After Phil Jackson won an astonishing 11 championships with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers employing the infamous offensive system, the triangle offense has since lost its way in the league. The NBA has shifted to become far more pick-and-roll dominant, spacing the floor at both corners. Still, the triangle offense is a valuable system and it could be adapted to great success on certain teams, the Bulls being no exception here.
Chicago's roster is a bit old school since they have two iso-heavy wings who can each shoot from mid-range or post-up, especially in DeMar DeRozan's case. The Bulls also have a big guy in Nikola Vucevic who's good at his back-to-the-basket game as well as a point guard in Coby White who's a dynamic scoring threat. With these pieces assembled, there's no reason to think the triangle couldn't thrive in Chicago once again.
The triangle offense depends on spacing and ball movement. You can run a spread version like Golden State or an old-school version like the 90s Bulls or early 2000s Lakers. No matter which option the Bulls employ, there are a few basic tenets that this system must follow.
Reviving the iconic triangle offense may help the Bulls make the most of their current talent on the roster.
This can all be a lot to follow for those unfamiliar with how the triangle offense works, so I included a brief video explaining the system below for those interested in how this current roster would look if they implemented this classic strategy — as told by an iconic former Bulls player who helped make the triangle so legendary in the first place, Dennis Rodman.
When the ball goes to the wing, the passer cuts, then the wing dumps the ball inside to the big guy, and then the guards cut. One to the opposite corner, the other sets a pick for a wing on an opposite mid-post, who cuts to the middle. That's how the triangle can help produce an uncontested mid-range shot. Or if the shot isn't there, then the guard, who's on top, cuts to the basket for an easy lay-up attempt. Now that we've got the basics down, how would all this work with the Bulls' current personnel?
Running the triangle would give Vucevic space and time to operate the high post. It would completely open the strong side since there would be no players on that side. DeMar or Zach could be that player on the mid-post, who would cut to the middle of a pick and would get a mid-range or a line to the basket. If you want to get creative with it, you could even put DeRozan in the post instead of Vucevic and let him create from that area.
The good thing about the triangle is that the set begins the same way, every time; this could be extremely helpful for a Bulls team that often lacks consistency and cohesion in their offensive schemes. If you can't get the ball to the post, then you swing back on top. That triggers pinch post action. Meanwhile, the player who made a swing pass screens a guard in the corner. The player on the top cuts behind to the corner. Then the guard from the corner sprints on top and plays
pick-and-roll on the move.
In Chicago's case, it would allow Coby White or DeRozan to run the pick-and-roll with a lot of space. It would leave all the strong side open if you put a competent shooter in the corner. A guy like Patrick Williams could work for that role. It would open driving lanes to the basket and would get more easy shots. Action on the weak side would prevent help defense from closing in too quickly. Considering DeRozan and LaVine both excel in iso situations, this is a great way to generate quality looks without chucking up ill-advised shots at their teammate's expense.
If you can't get to the first two options, then the pinch post player flashes on the free throw line. Then the guy on top cuts behind the pinch player. If nothing's there, then he spots in the corner. Then again, the guard cuts from the corner and plays hand-off with the pinch post player. It creates movement and opens a lot of space to create. It would give Coby or DeMar room to drive. If help comes from the strong side, then an easy pass to the corner should follow. But you don't have to go all the way through. You can put DeRozan at the pinch post and let him play one one-on-one while having movement on the weak side.
If all else fails, the ball goes to the corner. The big man sets a screen for the wing, who cuts to the basket for a potential lay-up. Meanwhile, the big man set another screen for the guard in the corner, where they can run the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop. Again, this movement opens the paint and creates action on the weak side, which prevents help defense. White would get a bunch of good looks out of this option. If you have a shooting big, this play practically becomes unstoppable.
In a way, I think Patrick Williams would also be a perfect fit in this system since he can shoot off the dribble or get to the rim. It brings the action closer to the basket, where the Bulls have players that can operate. Chicago is not a good three-point shooting team, so that spread pick-and-roll offense doesn't necessarily work for them.
In the middle of the season, it would be hard to implement this offense, but a least some pieces of it could help the Bulls. Even though their offense is better now, even teams on a hot streak should still be willing to mix things up if their win percentage leaves a lot to be desired.