Bulls

Beyond the Box Score: Analyzing the Bulls' screen defense

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Beyond the Box Score: Analyzing the Bulls' screen defense

Welcome back to Beyond the Box Score, the series where we use deep analytics to better explain the Bulls' play. Today, we're taking a look at this season's changes to the Bulls' screen defense.

Last season, defending on-ball screens was the Bulls' major Achilles' heel. So when Gar Forman hired offensive-minded Fred Hoiberg to take over as head coach, he also brought along former Spurs assistant, Jim Boylen, to act as associate head coach — and to install new defensive philosophies.

[RELATED - Goodwill: Bulls roster at a crossroads, in need of real change]

When Boylen joined the team, the Bulls certainly needed most help guarding the pick and roll. According to Vantage Sports, the Bulls surrendered 0.1 points per screen last season. That figure was the second worst in the NBA. But what were the Bulls doing that was so ineffective?

Under Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls did not play aggressively against screens. A vast majority of the time, they would fall into what we'll call a "drop zone," when the defender covering the screen-setter, lays off of the screen. He usually steps back into the paint, keeping himself in between the ball carrier and the rim, not allowing the ball carrier to drive to the hoop. However, this space gives the ball carrier an opportunity to shoot, or make an open pass.

What the Bulls have started mixing in more often now, is what we'll call a "soft show." Here, the defender guarding the screen-setter will step up and flash in front of the ball carrier. After flashing a hand in the ball carrier's face, the defender will then run back to guard the opponent who set the screen, trying to prevent a pick and roll, or a pick and pop. This defense is a little more aggressive — and therefore a little more risky — but it also forces opponents to make quick decisions, and possibly turnovers.

 

Pts Allowed/Screen

Drop Zone %

Soft Show %

‘14 - ‘15 Season

0.1

84.2

10.7

'15 - '16 Season

0.084

78.7

15.6

As we can see, the Bulls have employed the soft show defense much more often this season, leading to a five percent uptick in soft show usage. Not surprisingly, their drop zone usage has dropped by about five percent, as well. Now, you may be thinking, "Hey, these numbers don't add up to 100!" Good eye. The remainder is when the Bulls go into an aggressive hedge defense, trying to trap the ball carrier and force a turnover. Most NBA teams do this about five percent of the time, so it's not statistically relevant for our purposes.

The other thing you should notice is the Bulls have made a nice improvement by allowing significantly fewer points per screen. Now there's still a lot left to be desired in this department, but they're clearly making progress. As we said earlier, 0.1 points allowed/screen placed the Bulls at 29th in the league last year. But this year, their 0.084 number puts them at 19, according to Vantage Sports.  

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

To see just how effective soft shows can be when defending the pick and roll, we decided to take a look at the teams who give up the fewest points per screen in the NBA: the Bucks, the Rockets and the Magic.

 

Pts Allowed/Screen

Drop Zone %

Soft Show %

Bucks

0.063

59

27

Rockets

0.073

69

24

Magic

0.074

72

20

In addition to being the best screen defenders, they're also teams that soft show much more than the other teams in the league. And as the Bulls continue their trend of soft showing more against the screen, it will be interesting to see if their overall screen defense continues to improve.  

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

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AP

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

From the moment Jabari Parker started his local basketball career, he's been a special talent who has produced at every level. Parker's signing with the Chicago Bulls this offseason brings back a lot of memories of his decorated four-year high school career at Simeon.

For Bulls fans who didn't follow Parker before Duke or the NBA, here's some of the notable moments from four years in the Public League.

As a freshman with the Wolverines, Parker was seen as one of three big incoming freshman in the area for the Class of 2013, along with forward Alex Foster and center Tommy Hamilton. Although all three players had the size and skill level to be varsity contributors, it was Parker who was special from his debut game.

Coming off the bench for a top-5 Simeon team against a top-10 Thornton team at Chicago State, Parker had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with two 3-pointers as the Wolverines went on to win in his first game in high school. Eventually becoming the first Wolverine freshman to start on varsity, Parker piled up high-major scholarship offers and national acclaim, as he was the team's second-leading scorer behind Brandon Spearman.

