WARR contributor Josh Hicks offers his thoughts on the Chicago Bulls and the NBA
The Chicago Bulls are coming off of a successful five game west coast road trip with high confidence, finishing the road trip over .500 with a 3-2 record.
Bulls leader Jimmy Butler, who’s averaging 25 points a game, talked recently to CBS Sports’ Ananth Pandian about the importance of their veteran acquisition Dwyane Wade’s advice in approaching games.
“I’m talking to D-Wade before the game and he’s just telling me how I have to approach the game,” Butler said. “You go out there with a killer instinct every night. Make them adjust to you. Go out with a full head of steam and show them why you are one of the best players on the floor. That’s what I try to do every single night. If it’s coming from him, there has to be some truth to it.”
Well, Wade is a three time NBA champion that has made a staple as one of the league’s top shooting guards. Not to mention he also averaged over 23 points a game as a career, so that advice definitely had some truth. But it is not just from Wade’s success, but from Butler’s as well.
During the five game road trip, Butler had back-to-back 30 plus point games and averaged 29 points a game. And not only have Butler’s offensive play elevated, but the Bulls offense has also maintained. They are still among the best in scoring, averaging 105 points a game, even with a shortage of play from key players on their bench such as Doug McDermott.
However, the Achilles heal of the Bulls is the lack of consistency on the defensive end. The Bulls are still giving up 100 points a game, and have a tendency to trade baskets with their opponents instead of playing aggressive lock-down defense.
Their defense was exposed during the west coast trip, especially in their most recent game against Denver. The second unit started the second quarter flat defensively, and it cost them to give up a 10-point lead to be down by double digits in a matter of minutes.
From the second half on, it became a trading baskets show and it ultimately cost the Bulls the game in the final seconds.
The Bulls have a tendency to play up or down to their level of competition. Franchises such as the Clippers, Cavaliers or Warriors will have the Bulls playing the best basketball of their lives, while teams like the 76ers, Nets or Heat will have them playing with the “we’ll win no matter what” mentality, costing them games they should’ve won, or even winning in less than inspirational fashion such as they did last Thursday in Utah
History is repeating itself under Fred Hoiberg’s watch as the lack of consistent defensive competitiveness continues to hurt the team.
There is much excitement to look forward to with Butler emerging as the main alpha male of this team offensively along with the strength and commitment of Wade, Rajon Rondo and their bench. But Hoiberg, his staff, and the leadership of Wade, Rondo and Butler have to find ways to get the team more committed to the defensive end if they want to go deep into the playoffs.
Joshua M. Hicks is a sports writer and broadcaster and a recent graduate of Roosevelt University, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042