The Jimmy Butler Alley Oop is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

The Jimmy Butler Alley Oop is the Gift that Keeps on Giving
Pau Gasol celebrates with Jimmy Butler after lobbing a pass to the rim that Butler tipped in for the eventual game-winner in OT. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Hello Bulls Fans, and Happy New Year!

My name is Will Gottlieb and I am going to be taking over as the owner and co-editor of the Bulls Confidential Blog. As Morten mentioned in a previous post, he is stepping down from his ownership position due to a health issue and is passing the torch to me. Along with the help of Mark Karantzoulis, I hope to continue to provide quality analysis and conversation to the BC community.

We would love to hear any questions, comments or feedback you have so that we can continue to build this site. Feel free to contact the site at

Please show your support by liking our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for any and all updates, in-game commentary, and a great way to join the conversation.

@BullsConf @wontgottlieb @MKarantzoulis

Thanks so much for reading!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Throughout this tumultuous season, the Bulls have competed hard against some teams, but come out completely flat against others. At times, Derrick Rose has shown flashes of being a good player again, Joakim Noah has shown spurts, and Tony Snell has a decent game once a month. But in spite of the inconsistencies that plague this Bulls team, one thing has remained constant. The Jimmy Butler Alley-Oop.

He’s 18/19 on the year with alley-oop plays, missing only one on a tough pass, but for the most part, this play is the only automatic aspect of this team.

Early on in the season, Butler got a lot of action by simply cutting backdoor, or spinning off a smaller and/or limited defender.

Here, Butler, uses his length and ability to post up smaller guards, to spin back door off of Eric Gordon for an easy lob from Joakim Noah.

It pays to have two of the best passing big men in the league to set him up.

Coach Hoiberg saw an opportunity to turn this action into more of a set play, however, adding different idiosyncrasies to free Butler a lane for the oop.

Though the end result is largely the same, this is slightly more complex. Here, Butler sets a screen for Rose in a 2-1 PnR that the two occasionally run throughout games. After setting the screen, Butler immediately takes off for the basket. But against the best perimeter defender in the league, Kawhi Leonard, it takes more than just a direct basket-cut to get this free.

What makes this work is the help defense. Leonard hedges the screen to cut off the ball handler’s drive to the basket — and the Bulls expect this. When running the Rose, Butler PnR, this is incredibly important because Rose is most effective when he gets into the lane. To stop him from doing so, Leonard needs to hedge on the screen to cut off the drive. Although he only reaches his arm out in this scenario, it is just enough space Butler needs to explode to the hoop. It works as Rose picks up his dribble, dishes to Pau, who lobs it up for Butler.

The set play works even better when the 1, initially guarding Rose switches onto Butler. Then, he has the size, speed, strength and step on the defender.

Poor Steve Blake.

These acrobatic plays aren’t just an ode to Butler’s athleticism and knack for scoring. The pass has to be pinpoint, but the lane also has to be open. So, the other reason this works so well each time is the fact that Gasol is such a weapon from the mid-range/high post area.

“People have to guard Pau.” Butler told KC Johnson. “If Pau’s open, he’s going to shoot it. And not only is he going to shoot it, he’s probably going to make it.”

Butler is right. Gasol is money from that area on the court, shooting above league average from almost every mid-range zone. If the opposing big leaves Gasol to stay and protect the paint, it’s likely a easy two points for the Bulls — according to SportVU data, 35.7 percent of his points come from the mid-range anyway.

The Bulls seemed to have run this play successfully at least once a game, but have begun to show some variation. Teams will soon begin to expect this and prepare. To counter that, Coach Hoiberg has introduced yet another wrinkle against the Oklahoma City on the Christmas Day Game.

Here, Butler starts in the corner, while Nikola Mirotic sets a backscreen on Gasol’s man. Gasol then screens Butler, who receives a staggered screen from Mirotic. As Butler rolls off the screen, Rose enters the ball to Gasol, who immediately finds Butler rolling to the hoop. The timing is perfect. Better yet, the action overloads four players on the strong side, with a weak-side shooter in Hinrich, preventing DJ Augustin from stepping up too far and taking a charge before Butler gets to his spot. This involves everyone in the play, which makes it harder for the defense to read, while opening the entire weak side of the floor for Butler’s runway.

This is a perfect example of Coach Hoiberg building a beautiful set around the personnel, and it’s a sign that the process of integrating a new coach and new system takes time.

This play has become quite central to the Bulls game plan, running some form of alley-oop to Butler in 12 games during the month of December, per SportVU data. The game winning tip-lob-alley-oop was proof that this play is going to continue to be a part of the offense, even in crunch-time situations.

By all accounts, that play didn’t necessarily go as planned, but the lob has been open, so you can expect to see a lot more where that came from.

Follow @Wontgottlieb


Leave a comment
  • Will,

    Fantastic analysis. Doug Thonus set a high standard, but I think this blog is in good hands.

    A request: Could you please restore the link to "Bulls Tweets"? This used to be right under the header, where you now see "Bulls Podcasts" and "Bulls Salaries". The url is

    I would would always check this link when visiting this blog.

    The list of tweets does not need much editing since the roster has not changed much, but add Bobby Portis if possible.

    Good luck and Happy New Year!

  • In reply to BullsC4:

    Thank you!

    I will work on that. I may end up putting a couple different twitter feeds, one with BC, Mark's and my accounts and then another with a list of Bulls related commentary.

    We should get to the updating soon.

    Thanks for reading and Happy New Year to you too!

  • Bobby Portis is a man. Right now he might be the team's best 4 but if he can play 5 like he did down the stretch last night, he could be the 2-way player we're looking for there.

    I wonder if Hoiberg's staff can figure out how to remedy Niko's inconsistent shot. Still need him to come through as a starting 4 or minimum, elite bench option.

    Pau is the team's best big, Noah is the heart with defense and hustle, Taj is the best 2-way player of the 3, but 1 or probably 2 of them have to go. Bobby and Niko +1 starting vet, not 3.

    McDoug is what I thought he'd be a year ago. He'll always struggle on defense but he can really shoot. Solid bench player and late game option.

    The team doesn't look like it needs Rose. Their only chance while he's on the team is that he makes major progress and becomes better than average, like better than the opposing PG in 4 of 7 in a playoff series. More likely, he gets to average and the team struggles until he departs and they can take a new direction.

  • Hey Will (or Mark, or Mort), if you know anyone else who wants to write about the Bulls, I"m looking for someone to write Bullsville here on ChicagoNow. The Bullsville FB page has almost 2,000 likes now, so that's a good start for anyone wanting to blog. done933 at yahoo dot com if you want to contact me, and feel free to delete this post after you read it.

  • Wow, this is an amazing article related to the thing that I love the most. I have eaten many epic burgers from Brazil therefore I would like to try this epic shake once. I hope it will not disappoint me with its taste. Now I would like to read article to know the best topic for research paper that I am going to write.

Leave a comment