Because I was the one who originally suggested paying attention to the plays the Bulls run out of timeouts, I’ll elaborate a bit on why I believe some of VDN’s basic limitations are exposed by these plays.
Out of timeouts, offensive plays provide crystallized glimpses into the quality and creativity of coaching strategies. It’s true that teams execute practiced plays throughout the course of games, but plays out of timeouts are essentially the equivalent of NFL plays out of timeouts. Yes, the players must execute, but the quality and creativity of the plays themselves are the overarching factors in their success or failure.
Good NBA coaches are often creative enough to come up with plays that result in the right players getting good shots out of timeouts. Unfortunately for Bulls fans, VDN is not a good coach, and this rarely happens.
Remember last year when the predictable VDN move was to get the ball to Ben Gordon late in close games? Well, on a basic level, one can hardly fault him for wanting to get the ball into Gordon’s hands. But far too often BG had to come hard to the ball, and then create his own shot over or around one or more defenders.
While that might seem to be a reasonable strategy with Kobe, Carmelo or LeBron, it obviously isn’t the best way to create good, efficient scoring opportunities, especially for teams without transcendent superstars. (As an aside, even in Cleveland’s case, that kind of limited strategy has been exposed as being insufficient when employed against elite opponents. And if they are to win a championship, it will be due in part to their coaches having figured that out, and made the adjustment.)
In order to provide some context to the discussion, consider the following example.
The OKC Thunder, as you might expect, badly wants to get the ball to Kevin Durant, and especially in the latter stages of close games. Of course every opposing team knows this, and so it isn’t easy to get the ball to KD out of a timeout when he is in a good position to shoot a high-percentage shot. So, with that in mind, take a look at this recent Thunder play, broken down nicely at the NBA Playbook site.
Now, obviously this is one isolated example, and I am not suggesting that the Thunder coach is brilliant, nor that this is typical of their plays out of timeouts (I wouldn’t know). I also recognize that players like Durant are exceptional. However, I would suggest that if one were to review all of the plays out of timeouts devised by VDN over the past two seasons, one would be hard-pressed to find a single play of such creative and effective design.
Bear in mind that even with Tyrus Thomas gone, the Bulls still have athletic big men who could be dangerous scorers around the basket if their numbers were called through well-designed pick-and-rolls, etc. And given that most teams key on Rose, Hinrich or Deng out of timeouts, VDN would be well-advised to develop some plays that utilize them as decoys. If he were to do that effectively, then opposing teams would be forced to reduce some of their pressure on the obvious players, which in turn would open up the court, and create fresh opportunities.
Finally, as Matt noted recently, someone suggested that his running timeout tally should be parsed out further. That’s a reasonable suggestion, though I predict that it will lead to the same, unfortunate conclusion: VDN is well below average at deploying creative plays out of timeouts which result in good shots taken by the right players.
About the author:
Tony C. grew up in Evanston, and cut his teeth on the exciting, early ’70’s Walker-Love-Sloan-Van Lier Bulls. As a pick-up player, he admits to having stuck too long with low-top shoes (Puma Baskets, for the detail oriented), but did belatedly make the switch when the sprained ankles became tedious. Tony’s professional life revolves mainly around buying, selling and managing Thoroughbred racehorses. While he now resides outside of Chicago, he remains an interested, enthusiastic, and at times critical Bulls fan.