We’re six games into the NBA season. Derrick Rose has a player efficiency rating of 6.7, which is — charitably — not good. The Chicago Bulls as a team are shooting a sparking 26.3 percent from three point land, with Luol Deng coming in at a delightful 5.6 percent from downtown. No, that is not a typo. I wish it were.
All that is to say that the Bulls’ offense has been kind of bad so far this year. They’re 3-3 on the year, but there are some issues that still need to be cleaned up. That brings us to this question from Stephen:
Hello! Over a few sites, I’ve read comments about Derrick not starting the offense quickly enough (waiting until 14 seconds on the shot clock to start). If the set doesn’t run properly, it devolves into Derrick playing “bail out” and forcing the issue. The Bulls are 21st in pacing (according to ESPN.com) and I believe that is by design, combined with the defense, to keep the end score in the low 90s/high 80s. Do you think there’s any validity to Derrick not speeding it up?
The answer to this question is a touch complicated, as you might expect. On one hand, the Bulls have made a concerted effort to get out in transition more this year. They’ve been pushing pretty hard off misses and turnovers this season, even with Kirk Hinrich — not exactly known for his speed — running the show for the bench unit. That said, there might be some validity to the idea that the Bulls take a while to get into their sets.
To that end, I took a trip to the film room. And by the film room, I mean my bedroom, where I pulled out my laptop and pulled up the League Pass Broadband archive.
Watching the Bulls face the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, I can tell you that while the Bulls do walk the ball up the court off made baskets or dead ball turnovers, they generally get into their sets with about 18 seconds left on the shot clock. For instance, there’s this play, where Rose walks the ball up the court but still gets into the set with plenty of time on the shot clock.
They do run up against the end of the shot clock on a fairly regular basis, but that has less to do with not getting into sets quick enough and more to do with their offense either not generating good looks or players passing on open looks and not finding better ones.
As to the idea that Tom Thibodeau wants the Bulls to play slow, I would say he does, but I think he’s recognized by now that the Bulls don’t have the personnel to score consistently in the half court and that transition opportunities will lead to better shots. Also, we’re starting to see NBA teams push the pace like never before because more possessions means more shots and more shots means more points in the long run. It sounds like common sense, but this constitutes revolutionary thought in the NBA.
So, in answer to Stephen’s question: Yes, the Bulls play slower than they could because Tom Thibodeau likes it that way, but no, they don’t seem to have a major problem getting into their sets in a timely fashion and they push the ball in transition. The reason their pace numbers are as low as they are compared to the rest of the league is that the league as a whole is pushing the pace more than they ever have and the Bulls struggle in the half court and run up against the end of the shot clock on a depressingly regular basis. Hopefully that helps.