is the Bulls bench this inherently bad or more misused?
Chicago’s flaws from both a roster construction standpoint as well as a coaching standpoint are coming to full fruition over the past couple of weeks. For many of us this isn’t surprising, more just a matter of time.
Aside from a mini-rally in the fourth quarter that was far too late, the Bulls display of basketball against the Milwaukee Bucks was flat out embarrassing.
No Sense of Urgency
One area that I harped on with last year’s squad especially, was the frequency with which they came out at the beginning of games with little to no energy, or a sense of urgency. That, among other things seems to have transitioned over into this year’s team.
Two days removed from blowing a 21 point lead, and losing to one of the league’s worst in Minnesota, Chicago showed no effort to rebound. After a game such as Tuesday’s, you want to see how a team is able to respond in the next game. The Bulls did so in the worst way possible.
And what’s most disturbing, is that with “leaders” on the team in Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, these type of scenarios cannot be allowed to happen. Those two especially, have to come out and set the tone on both ends from the opening tip for their teammates. But when they don’t, what you saw Thursday in Milwaukee is the end result.
Fred Hoiberg hinted at some rotation changes Wednesday after practice, and we saw just that against Milwaukee. Often-maligned power forward Nikola Mirotic received his first DNP-CD in his NBA career, falling behind both Cristiano Felicio and Bobby Portis in the rotation. Rookie Denzel Valentine moved ahead of Jerian Grant and Isaiah Canaan as both too, received DNP-CD’s.
I can commend Hoiberg to an extent in terms of adjusting the rotation when things aren’t going well, players aren’t performing. At certain point you do have to look at different things to see if it changes the way the team is playing. Although the way Hoiberg has done so this year appears to be very erratic (ex. Portis went from four straight DNP’s to closing the game).
But when it comes to Niko’s struggles, they’re two-fold. He isn’t shooting the ball well, and his decision making is still far from ideal. However as The Athletic’s Will Gottlieb wrote Thursday, his struggles can be due to the fact that Hoiberg isn’t putting him in the proper position to succeed. Thus far he’s failed to adequately put Niko in position to really use his play-making skills off the bounce. Placing him on the arch as a floor-spacing four is wasting his talent, and potential at that. Obviously having Wade and Butler using so many of the team’s possessions hinders Niko’s ability to play make, but Hoiberg needs to be better at adapting all of those skills to the benefit of the team.
Same can also be said for Doug McDermott. At only 2.4 three point attempts per game, it’s quite clear that he too isn’t being used in the right fashion. Too much this season, McDermott has been featured driving and cutting to the basket, which though he’s gotten moderately better at, isn’t nearly a strength of his. As the team’s best, and one of the league’s best shooters at that, his shooting needs to be featured more prominently in the offense.
Thursday was an admittedly tough day for anyone with an attachment to the game of basketball, with the passing of Craig Sager. As someone who had an immeasurable impact, Sager’s presence, with his trademark combover and outlandish, yet colorful suits will be forever missed. Prayers go out to his wife, children and family.
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