Exploiting the Bulls: The Painful Truths of a Growing Team

It’s easy to wait until a Bulls loss to fire up the hate-machine and rip them apart, but this one has been long overdue. Young teams have weaknesses, no surprise. It’s just a matter of taking what you know, and stepping it up to the next level.

Derrick Rose handles the ball too much. It’s not his fault, and he does a great job most of the time with the ball in hand. The team needs to take better advantage of the double teams that go his way. Get open, make defenders work, stretch the floor.

Half court traps.The most obvious of the Bulls game-play weaknesses, ever since Charlotte exploited the Bulls twice for having no plan B in place. Rose now jump passes out of the traps, and the Bulls set back up with less time on the shot clock to make something happen.

Carlos Boozer’s defense was listed on the back of a milk carton for most of this season. Where is it? If anyone ever needed proof that Thibodeau can’t turn non-defensive players into defensive supporting players, Carlos is example #1.






Noah and Boozer on the floor at the same time for long stretches. They both step on each others toes, and haven’t had the chance to get the kind of  chemistry we would hope to see in the post-season. Nevertheless, until these two become close friends on the court, this will remain to be a method of exploiting the Bulls.

Keith Bogan’s passive play, the Bulls most obvious player weakness. How do I elaborate on this? When he attacks offensively, his defense goes down the drain. It’s no secret that Keith is a band-aid fix, and unfortunately for him, he has taken far more criticism than he probably should because he is a starter when he could have been great off the bench. There is not one opponent in the playoffs that doesn’t look forward to their own take on exploiting the Bulls starting matchup at the 2.

Taj Gibson jumping in as a quick sub on zone changes. I don’t know why the Bulls make the switches right after Taj hit’s the floor, but it results in a quick foul every time. Gibson is a great defender, but he needs a drive to grasp the opponents chemistry. Teams know this, and they attack Gibson off the left side immediately. The best thing the Bulls could do, is move Gibson out of the restricted area on the first drive, sticking to a ball-reversal set to confuse the defense. The Bulls will find themselves drawing more charges and saving their bigs from getting into foul trouble early.

Ronnie Brewer at the key collapses the defense on Boozer. When Ronnie is away from the borders of the court, teams know he’s just going to pass the ball back and forth within the wings. If Boozer is covered, he doesn’t have many options left. Until Brewer feels comfortable driving into defenders and kicking out passes without picking up a charge, he is a liability when playing at the top of the key.

Watson substitutions, he comes in and the floor doesn’t adjust for him, the team still plays like Derrick is on the floor. Watson is a volume scorer at heart, but that doesn’t mean he can fill Rose’s shoes and no adjustments are supposed to be made. The team needs to make extra passes regardless of who is on the floor, but more so when C.J. hits those same traps that Derrick has come to expect. Opponents play Watson man-to-man because they know he wont have anywhere to go most of the time, and he’ll settle for the best shot he can create.

Luol’s minutes is a weakness for the Bulls, and not Luol. Ronnie Brewer is both Bogans and Dengs backup, making it hard for Luol to miss time. He is more effective when he knows a rest is coming up. Until the Bulls can work something out in the off-season, Luol is going to ration his physical play. There is no way around it, understandably so. As long as he puts in the extra effort when the Bulls need it most, there is no way to fault him or the coaching. However this is a huge exploit at times for this team.

Omer catching passes in the paint. He becomes a deer in headlights as soon as the defense collapses on him. Pumps once, pumps twice, and by some miracle, he doesn’t turn the ball over. Asik has to learn how to use that restricted area better to his advantage. He has steadily improved on his free throw shooting this season and he has to want to get to the line. Even if he misses 2 shots, it’s better than a turnover and the other team’s big’s get in foul trouble quick.

Noah’s perimeter defense. Joakim on occasion gets pulled out of the paint, and gets matched up with a perimeter player. With all things considered, Noah does a great job in these situations, but the team fails to switch up coverage when possible. Jo minimizes the three pointer out there, but he allows the paint to open up. If Boozer is working the bigs, then he’s going to foul if and when the paint collapses on him. Gibson will get stuck, and allow a quick give-and-go opportunity for the other team. Either way, Noah has to get that help and switch out of bad matchups as soon as possible.

Three pointers. It’s not a weakness to take a lot of threes. It is, however, a weakness to have a poor shot selection.
Before settling on a long range shot, you have to ask yourself two easy questions. Do my teammates know a long ball is coming so they can get into position to rebound or get ahead on defense? Is there a better, more open shot on the floor at that exact moment? Players get winded and settle on jump shots, there is nothing wrong with that, as long as you take quality jump shots with your team on the same page. The Bulls have not been on the same page with Rose on his chucking action, allowing them to make a bad habit of forcing Derrick to create offense, instead of spreading the floor out and making the task easier for everyone.

Rose’s helpless drives. Rose shouldn’t have to go up against 5 players in the paint, someone should trail him for the rebound and to create spacing. Too many drives happen with a limited trailer for Derrick or even Luol. Joakim does an excellent job of reading the improvisation, but often he has to swing out to open that hole for Derrick.

Managing time on the floor, away from what is in the coaches control. When the Bulls lose composure on the floor, they have a hard time regaining it. Tom has to call a time out most of the time to get the team back on track. That shouldn’t happen, but with young teams it does. Derrick can stop some runs, and if Korver is on the floor, he has excellent consciousness of what is going on. Other than that, don’t lose your rhythm on both ends of the court, because your opponent started to get streaky. Get back to fundamentals and control your own tempo.

Letting the refs get into your head. The emotions from questionable calls being made can throw off any team. The Bulls have shown poise all season long, but we do settle for the conspiracy far to often. There is no reason to throw in the towel over a bad call, and we have seen this happen for stretches in games. The Bulls need to turn the tables as soon as possible on referee bombs and regain composure.

The Bulls can win a championship with this team, but not until they can minimize a little of each flaw. The playoffs are a great way to exploit a team. Opponents come at you with more intensity and prepare better for you as the series goes on. There is no way around getting exploited, but the opportunity to improve should be welcomed.

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