June 2, 2011
The season is over. And it’s a bummer.
To be honest, I still feel kind of numb. This season was a thrill ride that had a sudden, jarring stop at the end. Like a roller coaster that slams into a brick wall.
The Bulls lost to the Miami Heat and failed to make the NBA Finals. Assuming a championship is the goal, that means the team will have to improve to take the next step.
Here are some preliminary thoughts about what I believe needs to be done.
Rose struggled with his shot during the playoffs…and that was after shooting a career-low 44.5 percent from the field during the regular season. To me, that highlighted a problem that affected Rose and everybody else: Chicago’s offense was not well-designed and struggled to create clean looks against intense defensive pressure.
In fact, the Bulls spent much of the season simply putting the ball in Rose’s hands and expecting him to create everything. This led to a lot of contested jump shots created off the dribble. If you check out the numbers at Hoopdata, you’ll notice that Derrick’s shooting percentages dropped in every zone between “at the rim” and “three-point range.” The percentage of his shots that were assisted on went down as well, indicating that Rose had to create an increasing number of his own shots against one or more defenders.
Rose is a complete player, but his scoring efficiency needs to improve. It’s that simple. Rose expends an awful lot of energy finding his shots. He — with the help of the coaching staff — needs to find easier ways to get high-percentage shot attempts. We know Rose can drive. We know he can hit midrange jumpers. We know he can knock down threes.
We also know that too many of these shots are hotly contested.
Part of that is spacing. The Bulls have only one truly dangerous long ranger shooter (Kyle Korver) and two of Rose’s fellow starters are borderline offensive liabilities (Joakim Noah and Keith Bogans).
Another part of the problem is the offensive play calling. The team’s offense could really use an offseason overhaul, and coach Tom Thibodeau might want to consider hiring an assistant who specializes in offense the way he specialized in defense for the Celtics.
At any rate, the bottom line is that I’d like to see Rose get more open looks at the basket instead of having to force so many things against defenses designed to hinder him. If that happens, his scoring efficiency should increase.
His energy and intensity are his two most important traits. However, considering he’ll now be playing on a five-year contract worth $60 million, Noah won’t get free pass on offense anymore. Before, it was a bonus if he could chip in 10 points. Now, scoring will be required. Especially if the Bulls expect to have any hope of overcoming the Heat. For all his wild-eyed enthusiasm, Noah was a liability on offense, which is the primary reason he got benched for the team’s final fourth quarter of the season.
Noah should add a little more bulk in the offseason. He also — and most importantly — needs to develop his offense skills. Specifically, Jo has to add a few go-to post moves and hone his midrange jumpshot.
First, we might as well nix all the “trade Boozer” talk, because the Bulls owe Carlos another $60 million over the next four years. That makes him pretty much immovable.
I’m not sure quite what to think about Boozer’s season. He got hurt before playing a single game. By the time he was ready to suit up, Noah was hurt. He played really well while Jo was out and then struggled when Noah returned. Again, I think spacing is an issue when those two are on the floor together because Joakim was (especially after his thumb surgery) a borderline offensive liability.
Except for a few strong games, Booz basically stunk up the postseason and spent the fourt quarter of the final game shining the bench with his butt. Maybe the lingering affects of a sprained ankle he suffered late in the regular season combined with his turf toe injury was more of a problem than we knew.
Or maybe they’re just excuses.
Boozer is a liability on defense. The question is: Is it due to a lack of effort, or does he simply lack the lateral quickness and instincts necessary to play defense against elite players? The former can be corrected. The latter cannot. And, unfortunately, I’m afraid it might be the latter.
If that’s the case, then Thibs needs to 1) continue tweaking the team defense to “hide” Boozer and 2) find a way to get every possible benefit out of Boozer’s offensive abilities. It seems the best Bulls fans can hope for is that Carlos scores more points than he gives up.
After Rose, Deng was the team’s most indispensable player this season. He didn’t miss a game. He was third in the league in minutes played. He scored, rebounded and gave it up on defense every night.
