Bulls

Justin Holiday's breakout year could make him a valuable trade asset

Justin Holiday's breakout year could make him a valuable trade asset

On Wednesday, KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls veteran players are being made available in trade talks. And Justin Holiday specifically, has the skill set to enhance many of the league's best franchises. 

In the Bulls one-point loss to the Denver Nuggets, Chicago hit 16 of their 34 3-point attempts, with Justin Holiday accounting for roughly 15 percent of the makes.

The Bulls have so far become a close to a league average offense, a huge step for a team that was bottom-three in terms of offensive efficiency last season.

Holiday has made himself into a player that can provide tremendous value to an offense and is enough of a gamer on defense to make sure he isn’t a net negative, provided the proper structure.

Holiday is such a solid veteran presence that is would probably benefit the Bulls to keep him around such a young team. But whether he makes it through the rebuild or not, it is clear that Holiday has found his niche in the league.

At 6-foot, 6-inches, Holliday has solid length for the shooting guard position. He has made himself into an awesome offensive player, due to the shifting of majority of his offense to the 3-point line, like Miami's Wayne Ellington, who takes over 70 percent of his shots from 3-point range. Holiday is averaging 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists with 1.4 steals per game. 

Because of Zach LaVine's ball-dominant role, Holiday has a career-low in terms of usage rate this season (13 percent). This yet another factor that shows how much more effective Holiday can be when playing next to star players (or more accurately players with inredibly high usage rates). This extends to both sides of the floor, though his defensive benefits haven't been on display much on this year's Bulls team.

Holiday's defense doesn’t hold up well against bigger forwards and he has been tasked with guarding players like this (think LeBron James, Tobias Harris, etc.) for much of the last three seasons. This comes from the fact that the last time Holiday wasn’t on the small-forward-thin Bulls, he was playing for the New York Knicks, who had the defensively-challenged Carmelo Anthony and the average, if uninspiring Lance Thomas playing ahead of him.

When Holiday plays on a team with solid perimeter defense, he is allowed to be aggressive and trust his instincts.

In his lone year with Golden State Warriors (small sample size alert) Holiday posted a 3 percent steal rate (a high figure for that metric) and has not achieved a number near that since the 2015-16 season. And while his defense is solid, he is not a game-changer.

The Bulls need game-changers and Holiday is not that. He is a player who would defensively work best on a team with a sound defensive concept, which Chicago does not have. This season there has been more than one moment in which you can see Holiday visibly frustrated with the team's on-court performance. At 29 years old and with less than 15 minutes of playoff experience, it's understandable.


All that being said, if you are adding Holiday to your roster, you aren’t doing it because of his playoff experience (or lack therof) or value on defense. You are adding him for his versatile fit. Holiday has evolved his skill set to the point where he can fit in with almost any team, but he would specifically open things up for some of the teams around the league that consider themselves contenders. Here is a look at the two best fits for Holiday from the Eastern and Western Conference respectively:

Philadelphia 76ers:

Philadelphia has built their successful offense around the talents of Joel Embiid and uber-unique point forward Ben Simmons. Neither player is a above average 3-point shooter, so the offense’s effectiveness comes from the fact that head coach Brett Brown throws out so many capable shooters around the dynamic duo.

This year, the Sixers have taken a step back on offense. This is partly due to the implementation of another non-shooter (Markelle Fultz) to the rotation and partly due to Dario Saric’s shooting from outside falling off of a cliff. They are in need of a bigger fish, but a solid 3-and-D wing would do wonders for their team.

With Philadelphia having enough size to hide players like J.J. Redick, assimilating Holiday would be easy. And just like in Houston, Holiday would be encouraged to shoot from 3-point range more than ever, despite already averaging a career-high in attempts.

If you look at two-man lineup information for the Sixers, the numbers of the Simmons-Fultz combination stand out. The pair currently has a 88.5 offensive rating, dead-last among the Sixers most played two-man groups. That figure would be a catastrophically low number for a modern NBA team, and what it represents is the fact that the Sixers can not sustain a capable offense with those two on the floor together.

Splitting up the amount of time Simmons and Fultz spend on the floor together should be Philadelphia’s top priority this year. And to do that, they need more players who can guard the one-through-three positions on defense while being extremely aggressive from 3-point range. Enter Justin Holiday.

With the Sixers cupboard still full of interesting draft picks despite being a contender, the time would be now for them to acquire additional veteran shooters to push their offense back to 2017-18 levels.

Houston Rockets:

The Rockets re-emerged on the national stage behind the talents of superstar James Harden and their to-the-extreme four-out, one-in offense that features getting up a hefty amount of 3-pointers. As of late, that offense has tailed off, and this is mostly due to the drop off among their group of role players.

After the loss of competitive two-way players like Luc Richard Mbah Moute and Trevor Ariza, the Rockets find themselves hurting in more ways than one.

Houston is still the best team in the league in terms of 3-point attempt rate, but their percentage of 3-point makes has dropped precipitously (33 percent this year vs 36 percent last year).

