Bulls

New Bulls offense giving Rose more responsibility

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New Bulls offense giving Rose more responsibility

Monday, Oct. 18, 2010
3:11 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

As is par for the course, Derrick Roses often breath-taking explosiveness, body control and general athleticism have been on display during the Bulls preseason slate. But for all the talk about his developing outside shot and improved defense, the most glaring change in the All-Star point guard is something that should be apparent to closely-watching observers: Rose has the ball in his hands less.

In this age of ball-dominating floor generals, Roses natural gifts and underrated basketball I.Q. have put him into the position to be as successful as any point guard in the league. Opposing defenses are obviously aware of that fact, and in combating last seasons offense under former head coach Vinny Del Negrowhich was notoriously reliant on running the pick-and-roll, the most frequently-used offensive set in the NBAthere was an element of predictability, although Roses ability to improvise was a variable even the best strategists couldnt truly prepare for.

New Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, however, has installed a motion offense that still utilizes his point guards natural talent, but also gives other players the opportunity to be offensive facilitators, while placing even more responsibility on Roses shoulders.

The main thing is making sure everybodys in the right spot because with our offense, being in the right spot and timing, those are the main things. Those are the keys to our sets and thats any NBA set, any offense. Thats what weve been working on, said Rose. Its been different. Other than pick-and-roll and the game where I had the backdoor play against the Toronto Raptors last week, I havent had any sets that have been for me. All these sets are for the big men and Lu small forward Luol Deng, so when Im going out there, Im just scoring off regular pick-and-roll stuff.

Other than pick-and-roll, the ball is always moving. Thats what I like about it. Its like a motion offense where no ones standing still, people are always moving and its opening people up, he continued. Were a team with a lot of options, especially with the offense that we have. We have a motion offense; the ball is always moving. Weve got smart and good players. If you get the ball and you dont have a drive or something, you get it out of your hands pretty quick.

That ball movement just comes with the guys. Thibs is not talking to us in practice about moving the ball. It just comes with the offenseif you dont have a shot, pass it, go pick-and-rollwhateverbut the ball is always moving,

One of Roses primary duties is ensuring all of his teammates are in the right places on the court, no easy task on a squad with seven newcomers and an entirely new system. Rose will frequently consult with Thibodeau and the Bulls coaching staff during games about his reads on the opposing defense and how they are guarding certain players, especially Deng, center Joakim Noah and Rose himself.

In the Bulls system, there are several different sets within the basic motion offense, with multiple options for specific scenarios, each based on the coaching staffs initial play call and Roses initial read. The genesis for that line of thinking perhaps stems from Thibodeaus reputation as a defensive guru, ironically. Most NBA teams prepare for their opponents first option for different plays; the Bulls offense is designed for players to consider second and third options as seriously as the initial opportunity, something that has led to high-turnover preseason games as the team adjusts to personnel.

Everybodys getting in the groove, playing unselfish and if we cut down our turnovers, I think we can be a dangerous team, said Rose. Were an unselfish team. I think most of our turnovers come from trying to make the extra pass or trying to thread the needle, but if we take our time, our sets can be more smooth.

While Thibodeau has culled some of his offense from his time with the Boston CelticsDoc Rivers is known as one of the more creative offensive play-callers in the league and his ability to run a balanced offense based around the future Hall of Fame trio of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, as well as his utilization of speedy young playmaker Rajon Rondo has to have provided some inspiration in his former assistantbut he has also included many of his own concepts, which he has honed from his long tenure as an NBA assistant coach.

He Thibodeau was there Boston for three years, but a lot of the NBA teams run the same stuff. Doc Rivers has some real good stuff offensive sets, so we do some of the stuff he does, and then Tom has his own stuff. I think that the spacing is a little bit differentthe timing and the spacing is emphasized more with Tom and the way he teaches it than it was with Doc, reserve forward Brian Scalabrine, who was with Thibodeau and the Celtics in Boston, told CSNChicago.com. Thats plays for sharpshooter Kyle Korver; specifically screens to set up catch-and-shoot situations the same stuff that we ran for Eddie House or Ray Allenbut when you run a play for a shooter, its not always just that. It just puts a lot of pressure on the defense, him the shooter dumping it down to a big man, into the weak-side guys. When theres a play for a certain guy, its not necessarily to get that one thing; its to try to get movement.

Through the preseason, one of the more commonly-used sets has been one in which both of the Bulls big men start in the high post, with one receiving the ball at the elbow. The post player without the ball then moves to the low block, creating traditional high-low spacing. The big man with the ballusually Noah, although its foreseeable that Carlos Boozer, an underrated passer, will frequently be in this position upon his returnhas the option to dump the ball down to the other big man, take a 15-foot jumper if left open, drive to the ball to the basket if his defender plays him closely, find a cutter going backdoor to the basket, kick the ball out to an outside shooter or simply find a guard on the perimeter to reset things.

Other than him Noah trying to thread the needle, I love it Noah functioning as a playmaker from the elbow, said Rose of his teammate, who led the team in assists (with eight, one of which was a slick backdoor feed to Rose) in last weeks game against the Toronto Raptors, their next preseason opponent. Jo, hes a good passer to be big and hes smartwhen he has the ball in his hands, he really plays the game like a guardand it really helps us because he brings people defenders in for kick-out shots. If somebody steps up, hes driving and is going to get fouled. Its great that hes handling the ball.

Not that adjusting to the new system hasnt been without its challenges, as the sometimes-disjointed appearance of the Bulls offense and resulting turnovers in the preseason show. Some of that is due to the new-look squad attempting to foster team chemistry with unselfishness, manifested in the team forcing the issue via the pass.

Theyre moving the ball very, very well. Theyre hitting the open man. I just think, at times, were trying to thread the needle a little bit too much, instead of just making the simple play, said Thibodeau, a noted perfectionist. And the other thing offensively is just sustaining that space into the second and third option. When we do that, were very efficient offensively. But when our spacing breaks down, its leading to turnovers, so we have to correct that.

Aside from the teams halfcourt sets, Thibodeau has also placed an emphasis on playing to an advantage the Bulls have by virtue of having Rose: transition offense. Whether off defensive rebounds or made shots, the Bulls will look to push the tempo, with Rose instructed to either push the ball himself for layups, hit a teammate cutting to the basket with a bounce pass or find an open three-point shooter.

Additionally, the team will still employ plenty of pick-and-rolls, as Rose has become one of the leagues most dangerous players in that situation.

The Bulls coaching staff just told me to put pressure on the defense every time I come off pick-and-rollevery single time, they want me to attackand I just come off and make somebody come towards me, then kick the ball out, said Rose. Im more comfortable; I hope that you see that when Im on the court. I guess it comes from playing years in the league in the pick-and-roll. Im not thinking about anything. If a defender comes towards me, wherever hes coming from, thats where the ball is going.

If I dont have the ball, Im always moving. Everybody is moving when someone has the ball. Its hard to guard, he added. Were always moving, unless its an isolationIm a guy that can play with the ball and off the ball.

That aspect of his game (and personality) has allowed Rose to become a threat from the wing, something he relishes.

I love coming off screens. It gives me another look, especially with a live dribble. When Im bringing the ball up, people are really watching me, but when Im coming off screens and Ive got a live dribble, I think that it can be hard to guard me, said Rose of his versatility within the offense. Im always moving. Im not in one spot all the time. Im always cutting. If they bring backup point guard C.J. Watson in, I can move to the two and I know those spots.

