The Korver Conundrum

As recent, disappointing performances against top-tier opponents Orlando and Boston underscore, the Bulls have a number of weaknesses which need to be addressed. The most glaring is a lack of consistent outside shooting, which, as was the case in the Celtics game, is amplified to excruciating levels when Derrick Rose underperforms (or is contained).

A related conundrum for the Bulls is this: Having acquired one of the more potent pure shooters in the league in Kyle Korver, why have they been so unsuccessful in utilizing his specific skill?

Korver is averaging 12.3 shots per 40 minutes this season, which is consistent with his career numbers. However, as the Bulls best long-range shooting option, and one of the only members of the team capable of hitting consistently from outside, Korver needs to be given more, and better opportunities.

At the risk of parsing things a bit too finely, Korver is averaging 5.4 shots per 40 minutes from between 16-23 ft., while Taj Gibson is averaging 6.6 from the same distances. Now, I am delighted with Gibson’s progress as a mid-range shooter, and as long as his percentage stays high, I want him to shoot open jumpers. I also understand that Korver was brought in primarily as a three-point specialist. But thus far, the Bulls have done a poor job getting Korver good, open looks, and figuring out how to do so should be a high priority.

Given his long-standing focus on defense, it was predictable that Thibodeaux would be quick to implement a successful defensive system, and that effective, creative offensive strategies would (at best) be slower to be developed. It is also the case that it will take some time for the team to adapt to Boozer’s insertion into the line-up. But now – especially now, with the addition of Boozer – the coaches need to find ways to make better use of Korver.

Thus far, the Bulls have run fairly traditional plays in efforts to get Korver open. But, as they haven’t worked particularly well, it seems to me that some creativity is in order. So, for example, it’s worth noting that Korver, when he is well-covered by a defender, has shown an ability to almost instantly return an incoming pass to the sender. It’s an unusual skill to have developed, but a potentially valuable one for a hired gun. I believe that the Bulls could capitalize by occasionally engaging Korver in a two-man game with either Boozer or Noah on the high-post. Both of those players are good passers, and if Korver isn’t open the first time around, he might be able to catch defenders off-guard by immediately returning the pass, making a quick cut, receiving another pass, and firing off a shot.

With so much defensive attention paid to Derrick Rose, I also don’t see why Korver shouldn’t be given an opportunity to handle the ball on occasion, rubbing off screens, and engaging in pick-and-roll plays with Noah and Boozer. Yes, it’s true that Korver isn’t a great ball handler, but the risk of an extra turnover now and then would be outweighed by several extra good looks per game. A tangential advantage of this approach would be that throwing radically different schemes at opposing defenses, all of which are currently geared to key in on Rose, could open up other opportunities.

It appears clear that the Bulls have the talent, desire and coaching to beat lesser teams, even when they have to rely heavily on Rose’s offensive output to do so. But if they hope to reach their full potential, and pose a threat to elite teams in the playoffs, they must make good use of their other offensive weapons. Boozer will obviously contribute in that area; let’s hope that Korver is given a greater opportunity to do so.

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 you might expect, he is thrilled with the direction and development of the current team, as the emphasis on determination, defense and chemistry is so reminiscent of that classic, earlier era.

30 Responses to The Korver Conundrum

    BoppinBob December 6, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    Tony, it is to early to pick apart the developing Bulls for “supposed weaknesses exposed in the Orlando and Boston games. These were Boozer’s first two games, he was clearly rusty and out of game shape, and he has had absolutely no experience with the Bulls in a competitive environment. I really wonder how much solid practice time the Bulls, as a team had with Boozer before these two games. The Bulls looked solid coming off the “circus trip”, but were totally disrupted with the addition of Boozer to the rotation. Incorporationg Boozer into the defensive scheme IMO is more important than incorporating him into the offense. Both need to be done, but defense is more important because of Boozer’s evident weakness on defense. As long as the Bulls qualify for the playoffs I do not care what the record is. As long as they have laid the foundation for a deep playoff run. That foundation begins with making defense a habit. The offense will come with the talent on this roster, Rose, Boozer, Deng, Noah, Gibson, Korver, Watson, Brewer, Bogans, and Asik have all shown that they have the tools to perform on offense, Thibs will get the offense in place eventually. But a championship team is built on a defensive foundation and that should be the primary focus right now because it takes longer to make defense second nature.