What more can the Bulls possibly ask from him?
The only area I’d like to see Deng improve significantly is his three-point shooting percentage. He attempted the second-most threes on the team but shot only 34.5 percent. Deng also attempted the second-most three-pointers on the team during the playoffs, and his accuracy dropped to 32.4 percent. Because Lu is primarily a spot-up three-point shooter, many of his attempts are open. He needs to knock down a higher percentage to help spread the floor and open driving lanes for Rose and other teammates.
Beyond that, I wouldn’t mind if Deng added a few post moves.
How to put this kindly? Bogans needs to be somebody else. I mean this with all due respect, because Bogan put forth maximum effort all season, and he clearly earned the respect and trust of his teammates.
That said, the Bulls need to upgrade their starting. They do. Everybody knows this. There have been plenty of stories written about buyouts, free agent acquisitions and potential trades. I’ve heard or read about guys like Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson, O.J. Mayo, Rip Hamilton, Stephen Jackson and even Monta Ellis.
Unfortunately, the Bulls don’t have a lot of cap room and very few tradable assets they’re willing to part with. Management will have to pull a real rabbit out of their hat to provide a significant upgrade.
If they can, Bogans can still provide a solid 5-10 minutes off the bench as a spot up shooter and go-to defender.
March 16, 2011
How high have the expectations gotten for these Bulls?
On a night when the Bulls won by 19 points and took over first place in the Eastern Conference despite missing their second and third-best players — Carlos Boozer (sprained ankle) and Joakim Noah (flu-like symptoms) both sat this one out — there was an overwhelming sense that they should have won by more than 19 points. Should have crushed the Wizards much sooner and much harder.
The Bulls held Washington to 79 points on 43 percent shooting while scoring 22 points off 16 forced turnovers. The Wizards scored only 33 points in the second half. Again, this was without Noah, who leads the team in Defensive Rating. And yet Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau was unhappy with his team’s defense.
Yeah. I’d say the expectations have gotten pretty high.
I’ll admit, I fell into the expectations trap last night. When Washington erased a double-digit deficit by outscoring the Bulls 27-19 in the second quarter, I was like, “Whaaaaaa…?!” The Bulls were 29-4 at home. The Wizards were 1-29 on the road. It felt like some universal law was being violated.
Let me repeat: Minus their second and third-best players, it felt like the Bulls should have been up by 30 at the half. And giving up 46 points over the first 24 minutes seemed like abject failure.
That’s how good the Bulls have been this season.
Of course, the Bulls almost always crank up their defense in the second half, and it happened again tonight. The Wizards managed only 14 points in the third quarter. They scored 19 points in the fourth only because JaVale McGee was busting his butt to get a triple-double during garbage time. He got it on a dunk with 18 seconds left and celebrated by hanging on the rim and screaming. While his team was down by 18 points.
I guess you could say the Wizards are at the other end of the expectation spectrum.
Derrick Rose had another Derrick Rose-like game (23 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) and yet seemed pretty quiet. Luol Deng did what he’s been doing (20 pints, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) but (ugh) logged another 43 minutes (too many in a blowout if you ask me). Kurt Thomas continued to defy the laws of nature and aging by ripping down a game-high 15 rebounds. Taj Gibson added 13 boards and scored 9 points. The bench contributed 21 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists.
And then there was Keith Bogans.
Bogans — who’s been persona non grata in Chicago all season — nailed five three-pointers and scored a season-high 17 points. (In case you’re wondering, his career high is 28 points, which he set against the Utah Jazz on November 16, 2004.) And despite playing his best game of the season, Bogans was still the subject of mockery in ESPN’s Daily Dime Live chat. I guess Keith exists at the low end of the expectation spectrum, too.
Said Bogans: “It doesn’t frustrate me at all. I’m being talked about. I’ve been around long enough, people are going to say things. But, I’m here for my team, I want to win. I’m not worried about individual stuff. I’ve had individual things; my main goal is to win a championship. That’s what I’m focused on.”