But Parker was hurt on the eve of the IHSA Class 4A state championship weekend and was on the bench injured as Simeon went on to surprisingly win the state title after some late-season slip-ups. Parker contributed heavily to Simeon winning the state title during his first season, however, as he was leading scorer in six games during that season.

During his sophomore season, Parker blossomed from a prospect into a full-blown star as Simeon once again captured a state title. By this point in his career, Parker was a consensus top-5 national high school prospect in his class as he regularly led a loaded Simeon team in scoring. Parker eventually averaged 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as he won ESPN High School 2011 Sophomore of the Year national honors, while also Simeon won a title at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

The summer of 2011 saw Parker become a contender for No. 1 in his class -- and regardless of class at the high school level -- as he dominated the summer circuit against his peers and older players.

Making the 2011 USA Basketball U16 team, Parker won MVP honors at the FIBA Americas U16 Tournament as the USA team captured a gold medal. Parker also had big performances at the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skill Academies before winning the MVP at the Nike Global Challenge in August against mostly older players.

Before entering his junior season at Simeon, some national scouts believed Parker was the best prospect in either the junior or senior national classes. With Parker garnering so many accomplishments as an underclassman, he had a huge reputation already as Simeon was an established national powerhouse.

Parker helped the Wolverines capture a third straight state title, a city title and another title at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, as they went 33-1. Simeon didn't lose to an Illinois opponent Parker's junior year (they only lost to nationally ranked Findlay Prep) with Parker setting a school record of 40 points in only 21 minutes against Perspectives on Dec. 19. For his junior season, Parker put up 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game as he became the first non-senior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors.

Gatorade also declared Parker the national boys basketball Player of the Year for that high school season as he became only the fourth non-senior to win that award. Sports Illustrated put Parker on its cover and proclaimed him as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.

Facing an enormous amount of pressure during his senior year, Simeon played a national schedule and went 30-3, winning a fourth consecutive IHSA state title with Parker as he put up 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Becoming the only player besides Sergio McClain to start on four straight IHSA state title teams, Parker secured back-to-back Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors while also making the McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. Parker played all over the country during his senior season, with nationally-televised games and packed crowds filled with fans.

Reclassifications and the emergence of other contenders, coupled with Parker's foot injury before his senior season, dropped Parker below the No. 1 ranking to end his high school career. But he still finished as a consensus top-5 prospect in the class who eventually rose to the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft in 2014.

Now that Parker has signed with the Bulls, he has a chance to resurrect his career in Chicago, the place where he had his most basketball success.

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

According to Bleacher Report, Wendell Carter Jr. would be taken fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies if the NBA were to redraft this year’s class based off of Summer League performances.

It may sound like a crazy concept (and it is), but Carter Jr. averaged the second most points, 14.6, through five July games in Las Vegas. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 28.8 minutes in his glamorous first-stint with Chicago. Those numbers are even more striking if you consider Carter Jr.’s 42.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.

Carter Jr., the real seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft, looked like the all-around player the Bulls were hoping to get this offseason. He made his blocking abilities as a center known from the moment he stepped on the court in Summer League.

In their re-draft, Bleacher Report had Chicago using the No. 7 pick on the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, who was actually taken 36th overall in last month’s Draft.

Robinson, a center, averaged 13 points and 24.8 minutes per game over five Summer League contests. He was the best rebounder on his team with an average of 10.2 in the five games that the Knicks played.

The 20-year-old took the second most shots on the Knicks and had the highest field goal percentage at 67 percent, but Robinson did not have any three-point attempts.  What made his recent production seem even more surprising was the fact that the 7'1'' big man did not play a single minute of college basketball.

But would Robinson fit in the Bulls’ system?

Chicago has taken on an offense-first mentality, so Robinson would not be as great of a fit in the Bulls lineup as Carter Jr., but he would still be an impact player. He can be compared to the Bulls’ current center Robin Lopez, who averaged a similar amount of points per game (11.8 points in 26.4 minutes) last season as Robinson’s Summer League average (13 points in 24.8 minutes). And like Lopez, Robinson will likely be most effective around the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

Robinson would also have to learn the defensive concepts that a veteran like Lopez has mastered over his 10-year career.

Next season, the Bulls will have an exciting scoring trio of Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. And the fact that Carter Jr. is getting so much love in the national spotlight is yet another reason for Bulls fans to be excited about this upcoming season.