    Tony C. December 6, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    Bob –

    I agree with you completely, in that defense will be the foundation of the current Bulls. I also agree that Boozer’s integration will take some time. My point, however, is that Korver has thus far been used in mostly traditional ways, and there is the potential for him to be incorporated into the offense more creatively.

    As much as I like Thibs, and expect him to become a very good coach, I am also pointing out that he has shown a predictable emphasis on defense. That’s fine, but there is, and will continue to be room to develop offensive schemes that could really help the team. I say that not because I expect the coach to come up with exotic plays, but because the Bulls are too easy to defend when Rose is keyed on, and they need to throw something different out now and then, in order keep opposing defenses off-balance.

  3. Ryan December 6, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    I agree with getting Korver more shots, but more of a 3rd – 4th option after Rose, Boozer, and possibly Deng (depending on the team we are playing). I believe Taj has just as many attempts, but more from drive and kick offensive sets to make the opposing big man make a choice – leave him open or leave the paint open. Korver has to run through screens, rubs, pinches, and pin downs to get to the same spot while shooting an off-balance jumper (although, one of the best at doing so)… hard to make a comparison between the two.

    I think it would be fun to see Korver handle the ball, and you are correct – the good would outweigh the bad in the ‘grand scheme’ of things. I think it would work due to Korver’s height (he can see over the defense) and having Rose off of the ball. Another upside would be playing Korver, Boozer, and Brewer together to get some ‘Jazzy’ continuity.

    Ivo December 6, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    Thibs needs to turn him into a Rip Hamilton circa 2004. Asik needs to learn to set screens and Noah and Boozer can also screen any defender.

    He doesn’t need to handle the ball – leave that up to D Rose. He needs to move without the ball while his defenders sleep they watch at where D Rose is going.

    chitown4life December 6, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    Finally talk of needed scoring yes boozer will score so will rose but we need more of a punch at the two gaurd position and yes, i have the perfect addition to the bulls who would fit nicely with the team O J Mayo he is coming up on his last year of his contract and he would fit nicly with our young team as the starting two guard I don’t see the grizz willing to pay him and yet he may be willing to come to chicago for a reasonable contract which may call for the bulls to get rid of ronnie brewer and james johnson and maybe Tgibs to make sure that we have enough money on our books to pay him and rose and comapny but yet would be a formitable team T gibs would be missed but at the same time we have some 1 rd picks this year and maybe could swing something for another promising big man to fill that void just a thought . peace

    BoppinBob December 6, 2010 at 11:04 pm #

    Tony, we basicly agree, I think there needs to be designed plays for Korver and Brewer, taking advantage of their unique skills and physical attributes. Korver with his 3-pt shot and Brewer with backdoor alley-oop and post up. It would be nice to see a little inside-out two man with Korver and Brewer on the off side away from Rose, Boozer and Noah. I think it will come but again, offensive sets can be learned while good team defense has to become second nature. Let’s remember that the Bulls roster went through a 65% to 70% turnover. There is a lot getting aquinted still to be done. I will continue to counsel patience with our developing Bulls, remember that the first 3-peat team starters were together for 2 years before they started their first championship season.

    Cap'n Flapjaj December 6, 2010 at 11:12 pm #

    @chitown4life I think O.J. Mayo’s play is too much of a question mark to give up those pieces for him.

  8. dunkatron December 6, 2010 at 11:12 pm #

    You can’t turn Korver into Rip Hamilton. Rip’s got quicks and moves without the ball like reggie miller. Korver has never been written up as a stellar athlete. I like Korver, I like what he brings to this team, but he doesn’t play good enough defense, or move well enough without the ball to warrant the minutes that would get him into a shooter’s rhythm. He’ll sometimes play six minutes in the first half and then stuck in at the end in crunch time. Maybe saber-metrics don’t believe in hot streaks, but you can’t deny that on some nights a shooter sees the basket better after a couple of attempts.
    -I know Dumars loves him, but the best case scenario for this season is that Rip actually does turn up on the trading block and we can get him for a low price.

    gorditadogg December 6, 2010 at 11:14 pm #

    Tony C, nice post! I would like to see the Bulls get creative- we need to get Korver and Deng both more open shots.

