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.