When C.J. is in, either one of us can handle the ball. I told him if he gets it, Im running down and he can call out a set and we can change spots. Thats why we have an early group that comes in and runs over all the plays and he puts people in different spots so you can get used to playing more than one position," added Rose, who isnt concerned about his assist totals decreasing, even though he wont be on the ball as much. Not with the shooters we have on this team. With Lu Deng shooting the ball like that, I think that it his assists could definitely be higher. Youve got Kyle Korver, C.J., Luyouve got Lu hitting three-point shotsKeith Bogans; Ive got some shooters on this team, so I think that I should get some more assists this year.

The freedomand subsequent level of responsibilitygiven to Rose has empowered the third-year star, who remains in constant contact with Thibs, as the two are often seen huddled together in deep discussion at the Berto Center. Even though he was informed about the organizations decision-making process in hiring the coach and Thibodeau was in touch with him over the summer (even sticking around Las Vegas after the teams summer league to watch Rose practice with USA Basketball), Roses hectic offseason ensured that he didnt know what to anticipate from the new head man, in terms of his role.

Not at all did Rose expect Thibodeau to give him so much responsibility. When he first got hired, I didnt know what he was doingwhat type of offense we were going to run or anythingbut by the way it looks, hes giving everybody freedom to go out there and play, said Rose. Anybody can have anything any night, like Jo led us in assists some nights ago the Toronto game. You can see with the offense, anybody can get off any night.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Wichita State's Landry Shamet could give Bulls backcourt versatility they desperately need

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USA TODAY

Wichita State's Landry Shamet could give Bulls backcourt versatility they desperately need

The Bulls are in need of talent. That much is clear after a 27-win campaign in which they finished ranked 28th in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They’ll add a pair of prospects next month, with two selections in the first round, and presumably take the next step in their rebuild. Talent is important, that can’t be overstated. The Bulls should stick to their board and take the best player available nine out of 10 times.

But as much as the Bulls need an influx of talent, versatility in the backcourt might be a close second. And while there isn’t really any player at No. 7 that would fit that bill – they could reach for Collin Sexton – there are a number of versatile guards, in a class dominated at the top by bigs, who could be there when the Bulls are on the clock at No. 22.

Meet Wichita State guard Landry Shamet. That classic NBA buzzword “versatile” is thrown around more often than ever before. The idea that a player can play multiple positions, can defend 1-3 or has the potential to learn two spots at the next level. Then there’s Shamet. He’s actually done it.

He arrived in Wichita as a shooting guard, the Shockers’ highest-rated recruit in nine years. A broken foot cost him all but three games of his freshman season, but he returned in 2016 and made an immediate impact, including a shift to point guard midway through the season; the move went seamlessly, as he led the Shockers in assists (3.3) and was 14th in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.00). He matched Kentucky freshman point guard DeAaron Fox in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, scoring 20 points on 7 of 14 shooting in a loss.

He remained at point guard in his sophomore season and dominated, earning an honorable mention All-American nod while leading the team in points (14.9) assists (5.2), and 3-pointers (2.6) per game for a Shockers team ranked in the top 25 all year, and as high as No. 3 in December.

He had the ball in his hands plenty at Wichita State, but his shooting hardly suffered. A point guard in name, his shooting may be his best attribute. In his final two seasons Shamet shot 44.1 percent from deep on 354 attempts. He was the nation’s best spot-up shooter when Greg Marshall used him off the ball, and made multiple 3-pointers in 23 of 32 games.

His versatility can best be explained as such: He was the only player in the country – and just the 13th since 1992 – to average at least five assists, 2.5 3-pointers per game and shoot 44 percent from deep. The 6-foot-5 guard brings shooting, facilitating and length defensively to the table. It’s no cliché.

“I feel like I can step in and do whatever a coach needs me to do, whether it’s playing on the ball being a facilitator/playmaker/initiating offense, or a guy you’ve got to honor off the ball (as) a spot-up shooter,” Shamet said Friday at the NBA Draft Combine.

He struggled shooting in the 5-on-5 scrimmages over the two-day span, but also noted that he accomplished his main goal of defending well. His 6-foot-7 wingspan will be looked down upon in an era where measurements mean more than ever, but he also had a 39-inch max vertical (12th best) and a 3.11 three-quarters court sprint (10th best).

