Assistant coach hires could hint at philosophy shift for Bulls offense


Assistant coach hires could hint at philosophy shift for Bulls offense

Assistant coaches aren't always the embodiment of the teams they coach for. After all, a blend of philosophies, opinions and beliefs is critical to any coaching staff. But if Jim Boylen's two offseason hires are any indication, the Bulls could be in the early stages of a philosophical shift on offense.

Boylen has hired Brooklyn Nets assistant Chris Fleming and former Houston Rockets assistant Roy Rogers in the past month, adding two significant pieces to Boylen's staff in his first offseason as Bulls head coach. It's no surprise given the success that both Brooklyn and Houston had this season, but those two offenses appear to be ahead of the curve in terms of analytical approaches to the game. Here's why.

It's a small sample size given he was only the head coach for 58 games, but Boylen's Bulls offense wasn't exactly a model of efficiency. 

The Bulls were 28th in offensive rating, 23rd in pace, 30th in 3-point attempts and 23rd in free throw attempts under Boylen. Granted, the weak talent pool, myriad injuries and shallow bench - and, really, a combination of the three - had plenty to do with those ugly numbers.

But pulling assistants from Brooklyn and Houston is a good start in trying to improve some of those numbers, if only from a philosophy standpoint.

3-point attempts

It was no secret the Houston Rockets were going to lead the league in 3-point attempts. Moreyball was in full effect in H-Town as the Rockets hoisted 45.4 triples per game, breaking their record of 42.3 triple attempts from the previous season. That 2018 mark broke Houston's own 2017 mark of 40.3 3-point attempts per game. Yep, the Rockets hold the three highest marks for 3-point attempts per game in a single season. But we knew that.

The Brooklyn Nets haven't been far behind. Brooklyn averaged 18.4 3-point attempts in 2016, the year before they hired Kenny Atkinson and began their turnaround. Under Atkinson, the Nets have averaged 31.6 (4th in NBA), 35.7 (2nd in NBA) and 36.2 (5th in NBA) 3-point attempts. In that same span, the Nets went from 26th (33.8%) to 20th (35.6%) to 14th (35.3%) in 3-point field goal percentage. Their 55.6% true shooting percentage was their best in franchise history.


It's impossible to analyze the Rockets offense in some capacity because of how isolation-heavy they were with James Harden. Harden had 1,280 isolation possessions by himself in 2018-19, more than any other team had. The Thunder's 854 isolation possessions as a team were still almost 400 fewer than Harden's, and Harden had more iso attempts than the Jazz, Magic and Hawks COMBINED. Because of that, the Rockets were 29th in passes per game and 28th in assist percentage.

But the Nets were a boon. They've ranked 8th, 3rd and 8th in passes per game the last three seasons. The Bulls were 23rd in passes per game and 29th in assist percentage after Jim Boylen took over. The Nets were 18th in assist percentage but are just a year removed from ranking sixth in that category in 2018. It's a sure bet that the ball will be moving more next season.


The midrange is the least efficient shot in basketball. That doesn't mean it's bad to shoot them, just that it should be a last option on offense. The Bulls attempted 792 midrange shots in 58 games under Jim Boylen, more than the Nets (672, third fewest) and Rockets (396, fewest) attempted all season.

In fact, the Bulls were 14th in the NBA in midrange attempts under Boylen but 24th in field goal percentage (37.9%) on those shots. Of the bottom 13 teams in midrange field goal percentage, only the Jazz and Thunder were playoff teams. Houston was third in field goal percentage (44.1%) and Brooklyn 13th (40.2%). They didn't take them often, but the Nets and Rockets found the right spacing on those rare attempts and made a decent chunk of them.

Free throw attempts

The Bulls would have been a more efficient free-throw shooting team had Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter remained healthy. Still, Boylen's downhill offense didn't lead to as many free throws as it probably should have (the midrange attempts could have been a culprit). That wasn't a problem for Brooklyn or Houston, who ranked 4th and 7th in free throw attempts per game last season. In 2018, Houston was 3rd and Brooklyn 11th, while in 2017 Houston was 1st and Brooklyn was 7th.