Yep. That’s a 2010-11 Chicago Bulls attitude for you.
“My job on this team is to defend first. I don’t get caught up in ‘I’m a shooting guard.’ We’ve got Derrick, we’ve got Carlos, we’ve got Luol [Deng]. They take the bulk of the shots. I’m going to get us going defensively and when my shot’s there, I’m taking it. I know my role on this team.”
And, really, that concept is what has made the Bulls so effective this season. There’s no confusion. Players know their roles. They understand what’s expected. Then they go out and do it.
Said Thibs: “If we are preparing the way that we are supposed to and doing the right things, the results will take care of themselves.”
Currently, the results are that the Bulls are 48-18, dominating their division and sitting alone in first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time since the final day of the 1997-98 season.
Yeah. I’d say that speaks for itself.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
February 1, 2011
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote a piece about Keith Bogans that, essentially, absolves Bogans of his poor shooting and lack of scoring.
In doing so, Johnson cited Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who said: ”He’s always found a way either to start or be in the rotation for very good teams. If he’s guarding you, you know he’s guarding you. He’s going to make you work. He’s a physical player. He’s been shooting the 3 well. That’s critical for us. Keith gives you toughness. That’s important in this league. It’s a big part of being a good defensive team. And he does his job every day. Every day.”
I get what Johnson and Thibs are saying, and I agree that PPG isn’t the best measure of a player’s worth. Still, out of curiosity, I went to Basketball-Reference and used the Play Index to compare the advanced statistics of all NBA guards who have started at least 35 games this season. Here are Bogans’ stats and rankings out of the 46 guards who qualified:
Player Efficiency Rating: 7.1 (46th)
True Shooting Percentage: .510 (42nd)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .500 (26th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: 1.6 (33rd)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: 10.2 (18th)
Total Rebound Percentage: 6.1 (23rd)
Assist Percentage: 9.5 (41st)
Steal Percentage: 1.3 (38th)
Block Percentage: 0.5 (19th)
Turnover Percentage: 12.7 (20th)
Usage Percentage: 10.4 (45th)
Offensive Rating: 104 (41st)
Defensive Rating: 103 (7th)
Offensive Win Shares: 0.3 (44th)
Defensive Win Shares: 1.3 (21st)
Total Win Shares: 1.6 (43rd)
Win Shares Per 48 Minutes: 0.092 (34th)
For the heck of it, here are his shooting stats among the 46 qualifying guards:
Field Goal Percentage: 38.1 (44th)
Three-point Percentage: 33.6 (34th)
Free Throw Percentage: 59.1 (45th)
Most notable, I suppose, are the shooting stats, which reveal that Bogans is one of the worst shooters among starting guards, and his dead-last ranking in PER, which provides a general measure of efficiency and productivity.
He’s good at defense, though, hence the seventh-place ranking in Defensive Rating. Interestingly enough, Derrick Rose ranks fourth in that area (just behind Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade) despite his ongoing (and possibly undeserved) reputation as a bad (at worst) to average (at best) defender. For the record, Rose also ranks second (behind Paul and just ahead of Wade and Rondo) among these 46 starting guards in Defensive Win Shares.
But, hey, what do advanced stats mean, anyway?
D-Ratings, Defensive Win Shares and even possession-specific data from Synergy Sports Technology aren’t admissible if you choose to disregard them. And, as Jake in Minnie pointed out in yesterday’s comments, PER certainly has its fair share of flaws, which sheds at least some doubt on the importance of Bogans’ poor rating in that area.
So, at least for now, as much as some Bulls fans my not like it (and many of us do not), Thibs is going by the most basic statistics of all: wins and losses.
December 28, 2010
Keith Bogans is Chicago’s starting shooting guard.