He admitted he’s more athletic than some give him credit for – as his vertical would suggest – but that his game is more “cerebral” and making the right decisions.

“I feel like I have a high IQ, a cerebral player,” he said. “I’m not going to wow you with crossing people up and doing things that a lot of the guys in the limelight do all the time. I feel like I’m a solid player, pretty steady across the board.”

It’s a skill set the Bulls could use. His numbers and measurements look similar to Denzel Valentine, who has drawn mixed reviews in two NBA seasons and is really the closest thing the Bulls have to a “versatile” guard; Valentine was one of 21 players with 140+ 3-pointers and 240+ assists, 12 of whom were All-Stars.

Shamet also has seven inches of vertical leap and a quicker sprint as far as Combine times are concerned, and he’s a more natural fit as a point guard than Valentine. Shamet said two players whose games he studies include Malcolm Brogdon, a less-than-flashy guard who won 2017 Rookie of the Year making just about every correct play. Brogdon possesses the same sneaky athleticism – ask LeBron James – has shot 40 percent from deep in two NBA seasons and has a 2.62 A/TO ratio.

“You don’t want to step out of your comfort zone and be somebody you’re not, so out here I’m trying to be me, be solid, (and) make the right play all the time,” he said. “I don’t rely on my athleticism, I like to think the game. So I try to just be myself.”

Kris Dunn is cemented as a point guard for the Bulls’ future, and the front office sang Cameron Payne’s praises at season’s end, though he’ll be a free agent after next season. But Dunn, Payne and Jerian Grant combined to shoot 33.6 percent from deep, and even Payne’s 38.5 percent shooting came in a limited, 25-game span.

Shamet wouldn’t be a home-run pick, and certainly not a sexy one. Those picks have burned the Bulls in the past with players like Tony Snell, Doug McDermott and even Valentine. Shamet is 21 years old and has had two major foot surgeries. But the skill set is one the Bulls have needed for some time. And in a draft where the Bulls will be searching for talent, adding a player who fits the bill as a team need as well makes sense.

Versatility is Wendell Carter Jr's calling card

Versatility is Wendell Carter Jr's calling card

Wendell Carter Jr. didn’t come to the NBA Draft Combine with the boastful statements made by his peers, refusing to declare himself the best player in a loaded draft.

But it doesn’t mean he lacks for confidence.

Carter Jr. is one of the more intriguing prospects in next month’s draft, even though he doesn’t come with the heavy fanfare of what many expect to be the top three picks.

One of those top three players was Carter Jr’s teammate at Duke, Marvin Bagley III, relegating Carter Jr. to a supporting role of sorts in his lone collegiate season. He couldn’t turn college basketball upside down as a freshman; He didn’t have the opportunity to, still averaging 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 29.1 minutes last season.

“Bagley's a phenomenal player. He came into college basketball, did what he was supposed to do,” Carter Jr. said. “My role changed a little bit but like I said, I'm a winner and I'll do what it takes to win.”

Like he said, considering it was the fifth time he patted himself on the back, describing his positive attributes. It didn’t come across as obnoxious, but more an affirmation, a reminder that his willingness to sacrifice personal glory shouldn’t overshadow his ability.

“I'm pretty versatile as a player,” Carter Jr. said. “I'd just find a way to fit into the team, buy into the system. I'm a winner. Do whatever it takes to win.”

When asked about his strengths, he didn’t hesitate to say he’s “exceptional” at rebounding and defending, certainly things teams would love to see come to fruition if he’s in their uniform next season.

Playing next to Bagley and not being the first option—or even the second when one considers Grayson Allen being on the perimeter—forced him to mature more in the little things.

“It was (an adjustment) at first,” Carter Jr. said. “I knew what I could do without scoring the ball. I did those things. I did them very exceptional. I found a way to stand out from others without having to put the ball in the basket.”

