No easy solutions for Bulls' offensive problems
November 7, 2012, 4:31 pm
It’s always dangerous to make any conclusions this early in the NBA season, but with that disclaimer out of the way it looks to me like the Bulls are going to have a tough time scoring in their half-court offense until Derrick Rose returns.
This team reminds me of the Scott Skiles’ teams that clawed their way into the playoffs from 2005 to 2007: lots of jump shooters and no one really adept at breaking down his defender and getting to the basket. Those Skiles’ teams utilized a drive-and-kick offense run by Kirk Hinrich and Chris Duhon. Captain Kirk is now back, still shooting around 40 percent from the field and not able to drive past defenders as often as he did in his younger days.
As a result, the Bulls are prone to long dry spells from the field, making it crucial they take advantage of their fast break opportunities. As we’ve seen early in the season, Tom Thibodeau is encouraging his players to push the ball up-court after every turnover or defensive rebound. The starters have done a pretty good job of seeking out early offense, but the second unit still is searching for its rhythm.
Nate Robinson was in the lineup during the fourth quarter against the Hornets and Magic to get more speed on the floor, and Nate is probably the only player on the team who can consistently beat his man off the dribble and break down the opposing defense. The Bulls scored 31 fourth quarter points against Orlando with a lineup of Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, after managing just 68 points in the first three quarters combined. It looks like Thibodeau won’t hesitate to go to that smaller, quicker line-up if he feels his team needs to force turnovers and push the ball down the stretch.
But what can the Bulls do to get more points in the half-court offense?
Thibodeau always likes to talk about playing “inside-out”, which basically means throwing the ball into the post to force a double team, then pass the ball back out to an open shooter. Problem is, the Bulls don’t really have a consistent scoring threat in the low post. Noah has done a good job so far with a pair of 20-point games, but he’s not a big enough threat to draw a double team. Carlos Boozer was brought to Chicago to be that low post guy, but he’s become more of a pick-and-pop player, looking to fade out to the elbow for fall-away jumpers.
As a result, the Bulls have tried to use Deng and Rip Hamilton in post-up situations, trying to take advantage of whichever match-up gives them the best chance score from close range. Look for more of Deng in the post as the season moves forward. He seems more comfortable there than any other player currently on the roster, with the possible exception of back-up center Nazr Mohammed, who doesn’t figure to play much because of his limited mobility.
Bottom line, the formula for the Bulls to make a run at another Central division title continues to be lock-down defense and control of the defensive boards. We’ve seen a little slippage in those areas early in the season, but the Bulls still managed to hold three of their first four opponents under 90 points.
And, with the news of Danny Granger being sidelined for the next three months because of knee tendinitis, it might only take 48 to 50 victories to win the Central this season. If the Bulls can become more productive in their half-court sets, that win total is certainly within their reach.
Tags: Luol Deng
, Indiana Pacers
, Danny Granger
, Chicago Bulls
, Joakim Noah
, Kirk Hinrich
, Nate Robinson
, Rip Hamilton
, Jimmy Butler