Defining the Chicago Bulls' Offensive and Defensive Strategy for 2012-13
With Derrick Rose sidelined, the Chicago Bulls' offensive and defensive strategy needs to be defined, or perhaps "redefined" is the better word. Their schemes will look much different while their superstar is recovering from his torn ACL.
However, while their schemes will look different, their identity will remain the same. This is entirely because of coach Tom Thibodeau.
Thibodeau has been at the foundation of the Bulls' success the past two seasons. He preaches defense, and he's always in search of ways to make the Bulls a better all-around squad.
This task is much more difficult without Rose, and so Thibodeau figures to adjust their strategies accordingly.
Here we break down Chicago's offensive and defensive strategy for 2012-13. If the Bulls solidify these approaches, there's every reason to believe they can remain a high-quality team even without D-Rose.
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The offensive strategy of the Bulls is what needs the most adjustment.
Rose's playmaking ability has been relied upon heavily the past few years, and so the Bulls will have to get creative if they hope to remain productive in his absence.
These four strategies are at the core of the Bulls developing this productivity when the ball is in their hands.
1. Feed Carlos Boozer.
Carlos Boozer's scoring ability is desperately needed this season. The Bulls are lacking in players who can score in bunches, and Boozer has this ability when he's handled effectively.
The Bulls must make it a focus to get Boozer involved early in every game. This will establish his confidence and open things up for everybody else. He needs touches in the low post, where he can use his strength to get into the lane and shoot his high-arching fadeaway.
Boozer also needs to make a concerted effort to get to the free-throw line. His fadeaway is often fruitful, but he too often settles for it when he could back the defender in closer to the bucket.
He needs to become more aggressive in these ways and improve his averages from the past couple seasons. In fact, this year, Boozer should average around what he did his last year in Utah (19.5 points per game, 11.2 rebounds per game).
The bottom line here is that Boozer needs to be the centerpiece of the offensive strategy. If he can develop a consistently forceful presence in the low post, then there will be openings everywhere else in the offense.
2. Give Richard Hamilton more sets than Luol Deng.
Luol Deng is an integral member of the Bulls, but we've learned that he's not a "go-to" offensive player. He can score, but his scoring comes in rhythm. He hits open jumpers and scores off slashes in the lane. He doesn't typically create offense on his own.
Rip Hamilton, on the other hand, is much more versatile and savvy with the ball in his hands. He may be aging, but he's already emphasized that his body feels great and that having a full training camp (compared to the last year's lockout shortened season) is a huge help entering the 2012-13 campaign (h/t Scott Powers, ESPNChicago.com).
In an injury-plagued 2011-12, Hamilton averaged 11.6 PPG and 3.0 assists per game in 24.9 minutes per game. These should all increase dramatically this season—both because he's healthy and because he needs to become one of their "go-to" offensive players.
He is simply more potent of a weapon than Deng. Rip can hit the mid-range jumper with superb efficiency, and he is also a very underrated passer.
Plus, he's a veteran who knows how to win. The Bulls need to recognize this and allow him to function similarly to what he did in his days with the Detroit Pistons.
Don't expect Rip to pour in 20 points per game this season, but 15 to 17 PPG and four to six APG is very realistic. Quite frankly, it is needed for the Bulls to find a groove on the offensive end.
3. Find lineups that best mesh with one another.
This is imperative as the Bulls enter 2012-13. With so many new faces, developing chemistry with one another is crucial.
The past couple years, the "Bench Mob" has provided chemistry and production, but the majority of the members of the "Bench Mob" have relocated.
Thus far in the preseason, the new-look bench has been undeniably lacking. Guys like Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler are going to need some time to find their niches.
Because of this, the Bulls must concoct an offensive strategy to hide this lack of chemistry. They can't just throw their second unit out there and expect them to produce.
Therefore, Thibodeau must discern who best functions together.
For instance, Boozer might need to play some minutes with the second unit just so they have an offensive weapon out there.
Or Hamilton might need to run with the second team to give the offense some stability.
No matter what, a main concern in regard to offensive strategy is how this new-look roster will mesh. The best bet is to pair veterans like Boozer and Hamilton with some of the new or younger players, and if this right mesh is found, perhaps the "Bench Mob 2.0" will raise some eyebrows.
4. Give Nate Robinson freedom.
Nate Robinson can be hit or miss. In the Bulls most recent preseason game, he was a hit, tallying 24 points, 13 assists and zero turnovers. That's impressive, to say the least.
