By DougThonus, today at 10:57 am
The Chicago Bulls dropped a winnable game to the Houston Rockets, collapsing after building up a large lead. Their defense was improved, but they couldn't find a way to score down the stretch. Sadly, quality offensive players aren't half off on the trade market today.
Bulls lack athleticism
From the start of the season, the Bulls decided they'd attempt to win by outworking opponents. However, this approach is inherently flawed due to the lack of athleticism up and down the Bulls roster. Carlos Boozer, Rip Hamilton, and Kirk Hinrich are all poor to pedestrian athletes for their positions.
It's difficult to outwork teams with an athletic disadvantage at three of the five starting positions compared to most teams. Joakim Noah's probably the only player on the Bulls with a consistent athletic advantage at his position.
Things don't get all that much better on the bench where Nate Robinson is undersized, Belinelli's average, and Mohammed can barely move. Butler and Taj are quality athletes, but Butler's certainly not more athletic than Brewer and Taj is the same as last year. Overall, the Bulls lost athleticism on the bench as well.
The downward shift in athleticism on the roster makes the "effort" play difficult to consistently pull off.
Working with too small a court
The Bulls don't have enough shot creators to generate offense. Their lack of dynamic playmakers means they look to generate offense through efficient passing, ball movement, and strong fundamental offense.
However, the team also lacks consistent outside threats to space the floor. Without any outside shooting, the Bulls have to run their ball movement oriented offense with little space on the floor. Since the opponents don't really need to respect the outside shot of anyone on the team, they can jam the paint against the Bulls big men, and still easily recover on the perimeter players.
If the three facets of offense are slashing, shooting, and post ups, it's fair to say the Bulls are below average in all three. It's no wonder that the team frequently struggles to score. They do have excellent passing throughout the roster, but since no one on the team can really generate space easily that advantage is mitigated.
Things will obviously improve with a healthy Derrick Rose as they'll have one outstanding creator, but an effective offense really needs at least two of those three legs, and Rose still only gives them one.
Few options available
The Bulls don't have many options to fix the team. They really only have one wild card to play, and it's such a long shot, that they're likely better off sticking with the status quo. That said, if they want to mix it up, then their best bet is to bench Kirk Hinrich in favor of Marcus Teague.
Nate Robinson is playing well above Kirk's level, so he can't be benched at this point. However, throwing Teague into the mix gives the Bulls a big dose of athleticism and slashing. The problem, of course, is that Teague can't finish or defend, so while he has the raw tools the Bulls need, his complete lack of refinement probably will hurt more than it helps.
I wouldn't throw that hail mary just yet if I were the Bulls, but it's possibly the only option they have that changes the mix rather than just trying harder at what they're already doing.