The absence of James Harden in a couple of games has obviously played a factor, as he was attempting over 8 3-pointers per game when he went down. If Harden's hamstring issues persist longer, Houston will need shooting guard help, unless they want to find themselves desperate for wins upon his return. 

The Rockets have shown that they are willing to give up draft picks in a trade (see the proposed Jimmy Butler deal), and it is almost too easy to see Holiday fitting into their 3-point happy offense and switching defense. If his shooting percentage from deep holds up, Houston and Chicago would make ideal trade partners.

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: LaVine turns in an All Star performance as the Bulls beat the Clippers

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, See Red Fred joins Big Dave and Matt Peck. The guys talk about some big plays down the stretch by Zach LaVine and Denzel Valentine. Plus a great defensive job by Kris Dunn on Paul George. (1:30) See Red Fred states his case for more playing time for Denzel Valentine. (4:00) Plus what's going to happen when Otto Porter and Chandler Hutchison come back. (8:00) The guys share some concerns about Coby White in the short term. (10:30) See Red Fred tells you about 3 players who have exceeded expectations this year. (13:00) Plus the guys debate whether Zach LaVine should compete in the dunk contest or 3 point competition. (18:00) They discuss the impact that Kris Dunn has had on the defensive end of the floor. (20:30) Plus See Red Fred lays out his blueprint for the Bulls to make the playoffs. (23:30) Plus the guys make a wager regarding the rest of the season. (25:00)
 

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders

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Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Bulls down Clippers, post 1st victory over winning team with strong finish

Just over two hours before tipoff, in his first public comments since Media Day, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson talked about how Jim Boylen’s teaching and coaching hasn’t always translated from the practice floor and film room to games.

Could the Bulls’ first victory this season over a winning team be a step?

And don’t mention that the Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams in the Bulls’ 109-106 victory, secured on Zach LaVine’s three-point play with 2 seconds to play.

“Well, we didn’t have (Otto Porter Jr.) or Hutch (Chandler Hutchison) or (Daniel) Gafford,” Boylen said. “So we can ‘Yeah, but’ it a little bit too.”

Bravado aside, there’s stuff on which the Bulls can build here.

LaVine posted his sixth 30-point game and ended a week filled with closing misses with a game-winner in which he powered through a Montrezl Harrell foul on a nice misdirection play involving Kris Dunn. Lauri Markkanen tied his season-high with 17 rebounds while posting his third double-double of the season. Denzel Valentine, playing all but two seconds of the fourth, hit a huge tying 3-pointer in the final minute and scored a season-high 16 points. Thad Young tied his season-high with 17 points.

And Dunn was everywhere, relishing the challenge of guarding Paul George down the stretch and winning a crucial battle for a 50-50 ball that led to Valentine’s tying shot.

“That was a huge moment,” Boylen said.

So was Valentine closing a game.

“I just thought we needed some more shooting on the floor,” Boylen said. “We’ve wrestled with defensive lineups, offensive lineups. We try to mingle them a little bit. I just thought we needed someone to make a big shot. And he did.”

Valentine has now scored in double figures off the bench in five of six games.

“I’m very confident in my abilities,” Valentine said. “I was just waiting for the ball to come my way. Zach is our best player. So the ball’s going to be in his hands. But shoot, I’m ready for it. I love those moments. I love to make those shots.”

Dunn, who finished a plus-22, defended George as he missed a good look for a tying 3-pointer. George scored 10 points in just over 7 minutes in the fourth but missed all three attempts following Valentine’s tying shot.

“I love it,” Dunn said of guarding great players. “I know my niche on this team is to guard. And I take pride in that. It feels good to go against a big-time player and be able to get stops towards the end.”

Markkanen actually received credit for the rebound that Dunn kept alive to lead to Valentine’s tying shot, which Dunn said Markkanen teased him about. Dunn finished with nine points, nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals.

But his two biggest plays didn’t even crash the box score. He won the 50-50 ball to lead to Valentine’s tying shot and then confused the Clippers’ defense by slipping a screen on LaVine’s game-winner.

“I knew Zach was going to get downhill,” Dunn said. “Because once I did it, I saw Paul George look at me.”

LaVine couldn’t believe how much space he had to operate.

“I’ll take it,” he said. “Once I saw the lane open up, I think there were like 5 seconds left. We were trying to get the last shot. But once the lane opened up, I tried to get a one-on-one. He’s a tough dude. I knew I could attack his body.”

LaVine missed game-winning attempts on an isolation 3-pointer against the Warriors and over a double-team against the Raptors. His three-point play offered a dose of redemption for a player who is never afraid to fail.

“You’re not going to be perfect. As much as people are going to show more of the bad than the good, I’ve had a lot of good times in the clutch as well,” LaVine said. “I try to make the right play for us to win. And I did that tonight.”

For one night, matters were more positive. The Bulls closed out a game against a good team and received multiple contributions while doing so.

Heck, Boylen even downplayed Paxson’s vote of confidence.

“We understand what we’re trying to do. We’re in step on what we’re asking our guys to do and play like and work like and care like,” the coach said. “I’m thankful for it. But I wouldn’t expect anything less.”