Looking ahead: The starters

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.

Derrick Rose:
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.

Joakim Noah:
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.

Carlos Boozer:
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.

Luol Deng:
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.

Keith Bogans:
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.

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65 Responses to Looking ahead: The starters

  1. theplatzers@gmail.com'
    JP June 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

    I agree with Inception. It would take some balls to bench Boozer and start Taj. Then again, Chicago’s second unit is probably the best in the league. You don’t want to mess with that. They need to find a way of getting Boozer more involved.

    I too like Bogans. He’s undersized but man the guy plays hard and he plays defense. I think he’d be an outstanding backup if we could find a 2 that scores a bit more. Not sure who that would be though.

    On another note, we need a backup point guard from the draft. Derrick can’t keep playing 40 minutes a night. There are a number of point guards that will be available that I think could really help us:

    Josh Selby, Charles Jenkins, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Shelvin Mack. And what about Ben Hansbrough. Plays great defense (Tibs will love that) can score it and shoot it as well. At any rate, they’ll have a lot of guys to choose from. They just need someone athletic who can break down the defense off the dribble and play good D on the other end and motivate the 2nd unit.

  2. woodstron@yahoo.com'
    Tron June 17, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    we are a player or two away… lets see whats available via the draft, then via free agency. If we are not able to make significant upgrades, then I would consider a trade. Remember, we don’t need another superstar (although it would be great) we simply need a better creator/scorer at the guard position. If we can get that person and not give up anyone, we can be in the finals next year. Go Bulls!

  3. peter_spier@hotmail.com'
    Peter June 18, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Unless we can pull off trade for Dwight Howard this summer, I think you have to pull the trigger on Deng for Monta Ellis. Monta is a young elite scorer and they are very hard to come by. I don’t think just adding JRich, Rip or their ilk are enough to get us past Miami.

  4. admata1789@gmail.com'
    Adam June 18, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Hey Matt,

    I know that giving weight to trade rumors is like thinking Greg Oden won’t get injured again. However, I ran into this…

    http://sports.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474979462966

    … and just wanted to know if you’ve heard anything about this or even if this guy is at all credible. My opinion is it would be really hard to get Mayo for just Korver and a draft pick, but if we really could do that then I’d be all for it. Hell, If Thibs was able to get Mayo to buy into the system I’d be willing to throw Asik into the trade and just hope to the Basketball Gods that Jo No can stay healthy.

    So first, would you give any weight to that rumor?
    Second, do you think Mayo would fit in well with the Bulls?
    Last, who/what do you think the Bulls should be willing to part with for Mayo?

    p.s. Anyone else on here feel free to share any info you know about this; or feel free to debunk it if the guy is just blowing hot air.

  5. maine June 19, 2011 at 12:16 am #

    i really dont think mayo is a fit for this team he’s a 12.0 ppg scorer at best his numbers have declined over the last few yrs and he’s not discipline i really think taj should start for booz,booz would give u about 18 ppg of the bench,i like mack in the draft at the 28th pick he would a great back up 1 or 2 asik is a good trade bait can easily start for a lot of teams,we need a starting 2,who can score and defend,ray allen would be perfect,he played for thibs,he has a ring,and i think he has a few more yrs left and we can pick up a big at the 30th pick

  6. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath June 19, 2011 at 3:29 am #

    I know this is before their playoff run, but this was from Feb. 24th of this year:

    “…The Memphis Grizzlies had agreed in principle to trade guard O.J. Mayo to the Indiana Pacers for forward Josh McRoberts and a 2011 first-round pick, league sources said Thursday, but the deal fell apart…”

    If that was a deal that could have gone through, then Korver and a pick is not, at least, outlandish.

  7. Anonymous June 19, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    Inky

    Trades with Smalls for Bigs are less advantageous for the team giving up the Big.

    McRoberts a F, is 6’10″.

    Also, Memphis has enough perimeter players who want/need to shoot the ball which is why they’d give up Mayo. Korver wouldn’t fit in as well.

  8. admata1789@gmail.com'
    Adam June 20, 2011 at 1:09 am #

    @inkybreath

    Purely from a talent standpoint; I completely agree. However, I think there is also the issue of dumping salary due to Grizzlies giving Gay and Z-Bo huge contracts and wanting to resign Marc Gasol.

    Josh McRoberts would have been off the books after this past season whereas O.J. is still owed 5.6 Mill next season. Since Korver is owed 5 mill for the next two seasons I’m not so sure they go for that.

  9. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath June 20, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    For curiousity’s sake, we still need to know if Memphis will ever deal with us, at all!

  10. joe.sez@gmail.com'
    joe June 20, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    @inkybreath @Adam

    McRoberts is a PF and OJ a guard. Memphis is fat at Guard with too many guys needing the a ball. Also, a general rule is you give up too much when you trade a big for a small. Memphis is getting a Big for OJ so that favors the McRoberts trade.

    The Korver for OJ trade doesn’t balance the roster nor does it bring in as much value to Memphis.

  11. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath June 20, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    I just saw the rumor about Phoenix buying out Vince Carter and the Bulls having interest (grain of salt)…

    I just want straight opinion – no dollars or sense factored in:

    Who would you rather have as a 2 … Vince or Rip Hamilton?

    Go ….

  12. admata1789@gmail.com'
    Adam June 20, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    @Inkybreath

    Speaking in Ifs, as in if Vince could step up his intensity on D, then Vince.

    However, just going off facts as they are I’ll take Rip.

  13. Brian June 21, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    Rip. just because i doubt he’ll quit shortly after half time, like Vince seemingly does with consistency. Hamilton via caring.

  14. maine June 21, 2011 at 10:05 pm #

    rip all day i also heard rumors of ben gordan coming back anybody heard this?

  15. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath June 25, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    I did see a vague reference to BG…

    hehe … could we say that Ronnie Brewer’s offense is equal to Ben Gordon’s defense?

    Best opposite day, ever.

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