.J. Watson is the correct answer to this question.
Lucas deserves plenty of love for his play
John Lucas plays basketball like a wounded animal mother trapped in a corner protecting her babies. He’s not leaving a damn thing left on the floor when he walks off. Coming into this year, Lucas was on his last NBA legs, and if it weren’t for Thibodeau he may never have had another NBA opportunity. His entire career hangs in the balance of the few minutes he was going to receive this season for Chicago, and he’s played like it.
Fearless attitude, unlimited heart, and clutch performances have endeared Lucas to Bulls fans around the world. The term Lucasanity hasn’t quite turned into vogue, but he’s been an even more unlikely [if lesser] hero. He’s Jeremy Lin except in a 5’9 package that’s been waiting for seven years instead of one. With Lucas about to hit 30, the now or never theory looked like it was squarely pointing at never.
Granted, Lucas hasn’t performed to the level of Lin, but then again, his clutch performances led the Bulls over Miami and Orlando rather than a sequence of bottom feeders. His clutch performances have kept the Bulls on track for the #1 seed rather than hoping to make it to the eighth spot in the playoffs.
I love the Lucas story, and I’m thrilled with his play for the Bulls so far. Thibodeau has said [like all coaches] the next man has to step up when someone is hurt. It’s pretty tough to step up for Derrick Rose, but John Lucas has more or less accomplished that.
He’s still not your back up point guard
Saying the above, how can he not be? Quite simply, while I love the Lucas story, and i love what he’s done for Chicago this season, it’s all smoke and mirrors. His brand of offense has only yielded a 50.9% TS%, or in other words, despite all the big moments and all of the love, overall, he hasn’t scored all that efficiently.
On top of that, his style of offense lends itself to poor play. In his best hot streaks, John Lucas has become the pick up game player who gets the rebound at one end, dribbles up the floor to the other, dribbles around for 15 seconds then takes a shot without ever letting the ball leave his hands.
The only thing stopping fans from reaming him out is that the shot goes in, and we have so little confidence in the other shot creators on the team. His poor TS% (much like Watson’s 51.5%) is partially indicative of a guy who has to take a ton of tough bailout shots for his team.
The difference is that Watson gets the ball in the hands of more players each possession. Watson’s running the offense far more than Lucas. He isn’t dribbling at the top of the circle for 12 seconds at a time. He’s not floating back 10 feet behind the three point line in case the ball needs to swing back to him because he’s too scared someone with superior length will knock it away if he play sup closer.
He still takes the tough bailout shots, but he gives the offense a chance to work first. He puts pressure on the defense to defend the whole court.
In a seven game series, I don’t trust Lucas’s brand of basketball to continue to work. He’s been a tremendous three point shooter when he gets his feet set, but how long will teams continue to give him open threes? How many do you expect in the playoffs? C.J. has also been a tremendous shooter but has largely taken more difficult looks as he’s had more defensive attention.
Watson can also deliver far more on the defensive end of the court. While Lucas has been pesky on defense, in a longer series teams will find ways to take advantage of his weaknesses far more than they have so far. Lucas has been a great story, one that I hope continues to play out positively for Chicago, but it’s one with a limited shelf life. The weaknesses are too glaring, too ready to be taken advantage of. This is Jannero Pargo part two, it’s not sustainable.
Thank you John Lucas
Thank you for keeping this team afloat when it needed someone, anyone, to come in and be a leader. Thank you for the shot over LeBron which will be forever implanted in my memory. Thank you for your heart, your fearlessness, and your play. Thank you for being ready when called upon despite inconsistent minutes and opportunities.
You’ve exhilarated, entertained, and won. You’ve done everything we could possibly have asked and so much more. You’ve earned a contract next season [and perhaps for the first time there’s even bidding for your services], but when all is said and done, you still fit best as the emergency third string point guard.