Monday, July 14, 2014

Analyzing The New Bulls

I know some subscribe to the dogma that in order to win an NBA title, you MUST have a second shot-creator, someone who can play some hero-ball when a called play or offensive set breaks down.  While I would agree that you would prefer to have that, this is far from an absolute, as the 2004 Pistons only had Chauncey Billups who could isolate and create his own shot, and the 2010 Mavs only had Dirk Nowitzki. And hell, you could argue that the Spurs team that just won didn't have ANYONE who could isolate and score for himself on the level that most Championship teams have a star who can do it.

So there IS more than one way to skin a cat.

Let's turn back the clock to the Bulls-Heat East finals. The point differential in that series was Heat +11. That's it.  And of the four Heat victories over the Bulls, three came down to the final possession or two. As we all know, the difference in that series was that the Bulls had no answer for LeBron negating Derrick Rose late in games. Luol Deng was a decent but not great three point shooter - not enough of a weapon out there to force the Heat to account for it.  Kyle Korver was a sniper, but he didn't even have the ability to take a few dribbles and get a new look when run off his spot - and he certainly could not even think of attacking the rim when chased off. Keith Bogans was an offensive zero, and Carlos Boozer was never what he was expected to be.

Carmelo Anthony would have been a great fit.  He's a prolific scorer that would have made it impossible to EVER put LeBron on Rose. And the Bulls defensive culture could have covered for Anthony, just as it covered for Boozer.  Plus, it's easier to work around one liability when your defensive zero is not going to be the last line of defense. 

I personally thought Gordon Hayward would have similarly filled the tactical need to prevent LeBron-on-Rose, as he is legitimately capable of running the point at 6'9" and creating his own shot in certain matchups.  If Hayward were bringing the ball up in an endgame situation, you can do things off the ball to pry LeBron off of Rose. But alas, Hayward was not even available, as it turns out.

So now that we have the roster pretty well locked down, are the current Bulls more equipped to handle this tactic if and when the Cavs decide to put LeBron on Rose?  I would submit: undoubtedly.

For starters, Thibodeau can now sub wholesale offense-for-defense in endgames with Hinrich/Butler/Gibson/Noah as a defensive platoon and Dunleavy/McDermott/Mirotic/Gasol as an offensive unit.  Few if any teams in the NBA can field "specialist" units as strong as these.

On offense, you can really space the floor now. You have three good to very good three point shooters and a big man who is a legitimate threat to score close to the basket or on a mid-range jumper, and is an excellent passer as well.

Gaming out a matchup with Cleveland...  

If the Cavs have made a deal involving Wiggins and Love, they're in a situation where if David Blatt puts LeBron on Rose, he pretty much needs to take Kyrie Irving off the floor, as he would be forced to guard a 6'9" Dunleavy, who could shoot over him - or Doug McDermott, who could both shoot over him OR take him down in the post. If the game then flips to the other end, Cleveland is at a disadvantage with Uncle Drew off the floor. 

With Dunleavy, McDermott, Mirotic and Gasol, you can now force LeBron's team to make some hard choices - which Thibodeau could not do the last time he faced LeBron.

In fact, if Cleveland is looking ahead to possible playoff matchups with the Bulls, they may be better off NOT trading for Love if it involves dealing Wiggins, as they will need his potentially dominant defense - and could allow him to be offensive option #3 on that team. And LeBron, of all people, should heed the lesson of Chris Bosh in Miami: the Heat never got their money's worth out of him because there simply weren't enough shots to go around for three stars - and Bosh did not bring enough to table in other areas of the game. Good chance the Cavs would never get their money's worth out of Love, as LeBron will be the leading scorer and Irving will have the ball a great deal himself.

The biggest fear the Bulls should have is if Cleveland manages to pry Love loose with some combination of Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and 2-3 first round picks. Then you have a lineup that is almost impossible to match up with.