Bogans is averaging 3.9 PPG while shooting 38.3 percent from the field, 30.1 percent from three-point range and 56.3 percent from the free throw line. His Player Efficiency Rating is 7.7. According to John Hollinger’s reference guide, that puts him somewhere between “Definitely Renting” and “The Next Stop: D-League.”
By the numbers, both Kyle Korver (8.8 PPG and 41 percent on threes) and Ronnie Brewer (6.2 PPG and 53 percent from the field) are better. But Korver is weak on defense and Brewer is a poor outside shooter.
It’s obvious the Bulls need a shooting guard.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes:
“Is help coming? Rumors persist that general manager Gar Forman is actively looking for an upgrade at shooting guard, but sources said reports of talks with the Nuggets regarding J.R. Smith weren’t accurate. Players such as Richard Hamilton and Stephen Jackson would appear to have prohibitive long-term deals. The Bulls have scouted Rockets guard Courtney Lee, who is well-regarded for his defense and toughness. But even if talks became serious, he’s a 37.9 percent career 3-point shooter and might represent only a minor upgrade.”
There’s also been talk about dealing for O.J. Mayo and J.J. Redick.
Whatever the case, it’s clear that the lack of a legit SG — and not Joakim Noah’s thumb surgery — is the biggest factor preventing the Bulls from taking their place among the league’s true championship contenders.
Will management make a deal? Possibly. Although I suspect, if anything happens, it won’t happen until the trade deadline.
October 26, 2010
While reveiwing the Bulls’ preseason stats, I said:
“Going into training camp, everybody figured it was a two-man race for the starting shooting guard spot. Those two men being Ronnie Brewer (the presumed starter) and Kyle Korver (the challenger). Only Bogans started all eight games. And although it may only have been because Brewer was injured, Bogans delivered by shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 50 percent from three-point range. Bogans didn’t do a lot of scoring (5.5 PPG) or log a lot of time (16.8 MPG), but he was more consistent than Korver (43 percent from the field, 33 on threes) or Brewer (28 percent from the field, 0-for-1 on threes). Maybe I was wrong to sleep on Bogans.”
As if on cue, coachTom Thibodeau confirmedthat Bogans will start in the team’s season opener against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.
Said coach Tom Thibodeau: “He’s just been solid. He’s done all the things we expected of him. He’s a very good defensive player, spreads the floor so he can shoot the 3. He’s a tough competitor. He’s earned it.”
It makes sense. Korver is the better shooter, but his defense was limited even before his mobility was affected by an ankle cyst. As for Brewer, he’s younger and more athletic, but he could probably lob a rock into the ocean and miss.
Bogans can defend. His shooting was strong in the preseason. He played for Thibodeau in Houston and he has experience in a great system in San Antonio. The Bulls can count on him to make good decisions and few mistakes.
Of course, his shooting will likely be the determining factor as the season progresses. Remember: he’s a career 39 percent shooter…35 percent on threes. And he’s started only 226 of 504 career games for a reason. Still, he earned the starting job, and now it’s his to lose.
August 9, 2010
According to Sam Smith of Bulls.com: “The Bulls Friday added another perimeter factor to their roster by reaching agreement on a two-year deal withformer Spurs starter Keith Bogans, NBA sources confirmed. The deal is estimated at about $2.5 million, with the second year not fully guaranteed until next summer. Thus, the Bulls still have salary cap room left and flexibility and are expected to remain in trade discussions for another guard, perhaps Portland’s Rudy Fernandez.”
Well, I’m glad the Bulls maintained some cap room and a little flexibility after this deal, because I’m having a tough time getting excited about Bogans. In seven NBA seasons, he’s played for four different teams (the Bulls will be his fifth). He’s been traded three times and allowed to walk in free agency another three times.
For his career, Bogans has shot 39 percent from the field, 35 percent from downtown and 72 percent from the line. Last season, he shot 25 percent inside 10 feet, 25 percent from 10-15 feet and 31 percent from 16-23 feet. Last week, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said that the team’s top priority was finding another shooter. Those aren’t really a shooter’s numbers.