Both offenses are predicated on playing inside-out, either finishing at the rim (or drawing contact) or kicking out to open 3-point shooters. Free throw attempts can be personnel-dependent (Harden set free throw records) but the Nets were second in the NBA with 24.5 drives per game (behind the Bulls) and Houston was 14th at 19.9 per game. Those tendencies will remain in tact but both Fleming and Rogers should have designs to implement to make the Bulls offense more efficient.

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Monte Harrison, brother to Bulls' Shaq, makes sibling sports history

Miami Marlins center fielder Monte Harrison made a bit of history on Aug. 4, when he laced up for his first ever MLB game.

With his debut, he and older brother Shaq officially became just the sixth MLB-NBA brother duo in league history. The most recent? Klay and Trayce Thompson, the latter of which appeared in his last MLB game on June 20, 2018 for the White Sox. Chicago ties all around.

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Shaq used his trademark brand of heart and hustle to work his way up from two 10-day contracts with the Phoenix Suns to a multi-year pact with the Bulls. Monte's path to the majors began in 2014 after the Milwaukee Brewers plucked him in the second round of the Amateur Draft from Lee's Summit West High School in Lee's Summit, Mo. He was jettisoned to Miami as part of the Christian Yelich trade in 2018. 

In 2019, Monte played 58 games between Miami's High-A and Triple-A affiliates, slashing .270/.351/.441 with 9 home runs, 24 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He's been known to flash some leather, too, and entered this season the club's tenth-ranked prospect.

Since his call-up, he's appeared in four contests (three starts) with the Marlins, and is just 1-for-10 at the plate with five strikeouts. But we'll forgive some early-career stumbles. His first big-league base-knock, which came on Thursday, was perfectly emblematic of what Bulls fans have come to expect from the Harrison household.

Yup. A cue-shot infield single. Exit velocity: 44.3 mph. Expected batting average: .190. But he beat it out. And followed it up with a stolen base. You can't script this stuff.

"I don’t know what my mother did, a lot of prayers, a lot of believing, and trust in us," Monte said after his debut on Tuesday, via Bob Nightengale. "We just worked our ass off.''

That much is evident.

RELATED: How Bulls’ Shaq Harrison impacts games, even with limited playing time


Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

Latest on the NBA's second bubble for teams eliminated from restart

With the NBA restarting with 22 of its 30 teams, there was buzz in early July of a second bubble coming to Chicago for the eight teams excluded to get in organized team activities and possibly scrimmages.

Now, it appears those talks have significantly slowed, if not stalled entirely.

The Athletic reported Tuesday that there is "significant doubt" the second bubble concept will come to fruition, but Friday, that bringing the "Delete Eight" teams into the Disney campus has been discussed. Any agreement — whether it be a full-on bubble or respective, in-market OTAs — would require stringent safety protocols and need to be agreed upon by the league and NBPA.

On the most recent episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson broke down the latest scuttlebut:

Well, the latest is, you really got only one shared goal between these eight teams and that is to get some kind of formal group activities authorized by the league and the players association.

How that plays out and the form that takes, there are different goals. There are some teams that wouldn't mind doing a bubble. There are other teams that would rather stay in their own practice facilities and not travel. There are other teams that want to do regional scrimmages against another team. And complicating this is that Michele Roberts, the executive director of the players association, is on record as saying: Unless there are the exact same safety protocols going on in Orlando for the second bubble, it's a non-starter for her.

The league's attention mostly has been in Orlando, obviously, and that was a signficant financial undertaking. So you'd also have to factor in that, what kind of financial undertaking would they commit to these eight teams. It did look like there was some positive momentum for, not a bubble, but for each team to be able to hold some sort of offseason training sessions, group sessions in their own facilities, like OTAs in the NFL.

And I don't think that's dead, but there's certainly not as much optimism as there was maybe a week, ten days ago for that. I mean, it's fluid, and there's nothing definitive yet, but you may be staring at that dreaded eight month window between formal group activities for these eight teams. 

In the episode, the crew also breaks down the week in NBA bubble action, talks Jim Boylen and more. Listen here or via the embedded player below: