Bulls strive for more “random” attack in the 2022-23 NBA season

NBA boot camps can be a hotbed of big-picture topics and philosophical adjustments.

for this year Chicago BullsThe offensive improvement mission statement can be summed up in one word.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit more random,” said Zach Lavigne when asked to describe the team’s new offensive principles after Saturday’s training. “Be in different places other than last year where teams knew exactly where we were and could defend themselves in every game.”

By definition, the concept of randomness is a difficult one from which to elicit details. So perhaps it is better to think of it as a contrast to those that described the bulls attacking during the 2021-22 extension period.

stagnant. predictable. one-dimensional. Make a selection.

Such an ecosystem did not develop out of thin air. Injuries to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso damaged the Bulls’ ability to force putschists and polarize their offensive tackle into the transition – both key aspects of their early season identity. LaVine suffered a knee problem in mid-January, and shifted the burden of creating the team’s peripheral shot in the halfway to DeMar DeRozan.

DeRozan, to his credit, ran with chance. He drilled bell hits, hit a string of goals untouched even by Wilt Chamberlain, and shot the mid-season leaderboard MVP. All while keeping the bulls afloat during dog days of the season.

But what coach Billy Donovan has long warned is that DeRozan’s greatness – as captivating as it was – has masked offensive flaws that must be remedied for his side to take the next step. Mainly in the ball and players movement sections.

“From the bench as a coach, you have a bunch of guys trying to get into that game and trying to win — and you try to put them in a position to win. There’s no doubt there have been times when DeMar was rolling and we just kept going for it,” Donovan said. That this was the wrong thing. But the thing I see is that if you’re going to look at the big picture, is that going to be sustainable and successful for us against those really elite teams, both east and west? I think it would be really hard to live like this.”

Last season, it was. The Bulls finished 2-21 against the top four teams in each conference and, according to Cleaning the Glass, had a league 25 points differential (-11.6) against teams with the highest 10 differentials. (This mark can arguably be more attributed to their 29th defense against top 10 opponents – talk for another day – but the Bulls were 17th in attack as well.)

Donovan also noted the Bulls’ poor record in close matches against the NBA elite, which is true; The Bulls finished last season 25-16 in “clutch” games, defined by NBA.com as contests within a five-point margin with five minutes or less to play in the fourth quarter. But they were only 1-8 in “clutch” matches against the top four teams in each conference – 24-8 against everyone else.

“I’ve said this before and people probably don’t want to admit it, and I’ve talked to our team about it. Twice Demar (away) shots – one in Washington and one against Indiana – we’re in the championship,” Donovan said. its proximity and fragility.”

So, what should be changed?

Every time Donovan was asked, he publicly implored his team to strive for some pillar. He wants the Bulls to break as fast as possible, and in the half-court, play at a fast pace. He wants the floor to be five edges apart to start with the property so as to free up driving and cut lanes. And he wants his players to make quick decisions with the basketball and move freely without it, by moving from one job to the next rather than bogging down after, say, an initial pick.

The Bulls finished last season 13th in attack, averaging 112.7 points per 100 possessions. But in the 23 breakout games after the All-Stars, they finished 25th (110.7 points per 100), and finished the campaign near the bottom of the league in a few procedural categories Donovan hopes to change: 27th in assists average, 24th in leadership. per game and 27th on the front court of each game – Donovan often refers to all areas as ways to create good shots on the edge and from the 3-point range.

Last season, according to Clean Glass, the Bulls ranked 15th in their rate of shots taken at the edge, 30th in their rate of shots taken at the edge of 3, and second in their rate of shots taken at the midrange (which can be largely self-generated).

“It’s really hard to make a good attack without getting bits of paint,” Donovan said. “And we have to try to find opportunities, at random, to get there.”

Donovan’s letters were installed after the first week of the team’s training camp – or the first phase of the installation.

“Free flow. Quick readings. For isolation, player versus one, we’re going to get a few shots. That’s part of our game. But quick readings. Quick decisions,” Lavigne said when asked to describe the bulls attack. “The ball has to pop side by side. The ability to use different players in different places. We’re not just going to get stuck to the sideline and pick and roll or roll in the post. The ball is at the top of the switch with me in isolation and everyone is staring.

“Will there be things like that now and then? Yeah, it’s basketball. And I think we have a lot of random plays where the ball cuts and moves and the ball flips sides and things like that.”

Communication will be key as well. Donovan mentioned that he appreciates LaVine, DeRozan and Nikola Vučevi coming to him after the dust settled at the end of last season.

“Be responsible and receive constructive criticism. I think that’s what we have to do a little bit better, from top to bottom, including the coaching staff,” Lavigne said. Seeing it and trying to take it all one step at a time and being able to tweak it and put it into the shape of the game.”

Those concepts will likely take time to overlap in court, even for a group that has stressed continuity since last year’s trade deadline. It will take engagement and trust from the top of the list to the bottom.

The goal is to be more unpredictable and less dependent on hard bullet making—or, in Donovan’s words, more sustainable.

“We have pretty much the same staff from last year. We know what our strengths are, and we know what we’re good at, so we’re not trying to stray too far from that either,” Lavigne said. “But I think the adjustments will help us throughout the season not to try to play too many heroic games, day in and day out.”

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