No one came into this season expecting the Bulls to be an offensive juggernaut, but their glaring deficiencies so far this season have made it nearly excruciating to watch the team’s half court offense. While the 2013-14 season is still in it’s infancy, there is legitimate reason to be concerned that the offensive struggles will continue.
The rosters that general manager Gar Foreman has assembled over the past few years have forced coach Tom Thibodeau to use an offense that is precariously built around a single player that can create his own shot (Derrick Rose) and a group of role players with highly specified responsibilities. When the supporting cast doesn’t execute their roles almost to perfection, it seems the Bulls simply resort to setting a high screen for Derrick Rose at the top of the key and hoping that he can spin in one of his acrobatic layups. This offense, while certainly not pretty at most times, has been sufficient in the past because of two factors: a deep bench providing the Bulls with an array of options to choose from on a given night and the fantastic defense that Thibodeau has made a trademark of his teams.
However, the hazardous system has come crashing down upon the Bulls early this season. The offense has been absolutely abysmal in all but three quarters of the 2013 season. Before the season started, keen observers had two main questions about the team’s offense- was there another player with the ability to create his own shot and could the team consistently spread the floor from the perimeter enough to create openings for Rose?
Three games into the season, these concerns have come to fruition. The Bulls rank third to last in the NBA in three-point field goal percentage, connecting on just 23% of their attempts from long range. Mike Dunleavy, who was brought in to be the Bulls’ marksman from deep, has looked extremely uncomfortable so far this year (particularly from the corner). Luol Deng, who is a high volume but decidedly mediocre long-range shooter, is off to a 1-12 start from behind the arc. Jimmy Butler, Kirk Hinrich and Rose are also off to rough starts, all shooting under 34%. While Dunleavy will most likely turn it around, the rest of the guards and wings on the Bulls aren’t exactly known as knockdown shooters. The lack of a stretch four that can hit three pointers, a role that has become so important in today’s NBA, also hurts the Bulls ability to space the floor.
While Rose has shown he still has his superb ability to get his own shot at the rim at anytime, there is an utter void in that skill on the roster after him (a Boozer post up would be the closest thing). Foreman’s decision to not bring back Nate Robinson and Marco Bellinelli, two players that proved capable of getting themselves good looks last season, has hurt the Bulls offense depth and versatility.
While the majority of the Bulls’ early season struggles will dissipate as the season progresses, these problems present major potential stumbling blocks. It is difficult to see the Bulls besting Indiana, Miami or Brooklyn in a playoff series if these aren’t righted over the next 80-odd games.