5 Things Chicago Bulls Must Do to Reach Full Potential
The Bulls stand at 23-16, but their record could—and should be—a little better. Their struggles at home and inconsistencies against good and bad teams have hurt them.
A recent injury to their current leading scorer Luol Deng is just another hurdle that Chicago will have to try to overcome as the season wears on.
The Bulls have been rather impressive at times but quite disappointing on other occasions. It's still early in the season, however, and the Bulls have yet to reach their full potential. With a few offensive tweaks and some consistency, Chicago can get there.
Note: All stats are accurate as of Jan. 20, 2013.
Push the Pace
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There's nothing more frustrating than seeing the Bulls trying to get into their sets or running a play with just eight seconds left on the shot clock. Chicago is a half-court team, but sometimes you just have to push the ball and be aggressive.
The Bulls average just under 90 possessions per 48 minutes, which is good for 24th in the NBA. They also average just 10.6 fast-break points per game (23rd in the league). Needless to say, they need to start playing a little faster
With the lack of explosiveness in their offense, it would make sense for the Bulls to want to play at a faster pace. It would give them more chances to score and provide them with easier looks at the basket.
Since they are posting just 94 points per game, the Bulls should try to do whatever they can to score some more points. Relying on a "good night" just isn't going to put enough points on the board.
Fall in Love with the Three
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The Bulls are actually a decent three-point shooting team. They rank 14th in the league in three-point percentage (35.4), but they don't shoot it enough; they are last in three-pointers attempted and made.
It's surprising that they don't shoot it more from deep. The Bulls have five players on the roster who shoot over 35 percent from downtown, but nobody shoots more than three treys per game.
The Bulls brought in Daequan Cook to be a three-point specialist, but he has gotten next to nothing as far as playing time. While the Bulls don't have a lot of minutes to spare for shooting guards or small forwards, they could still try to find times to put him in and get him going from deep.
It would be nice to see the Bulls draw up some plays where they try to get an open three or even try to get one in transition. It would open up the offense and allow for some easy baskets inside.
Protect Home Court
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The Bulls lost a total of 12 home games throughout the last two seasons (not including the playoffs). This season, however, the Bulls are 11-11 at home, which is Tom Thibodeau's worst home record since he became Chicago's head coach.
The Bulls finished with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference in 2011 and 2012. The reason for that is because they were a great road team and they took care of squads that tried to steal one on their home floor. They remain a top-notch road team with a 12-5 record for away games, but they haven't had enough intensity at the United Center.
The Bulls have to turn their home woes around if they want to regain their status as a top-four team in the East and have home-court advantage for at least one round in the playoffs.
Get Jimmy Butler Involved Offensively
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Jimmy Butler has been showing glimpses that he can be a solid scorer. He's probably the most athletic player on the team next to Rose, and he has shown the ability to drive the ball on certain occasions, which is something the Bulls are missing without D-Rose.
The Bulls don't have a very strong presence in the paint. Aside from their big-man duo of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, Chicago has nobody else that can consistently score inside.
After Luol Deng aggravated a thigh injury against Boston, Butler was forced to play extended minutes. Butler made two very key plays in overtime, and both baskets came inside the paint. Deng was forced to miss the Memphis game due to his thigh injury and Butler was named the starter.
He scored a career-high 18 points and also grabbed eight rebounds, four of which were offensive.
Thibodeau has even expressed his pleasure with Butler's performance, stating that "Jimmy has shown good, steady progress... Whenever he's been given extended minutes, he's played well." (via Chicago Tribune).
Playing a career-high 48 minutes, Butler showed what he could do with extended minutes. With a little more playing time and confidence, Butler could turn into a very good player for the Bulls going forward.
Keep Feeding Carlos Boozer
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Surely, these are the type of performances that Bulls fans have been waiting to see from the power forward.
For the Bulls to reach their full potential, they have to make sure Boozer continues to play like this the rest of the season. When he can dominate inside, he opens up opportunities for everybody else on the team to score by drawing in double-teams.
Boozer has never played this well with Rose in the lineup. If he can maintain this level of play, he can make Rose's return a lot easier by taking the scoring pressure off of him. Further, if Boozer continues to play his best basketball as a Bull and Rose is able to regain his All-Star form down the stretch, the Bulls could be a very dangerous team come playoff time.