His career Player Efficiency Rating is 10.1, which according to one reference guide ranks somewhere between “scrounging for minutes” and “definitely renting.”
Moreover, Bogans has been in the playoffs only twice for a total of 18 games. And according to Basketball-Reference.com, his most significant NBA achievements are playing a full 82 games (in 2007-08) and ranking 8th in the league in turnover percentage for a single season (again in 2007-08).
Here’s ESPN’s John Hollinger’s scouting report on Bogans prior to the 2009-10 season: “Offensively, he can’t score unless he has a wide-open jumper. … Combined with how infrequently he shoots, few wings were as ineffective offensively. … Defensively, Bogans effectively checks 2s because he’s strong and gives a great effort, but his short arms and modest size limit his ability to stop bigger players. … Bogans brings two skills to the table: He’s a good defender and he’s a decent 3-point shooter. Beyond that, he has very little to offer — he’s hopeless off the dribble and doesn’t create for others or himself.”
Not exactly a rousing endorsement. Of course, Hollinger also referred to Bogansas tough, clever and hard-nosed. And those traits may be why he’ll be wearing a Bulls uniform during the upcoming season. According to Smith: “Bogans also has long been a favorite of new Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who has been hopeful management would add Bogans for his defensive play, toughness and ability to hit a three-pointer. … His addition gives the Bulls a strong defensive presence and size on the perimeter with Brewer and the shooting of Korver.”
So with what may very well end up being their final acquisition of a pretty crazy offseason, the Bulls have added a player who brings some defense, toughness and the occasional three-pointer. On the one hand, I was hoping for something more. On the other hand, the Bulls are pretty deep right now and there weren’t going to be a lot of minutes to go around. From what I can determine, Bogans will do what he’s told without complaint. And despite his deficiencies, he apparently gives a team everything he’s got.
So in the final analysis, I guess the Bulls could have done worse in filling their last roster spot. Still, I’d feel better if Bogans could drill the three at a higher percentage.
July 28, 2010
The Bulls currently have 11 players on the roster. They’re still searching for player number 12.
According to ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell: “The Chicago Bulls have expressed an interest in free agent guard Eddie House, according to House’s agent Mark Bartelstein. The Bulls also have talked to representatives of Keith Bogans and Roger Mason, according to a person familiar with the situation. Disgruntled Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard Rudy Fernandez could also be in the mix for the Bulls, according to a report in the Oregonian. The Bulls, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics are in the running to acquire the 25-year-old Fernandez, who is unhappy with limited playing time in Portland, according to the report.”
My gut reaction is to scream “Get Rudy! Get Rudy!” That kid is a firecracker and a game-changer.
But…he shot 37 percent from the field last season while compiling a pretty “meh” Player Efficiency Rating of 13.1. His Per 36 Minute numbers (12.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 3.2 APG) aren’t all that exciting either. And he’s already grumbling about his playing time in Portland? I don’t know. As much as I love Rudy’s potential, those are red flags to me.
Still, I can’t deny the allure. I should probably me more worried about the things I just mentioned, but if we could get Fernandez on the cheap or by only giving up, say, James Johnson, I would probably do the dance of joy.
As for Eddie House, I love his shooting ability (almost 40 percent on threes for his career) while hating his size (6’1″ on a really tall day) and lack of handles. Still, he has championship experience and played for Tom Thibodeau.
Roger Mason shot 42 percent on threes in 2008-09 and a shade under 40 the season before that (although, gulp, only 33 percent last season). Plus, he was a Spur, which raises his stock in my book. However, he’s going to be 30 on September 10, so he’s not exactly part of the Bulls’ youth movement.
Keith Bogans? If there are no other choices, I guess.
Not sure why I’m not seeing Shannon Brown’s name in Chicago’s short list. That’s kind of disappointing, actually. I know he’s streaky, but he’s athletic as all get out and has loads of potential. And he always seemed hungry and ready to prove himself with the Lakers last season.