    Looking at the Bulls record so far this year, we are 3-8 against teams with winning records, and 7-0 against the dregs. We need to do better against good teams and that starts with interior defense. Noah, Boozer and Deng need to step up in the paint- no easy shots tonight.

    Scottie Pimpin December 6, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

    hes got a bit of a point, korver coming off those screens are too predictibe, and they’re sticking to him like glue especially with no boozer. but he needs more playing time to get his confidence and mojo going, brewer can play the 3 easily, i think korver can be used as a decoy to get others easy baskets, and then when the defense shifts focus, korver will get easier looks, but lets not forget people hes a great shooter but hes no ray allen, this is a new squad after being gutted, new coach, and new system and everyone is anxious.


    BoppinBob December 6, 2010 at 11:20 pm #

    @ chitown4life, by the end of this season the strength of the Bulls will be their depth and flexibility. Giving up Gibson, Brewer and Johnson would devastate that depth and eliminate it as a strength. The potential already exists on the Bulls for a SG to go on a tear and light it up. Brewer, Korver and Bogans are all capable of exploding. Let this team develop before we start to tear it apart and rebuild it.

    bullsfandom December 7, 2010 at 12:15 am #

    Pargo was also known to have the potential to ‘Light it Up’. Bottom line is that we really don’t need somebody who can pull a 25 point game once every two weeks…we need somebody who can play 30 minutes a night at the 2 guard who can play good defense while scoring 18+ and shooting a nice % from 3 point land.

    I’m not sure if OJ Mayo is that guy, but for a reasonable trade I’d take him. (Reasonable to me would be Brewer, JJ, and a draft pick or two)

    inkybreath December 7, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    OH SNAP! 44-36 – Korver answers the conundrum with two smooth splashes with a glimpse into the future! Boozer in the post, Deng gets to play Shawn Kemp and Noah cleans the plate.


  14. Nikhil December 7, 2010 at 5:01 am #

    I agree that the plays designed for Korver are very predictable: Derrick usually pounds the ball into the ground at the top of the key, waiting for Korver to come off a curl from the baseline out on the wing.
    One simple adjustment they can make is to run some of the screens with Korver starting further down the baseline, away from the basket. That way, they could occasionally run “counters” where Korever back-cuts to the hoop. When you start right underneath the hoop, there’s no where to back-cut to.

    BoppinBob December 7, 2010 at 5:20 am #

    bullsfandom, please don’t compare Pargo with Brewer, Bogans or Korver. Pargo was a gunner who provided little defense and had trouble hitting the side of a barn in his last stint with the Bulls. So far this season Korver, Bogans and Brewer have all contributed positively to the Bulls success. I still feel tht we fans need to be patient and let this current roster settle in before we look to make significant changes. Right now the Bulls have four players who are impact players, Rose, Boozer, Noah and Deng. As they gel they will match up well and will be capable of beating every team in the NBA. IMO the Bulls should stand pat with the current roster and look to draft a SG this spring.

    chitown4life December 7, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    All very good points but once again we talk of waiting the key is to take advantage of the moment when it comes up i say O j would be great fit but also he would not demand more money than mello also would be able to play some solid D win win far as I can see , but on the other hand i understand the depth thing but the clock still ticking might want to conssider pulling the trigger if we could keep T Gibs maybe swap out brewer and JJ and a pick for mayo if the fish are biting make sure you are trying to catcc a big one why not us why not now the future is here time to make it all come together and clear.btw who is coming out that can be an instant starter with this team we have now yrs is too long we need that goto shooting guard now. point made

    chitown4life December 7, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    BOBINBOB not saying tear the team down and rebuild just tweak it somewhat and timing is key in most situations also what we have seen so far is ok but is it championship material from brewer korver or bogan I’d say no now insert mayo into our line up pure three point shooter with ability to create his own shot with Rose and boozer deng noah grabbing rebounds picture that looks mighty nice to me can you say solid team for yrs to come most def a championship contender to all teams in te league. imagine that b4 you answer.

    bullsfandom December 7, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

    The one thing Pargo has in common with Brewer, Bogans, and Korver is that none of these guys are starting material for a championship team.

