Michael Walton II writes about the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for We Are Regal Radio.
Michael is a student, freelance writer and high school basketball scout based in Chicago. He’s previously been published in TrueStar Magazine, the Redeye Chicago and thelyricallab.com.
A win is a win.
At least that what I have to tell myself after the Chicago Bulls’ exhilarating 113-111 victory over the Golden State Warriors this past Tuesday.
Derrick Rose showed he still has the determination that made him MVP back in 2011, at the same time he also showed how his shot selection and decision-making still has room for improvement.
Among his historic low-lights from the Warriors game, Rose is one of two players in NBA history to miss at least 20 shots and have 10 turnovers in the same game. His aggressiveness is a good sign, but Rose simply HAS to switch up his shot selection for the Bulls to have a real chance at winning a title.
It seems like a weird time after such an inspiring win, but maybe now it is time to go into panic mode. As recently as last Friday I was ready to write a lengthy post on how the Bulls were one piece away from the aforementioned title being theirs to lose. I was ready to talk about how the Bulls needed to dangle trade assets to try to pry a defensive-minded big man from another team, someone like Timofey Mozgov, or maybe even someone like Miami Heat youngster Hassan Whiteside… so much for that.
Less than 72 hours after this thought crossed my mind, there was Whiteside completely dominating the Bulls and powering the rejuvenated Miami Heat to a 96-84 victory on a leisurely Sunday afternoon.
Going into Golden State the Bulls were 4-6 in their last 10 games and while their wins over Western Conference teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks show me that D-Rose and Co. are ready for the NBA Finals, their recent losses to Eastern Conference competitors like Atlanta, Miami and Cleveland show me that they may not be ready to make it through the Eastern Conference playoffs, which previously was an afterthought.
Dear Derrick Rose, Please Start Taking the Worst Shot in Basketball
When Rose came into the league in 2008, he was a 20-year old dynamic scoring guard who did not have a refined jump shot. During his rookie season he struggled so badly from the three-point line that he took only 0.9 threes a game and scored on 22 percent of those. Six years and multiple knee surgeries later, Rose is averaging 5.6 three-point shots a game.
The problem? Rose is still an average shooter.
Rose has made 31% of his threes so far this season, which would be somewhat respectable if he didn’t shoot them at such a high volume. The transformation we are watching Rose go through is normal for a player as they get older, even for specifically explosive leapers such as D-Rose the time comes when they have to rely more on their jump shot as a means to extend their career. Add on Rose’s injury history and that process had to be accelerated.
But Rose chucking up 24-footers like there is no tomorrow will not make him an MVP again. My solution would be for coach Tom Thibodeau to restrict Rose to only longer two-point shots for just one week so he could see the difference for himself this is in spite of the widely held belief in NBA circles that long twos are worst shots than 3-pointers.
Rose’s best shooting percentages in terms of distance this year (in order from best to worst): 0-3 ft, 3-10ft, 16+ft (two-pointers), 3-pointers and 10-16ft. Through 36 games he has been at his best in that 0 to ten foot range. Currently, 66.6% of his shots are two-pointers. If Thibs could get that number up to 75%, we would see improvement in Rose’s field goal percentage, his scoring output and most importantly, the Bulls win-loss record.
Big Men, Where They At Though?
In the Bulls’ big victory over Golden State, Chicago out-rebounded the Warriors 61 to 48. If the Bulls can keep up this kind of rebounding prowess, there is no telling how far they can go.
All-star Pau Gasol kept up his great play with 18 points and 16 rebounds, but he finally received substantial help from a healthy-looking Joakim Noah, who had 18 points and 15 rebounds in the game. Noah is the true key to the Bulls’ title chances for many reasons. The biggest reason would be that Noah’s penchant for doing the “dirty work” down low helps keep Gasol fresh, and at 34 years old Gasol needs all the help he can get considering defense has never been his strong suit.
It is impossible to guess if someone will stay healthy for the remainder of an NBA season and I still don’t believe the Bulls should stand pat as the February 19th trade deadline nears. Noah could go down at anytime and it would be foolish to not invest in a player who could defend “stretch fours” (big men who shoot well from the perimeter).
Noah and Gasol both like to defend post-up players down low, but one of them needs to be relegated to the bench for stretches because neither specializes in guarding players on the perimeter. Personally, I would start Taj Gibson in place of Noah and then bring Noah off the bench when Gasol needs a rest.
Right now teams game plan their attack of the Bulls through their big men and it has been effective. It is the main reason the Bulls have a middle-of-the-pack defense statistically (15th in points allowed per game).
If the Bulls can find a better forward-center pairing on that end of the floor they will climb closer to their usual top-ten defense status. Combine that with their new dangerous offense (ninth in points per game) and the Bulls will have all they need to be able to play deep into June.
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