5 Ways Chicago Bulls Can Stay Successful Without Derrick Rose
The Bulls let go of a good part of the bench, known as the "Bench Mob" with C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik all playing in different uniforms next season. That doesn't mean they still can't compete either.
In fact, they just need to stay afloat for the first half of the season until Rose can come back. Once their MVP is back, the Bulls will be very much a threat to anyone and everyone they play in the postseason. The Bulls can still have a very successful season.
Here are five ways they can do that.
Use the Young Fellas
One thing that Tom Thibodeau has been reluctant to do historically is play his young players. This year he has to change that gambit.
The reason is that two of the Bulls best players at getting to the rim (and aren''t named Derrick Rose) are two of their youngest players, Marquis Teague and Jimmy Butler.
In particular, Butler, who showed his defensive acumen when he shut down Carmelo Anthony last year, was particularly effective in getting to the stripe in the Summer League, averaging almost 10 free throws a game, making 35 of 39 attempts in just four games.
Free throws are a huge key to running an efficient offense. Driving to the rim while drawing contact is a great way to get the stripe. It was a major area of concern for the Bulls last season as Chicago finished 23rd in attempts and 27th in makes.
Butler could have a huge breakout season if Thibodeau gives him time.
Let the kids play! Teague and Butler will give the Bulls a pair of young, dynamic players who can put the ball on the floor and get to the line.
Switch Up Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah on Defense
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Why is Joakim Noah cracking Carlos Boozer upside the head? Probably because he just blew a defensive assignment.
Carlos Boozer has been the victim of many a hypothetical crack to the head by fans since his arrival in Chicago, mostly because his defense is flat-out awful.
What most people aren't aware of is that Boozer is a much better defender when he's defending the center position than when he's defending the power forward position. Here is Opponent's Player Efficiency Rating guarding the power forward and center positions over the last five years.
|Year||Team||OPER Center||OPER Power Forward||Difference|
There are two things worth noting here. First, he's actually gradually improved at both positions, but secondly, he's always better at defending the center position. In fact, last season he defended the center position better than Joakim Noah (15.3) or Omer Asik (15.9).
Just in case you're wondering Taj Gibson's was an absolutely nutty 6.6, but it was only for one percent of the minutes.
There's also the chance that part of the reason Boozer's better than Asik or Noah is that while he had Gibson playing the power forward while he was the center, Asik and Noah had him, which means they had to bail him out repeatedly, whereas he probably didn't have to bail out Gibson all that often.
Still, a four-year trend can't be denied, especially when it spans two teams.
Boozer is physically better equipped to defend the center position than he is power forward. He has lower body strength which he uses well. He's tough to move out of the way.
He's also a fraction too slow to play the power forward but that's not as much an issue with center.
Strength, especially lower body strength, fits better for a center. Fast fits better for a power forward.
Noah, on the other hand, is one of the most athletic defensive bigs in the league. He's extremely quick, and has even guarded LeBron James successfully one-on-one in isolation.
Offensively they should retain their traditional roles, but on defense Boozer and Noah should swap spots.
Rebound. Rebound. Rebound.
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The Bulls last year were the top team in the league in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 32.6 percent of all their own misses. Defensively they were ninth best, grabbing 74.3 percent of their opponents misses.
One of the greatly overlooked aspects of their winning last year was their dominance of the boards, especially on the offensive end. Offensive rebounds are second chance points, and second chance points are extremely crucial to a team that struggles to get shots.
It's the primary reason that while the Bulls were 26th in the NBA in free throws per field goal attempts, and only had an effective field goal percentage of .490, which was 14th in the league, they were fifth in offensive rating.
It's really not that they scored efficiently so much as they didn't succeed and tried, tried again.
Especially without Rose in the lineup, Noah and Boozer will need to continue their outstanding rebounding ways for the Bulls to stay competitive. Gibson, who averaged 9.3 rebounds per 36 minutes, is also an excellent rebounder.
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One thing the Bulls don't have is a lot of payers who can put the ball on the floor, but what they do have is a lot of players who can really pass the ball.
The keys to a Princeton offense is having everyone on the court able to both score and pass the ball. It also doesn't require the biggest weakness the Bulls have, which is a player who can penetrate consistently.
The Bulls present drive-and-kick offense is styled around Derrick Rose, who is such a unique player that no one else can do what he does. There's a reason the Bulls offense was, on average, 5.5 points better per 100 possessions while he was on the court.
Carlos Boozer is an outstanding passer for a big man and Joakim Noah is even better. Among all NBA bigs last year, Noah was fourth in assists 160 and Boozer was seventh with 125. No other NBA team who had both their starting bigs go over 100 assists.
Luol Deng is not asked to pass, but in the two back-to-back games where he was asked to in 2012, he recorded double-digit assists in both games, getting 11 against the Kings on February 14 and getting 10 two nights later against the Boston Celtics.
Last year Richard Hamilton's assist percentage of 21.0 percent was the highest by any player who was not a point guard.
Kirk Hinrich is fourth all-time on the Bulls assist list.
Everyone on this team can pass and a quick passing offense worked well for the Bulls last year. In games where they finished with at least 25 assists last season they were 26-2. They were 27-16 when they failed to hit that mark.
The Bulls are an excellent passing team and when they use that passing to generate offense they win. a Princeton offense would maximize that potential.
Follow Thibodeau's Defensive Scheme
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Over the last 30 years Tom Thibodeau has been one of the great defensive minds in the game. He has finished in the top six in defensive rating in each of the last 10 years and in the top 10 for 19 of the previous 22 years.
To do that you have to just know how to make players into good defenders. You have to understand how to shut down offenses. That's not one team being dependent on a single great defense player.
However, the Bulls have three very good-to-great defensive players in Luol Deng, who is just one of the hardest workers in the league, Taj Gibson who works just as hard, and Joakim Noah, who works so hard he actually annoys opposing fans.
There are those who pointed to the fact that the defense actually gave up fewer points in games where Rose missed and speculated that maybe Rose didn't deserve the MVP after all.
(Of course those reports didn't take into account that Deng was missing for a quarter of the games Rose played in and the Bulls were actually slightly better on defense when Rose and Deng started than when Watson started).
That being said, Rose is a very good defensive player, but Kirk Hinrich is better than C.J. Watson on defense. If the Bulls defense could succeed with Watson, it can certainly succeed with Hinrich.
The Bulls will be without Omer Asik but NBA.com's advanced stats suggest that Asik was benefiting from playing with Taj Gibson.
In effect the Bulls can put three incredible defenders on the court in the front court and that makes them a very tough team to beat. When Deng, Noah and Gibson were on the court at the same time last year, they outscored their opponents 108-95 per 100 possessions.
That's not a bad offense, but it's a flat-out ridiculous defense. It's what happens when great defensive players execute a great defensive scheme, and it's what can win games down the stretch for the Bulls in 2013 the same it did in 2012.