    Look, I love the guys the Bulls have now but if you can improve this team without really giving up anything (Like I outlined above) you have to do it ASAP. You can’t hope you find somebody in the bottom half of the draft to fill out the last piece this team needs. You can’t count on the team having an MLE to spend on good veterans after the lockout next year.

    BoppinBob December 7, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    People didn’t think that Paxson was starting material until he helped win three championships. Until these guys have a couple of months playing together we do not know what we have. Korver, Brewer and Bogans all stepped up against the Thunder and helped Boozer and Deng when Rose and Noah had off offensive games. I have faith in Gar/Pax to make the right decision for the teams long term development. IMO there will be plenty of SG’s available in the 2011 draft for the Bulls to upgrade that positon for 2011/12. It takes time to recover from the upheaval the Bulls went through with only 5 guys coming back from 2009/10. It was necessary to upgrade the team but developing continuity with all the new guys on the roster will take months and that was delayed even more by Boozer’s broken finger. Bringing in Mayo would blow the salsry cap out of the water, and what happens if the NBA goes with a hard cap?

    bullsfandom December 8, 2010 at 12:28 am #

    Chemistry does take time to develop, which is why if we are to make any improvements we should make them now so that we have time to develop that chemistry. You can hope that we will find a good SG in the bottom half of the draft, but I wouldn’t hold my breath…whoever it was will probably suffer the same fate as JJ, regulated to the bench behind a ton of talented but not starter worthy wing players.

    John Paxson was only really a starter for those 3 seasons, and don’t forget that he played out on a wing that had 2 of the top 10 players of all time playing beside him the entire time.

    Still he was what he was. He provided great FG%, great 3pt% and he could play passable D. Boguns is what he is. He is a 30 yrs old journeyman who has played for 5 other franchises. He plays good Defense, but is a horrible shooter and so far he has actually been worse than advertised there. (And don’t give me the “its early” line. We are just a game and some change shy of the quarter point of the season and he has started every game). He is not going to morph into Dorrell Wright over the next 2 weeks.

    Neither is Brewer for that matter, he could be a starter however IMO his skill set on offense is very close to Luol’s. His inability to shoot from distance and his inability to shoot 3’s isn’t going to fix itself at this point. He is what he is though, a talented wing player who can play Defense and can slash to the hoop. If you could change him into a modern day John Paxson…a guy who could play some Defense, find his own shot and shoot well from beyond the arc…you know, somebody like OJ Mayo, and all you would have to get rid of is a guy who gets garbage minutes and makes decisions like Tyrus Thomas and future end of the round draft picks…why wouldn’t you?

    bullsfandom December 8, 2010 at 12:33 am #

    Also, if the League were to go to a Hard Cap…that would totally screw over nearly every good team in the league. I’m not at all certain how they would manage that barring some major player concessions (like the NHL did) which I don’t see happening.

    Tony C. December 8, 2010 at 3:10 am #

    bullsfandom ¬–

    Don’t misunderstand the following, as I am not trying to argue that Bogans has ever been a potent offensive weapon. However…

    …you, along with most other Bulls fans who contribute to various blogs, badly underestimating Bogan’s ability as a three-point shooter. No, he is certainly not an outstanding shooter. But let’s try the following on for some perspective:

    From a percentage standpoint, he is a better career 3pt shooter than Pippen and Jordan, and is only slightly worse than Paxson! Feel free to look it up, if you like.

    With regards to your assertion that he should be judged on the basis of 19 games, that is simply an unsupportable position. He has only shot under .325% once, and there is no reason to believe that he won’t end up somewhere in that neigborhood if given enough opportunities.