It also reveals what a spark plug Robinson can be, and the Bulls are lacking in players who can create a spark.
Therefore, Robinson deserves freedom to look for his shot and penetrate the lane to enable open shots for teammates.
On some evenings, Bulls fans will grow disgruntled with Nate Rob. He will have his share of poor shooting performances.
However, he's likely their best playmaker while Rose is out, and he thus needs to be an instrumental part of the Bulls' offensive strategy.
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Defense is the backbone of the Bulls, and even without Rose, their defensive grit should remain.
In fact, Kirk Hinrich, Rose's replacement in the starting lineup, is a more pesky defender than Rose.
Therefore, the Bulls must continue their defensive philosophies that they've established the past couple seasons. They also must teach their newcomers these foundations.
Here are the four strategies to help the Bulls reach their defensive pinnacle this year.
1. Create scoring opportunities through suffocating defense.
A team's best offense is its defense. If the Bulls can suffocate opponents and create turnovers and missed shots, then they will have plenty of opportunities to score in transition (Perhaps this strategy should go on the offensive slide, but the key here is that such scoring opportunities stem from the defense).
This must be a focus and there's every reason to believe the Bulls can flourish in this regard.
The addition of Hinrich is pivotal to this. Offensively, he's adequate. Defensively, he's outstanding. He can help force highly contested shots and his quick hands generate steals and fast-break scenarios.
Add Hinrich to an already active defensive bunch and this spells trouble for opponents. Joakim Noah and Luol Deng are both stellar defenders and rebounders, and the overall prowess of the Bulls will help generate stops and, in turn, easy buckets.
One of the best ways for the Bulls to address Rose's absence is to exalt the defense to an even higher level. The Bulls will struggle to win games if they are forced to play consistently in the half court, but if their swarming defense wreaks havoc, then transition buckets will give them the upper hand on just about any opponent.
2. Play Taj Gibson more minutes.
If the Bulls are going to be the league's best defense, Taj Gibson will be a chief factor. He's an elite defender who rebounds and blocks shots exceptionally well.
Therefore, he needs to be on the floor more than 20.4 minutes per game, which was his average last season.
Now, we've already emphasized how Boozer needs to be a focal point of the offense, and Gibson usually spells Boozer.
However, the Bulls would be wise to play Gibson and Boozer together, allowing Gibson to play the center position. This gives Gibson and Boozer both the opportunity to play more minutes.
This makes all the more sense after the Bulls lost Omer Asik to free agency. Newcomer Nazr Mohammed has shown some promise in the preseason, but his minutes should be limited.
Gibson is too good to just play around 20 minutes a game. He should be around 30 minutes an outing. If this is the case, expect the Bulls defense to be largely effective in regards to rebounding and blocked shots. Gibson's emerging as a premier frontcourt player, and the Bulls need to showcase him as this.
3. Establish a "win ugly" mentality.
Without Rose, the Bulls aren't going to be consistently seen on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays. They don't possess players with "flash."
But that doesn't mean they can't be efficient. They can "win ugly" and earn victories with scores such as 78-73.
A 78-73 victory is not going to be heavily publicized on SportsCenter, but it gets the job done.
This is the mentality the Bulls must develop this season, and it all starts by embodying a defensive tenacity that is second to none. They must enter the season with this goal: being the league's No. 1 overall defense.
If this happens, they will garner plenty of W's. It just won't always be pretty. Their leading scorer may only have 16 points on 7-of-19 shooting from the field, but if they hold the opponent to a 35 percent field-goal percentage, then who cares?
This is how the Bulls must play this season. It's the style of play that will enable them to reach their ceiling while Rose remains sidelined.
Then, imagine if Rose returns later in the season and this defensive mentality is already in place. Adding their superstar guard to an already rewarding strategy could then be the final piece to the championship puzzle.
4. Utilize Kirk Hinrich in numerous ways.
Hinrich enters the season as the starting point guard, so he will often be checking opposing floor generals such as Rajon Rondo, Brandon Jennings and Deron Williams.
He's an ideal player to contain such point guards.
The Bulls would be wise to extend his role further. In certain matchups, Hinrich is so versatile that he should check an opponent's 2-guard.
Therefore, Hinrich's superb defensive instincts would be better utilized against Wade (at least for some of the game).
This tactic should be used against teams that have a rather average point guard, but a potent scoring 2-guard. Hinrich is too proven of a defender to not use in numerous ways, and the Bulls should maximize his potential by aligning him, in certain instances, against wing players.