“I think it did do wonders for me. It definitely helped me out, allowed me to show I can play with great players but still maintain my own.”

If he’s around at the seventh slot, the Bulls will likely take a hard look at how he could potentially fit next to Lauri Markkanen and in the Bulls’ meeting with Carter Jr., the subject was broached.

“Great process. I was just thinking, me and him together playing on the court together would be a killer,” he said with a smile.

“I know they wanna get up and down the court more. The NBA game is changing, there's no more true centers anymore. They wanna have people who can shoot from the outside, it's something I'll have to work on through this draft process.”

An executive from a franchise in the lottery said Carter Jr’s game is more complete than Bagley’s, and that Carter Jr. could be the safer pick even if he isn’t more talented than his teammate.

It’s no surprise Carter Jr. has been told his game reminds them of Celtics big man Al Horford. Horford has helped the Celtics to a commanding 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals over the Cleveland Cavaliers, in no small part due to his inside-outside game and ability to ably defend guards and wings on the perimeter.

Horford doesn’t jump off the screen, but he’s matured into a star in his role after coming into the NBA with a pretty grown game as is. Carter Jr. has shown flashes to validate those comparisons.

“Whatever system I come to, I buy in,” Carter Jr. said. “Coaches just want to win. I want to win too. Whatever they ask me to do. If it's rebounding, blocking shots, setting picks, I'm willing to do that just to win.”

He was also told he compares to Draymond Green and LaMarcus Aldridge, two disparate players but players the Bulls have had a history with in the draft. The Bulls passed on Green in the first round of the 2012 draft to take Marquis Teague, and in Aldridge’s case, picked him second in 2007 before trading him to Portland for Tyrus Thomas.

As one can imagine, neither scenario has been suitable for framing in the Bulls’ front office, but whether they see Carter Jr. as a the next versatile big in an increasingly positionless NBA remains to be seen.

“I definitely buy into that (positionless basketball). I'm a competitor,” Carter Jr. said. “Especially on the defensive end. Working on my lateral quickness, just so I could guard guards on pick and roll actions. Offensively I didn't show much of it at Duke but I'm pretty versatile. I can bring it up the court. Can shoot it from deep, all three levels.”

His versatility has come into play off the floor as well, deftly answering questions about his mother comparing the NCAA’s lack of compensation for athletes to slavery.

Carter Jr’s mother, Kylia Carter, spoke at the Knight Comission on Intercollegiate Athletics recently and made the claim.

“The only system I have ever seen where the laborers are the only people that are not being compensated for the work that they do, while those in charge receive mighty compensation … The only two systems where I’ve known that to be in place is slavery and the prison system, and now I see the NCAA as overseers of a system that is identical to that.”

As if he needed to add context to the statement, Carter Jr. indulged the media members who asked his opinion on the matter—or at least, his opinion of his mother’s opinion.

“A lot of people thought she was saying players were slaves and coaches were slave owners,” Carter Jr. said. “Just the fact, we do go to college, we're not paid for working for someone above us and the person above us is making all the money.”

As sensible as his comment was, as direct as his mother’s statements were, he still finds himself in a position where he has to defend his mother. In some cases, teams asked him about her—but that’s not to say they disagreed with her premise.

“My mom is my mom,” Carter Jr. said. “She has her opinions and doesn't mind sharing them. In some aspects I do agree with her. In others...you'll have to ask her if you want to know more information.”

“I never thought my mom is ever wrong. But I think people do perceive her in the wrong way. Some things she does say...that's my mom. You have to ask her.”

The versatility to handle things out of his control, as well as understanding how his season at Duke prepared him for walking into an NBA locker room should be noted.

There’s no delusions of grandeur, despite his unwavering confidence.

“I'd come in and try to outwork whoever's in front of me,” Carter Jr. said. “That's the beauty of the beast. You come into a system, There's players in front of you 3-4-5 years and know what it takes.”

“I would learn those things and let the best man win.”