    Again, I’d much rather have Korver shooting, but the harsh criticisms of Bogans as a three-point threat, based on a slow start to the season, are way off the mark.

  23. Inception December 8, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    i’ve been thinking that maybe acquiring a legit SG is overrated…if you think about it, the MJ teams had weaknesses at certain positions and still managed to win titles….we’re already strong at 3 positions and doable at the 3 (deng), so why is it necessary to bring in a good SG? this is where the triple threat comes in (rose/boozer/noah) and picks up the slack…maybee the SG’s we have will suffice.

    bullsfandom December 8, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    I looked it up, and last year Bogans qualified for tied for the 82nd best 3 point shooter in the league (among those who qualified with # of attempts). Thats in the bottom half of the league when you considered only 131 players qualified total. The year before that he came in at 113th of 130 qualified 3pt shooters.

    Now you are sitting here and saying that he should bounce back but even if he does, I wouldn’t call him a 3 point threat.

    You are right about Paxson not being as good as people (myself included) remember. He had some monster years, especially in the playoffs during the 3rd title run which probably tainted perceptions a bit, but yeah…he was a good shooter, just not from downtown. (Career 49.9% shooter. Bogans best year was 41%)

    Speaking of his overall shooting (which is just as much of an issue), if he had qualified for the lists on he would have come in tied for 117’th out of 119 players (120 including him I suppose). There is no other way to say it…he is a TERRIBLE shooter.

    Tony C. December 9, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    No question that Paxson, Pippen, Jordan, and countless others were better all-around shooters. And I would love to have a more potent threat opposite Rose. But as a spot-up 3pt shooter, Bogans has been decent during his career.

    Now, perhaps you are right, and he will never reproduce his better shooting years. But I am sure that his percentage will increase if he keeps shooting, as he has gotten off to a poor start.

    Hopefully it will become a moot point, as the Bulls begin to gel.

    bullsfandom December 9, 2010 at 3:18 am #

    Look, I’m not trying to bag on Bogans here. I’m really not. Its just that he is what he is, and that’s not a starting 2-guard. He should be a defensive stopper that is the 8th-9th guy off the bench. The problem with that is that Coach Thibs is having Brewer do that right now.

    I’m not sure what the deal with that is myself. Is it that they are still trying to get Brewer back healthy? Is it that Coach likes having his energy off of the bench? Is it he likes having him on the floor with Korver at the same time? I don’t know. What I do know is that we seem to have a logjam at SG as it is, with Korver also being utilized at that position (Luol Deng has been playing a ton of minutes after all. Another 40+ game for him tonight).

    Depth is very important, but so is talent. If we could trade one of Brewer or Bogans along with James Johnson (who isn’t going to be getting any better just watching from the end of the bench) and some picks for a guy like OJ Mayo who can shoot the ball, especially from downtown…that would push us into being a true elite team more so than trading for Carmelo. (Which was my original argument)

    bullsfandom December 9, 2010 at 3:28 am #

    Inception – The difference is that MJ’s teams had 2 of the top 10 players of all time matched with some great Power Forwards. They could cover for the deficiencies of others. Now, maybe Rose could eventually one day be considered one of the top 10 best players to ever have played…but you would have to get me really, REALLY drunk to make me think that either Boozer or Noah could eventually be ranked that high by the end of their respective careers.

  28. Inception December 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    @bullsfandom – Boozer and Noah won’t go down as the top 10 to ever play, but these are all-star type players who can balance out a team with a guy like Rose.

    bullsfandom December 10, 2010 at 3:00 am #

    I don’t mean to bag on those two either…I’m just saying you can’t say that our shooting guards are going to be fine because the guards who played along side Michael and Scottie weren’t the best. The Bulls teams that won those 6 titles were some of the best teams ever…they were the Miami Heat of this year only with a deep bench of role players and we had the ACTUAL greatest player of all time instead of the pretender. If the Bulls win, it won’t be like it was…times have changed and there are some really REALLY good teams out in the league right now.


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