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Is it time for the Bulls to make some changes?
by Sam Smith
Posted on Nov 23
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First let me say I have not heard that coach Vinny Del Negro has any intention of changing the Bulls starting lineup. And maybe you wouldn’t want to, anyway, because the Bulls problem wasn’t in the first quarter Saturday when they outscored the Denver Nuggets 27-14 to open the game.
But when you have been blown out in consecutive games and are coming in to face the team—the Portland Trailblazers—who gave you your worst beating last season, perhaps it is time to do something to shake things up a bit.
So I’d go with a starting lineup of Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, John Salmons, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.
First, no offense to Taj Gibson. He’s been playing exceptionally well and is really one of pleasant surprises of the early NBA season. He even had a career best 12 rebounds against the Nuggets Saturday.
But the Bulls have to do something to ignite their offense with Tyrus Thomas still out. And though it may be a risk to play against LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden with Deng and Noah up front, I’d say it’s worth a risk because the Bulls very badly need to do something: Run.
The problem is the team doesn’t have a postup scorer to go to and it doesn’t have very good perimeter shooting at this time with Salmons coming off another two of 11.
So how to get points.
The Bulls have scored 93 in back to back games against the Lakers and Nugets, losses by an average of 17 points per game.
The Bulls need to push the ball even after made baskets to at least keep the defense from setting up and getting into their half court game, which struggles without a postup player.
Yes, they’ve made it work at times with drive-and-kick penetration play.
But it’s time to kick start that offense.
Though Salmons says there’s no difference, many around basketball believe shots come at different places when you play small forward or big guard. Perhaps that’s one of Salmons’ shooting issues.
In any case, what the Bulls need to do is get their most energetic lineup on the floor.
The Bulls best energy players probably are Noah, Hinrich and Deng. Rose is with the ball, but when he doesn’t have it he tends to slow down. And Salmons clearly plays at a slow pace. But he can score.
Del Negro has played that smaller lineup with Deng at power forward often during the season, though I’d like to take a look at it to open the game as sort of a message to the team that, “We’re going to push the ball.”
All the time.
The other possibility is to move Hinrich into the starting lineup for Salmons.
That might be an even better energy lineup with Hinrich and leaving Gibson at power forward, though likely a bit less offensively powerful.
But the bench needs a boost and Salmons could provide it.
Plus, it could give Salmons an edge and a chance to increase his scoring by playing him more against reserve players. Brad Miller is off to a slow start offensively and you’d also like to see Jannero Pargo get some more minutes to see if he can get his shot going, which he did in Sacramento. Since then he’s played fewer than nine minutes in each game, even with the blowout time, and shot a combined three of seven.
With Salmons, Pargo and Miller off the bench that could give the Bulls a stronger scoring look in reserve and a boost when the starters go out.
Perhaps that group then plays at a different speed, not pushing the ball as much but running plays as Miller eventually figures to get his perimeter shot to drop. Then the quicker pace from the starters could lead to a different speed for the reserves and keep the defense somewhat off balance. Salmons likes to start, though it could be a temporary move, and Hinrich did come off the bench without complaint. Of course, Salmons can be a free agent after this season and might not adapt well to what seems like a demotion but wouldn’t be.
Look at the Trailblazers.
Coach Nate McMillan, after going with a backcourt of Steve Blake and Andre Miller starting, now is going back to Blake with Miller off the bench so Brandon Roy can return to shooting guard. Roy clearly wasn’t comfortable at small forward, where he couldn’t use his quickness as much to play the lanes for steals and he also likes to run the offense late in the backcourt. The Trailblazers were 7-2 that way, but not as sharp. The point for McMillan was this was best for the team and this is a good team and Miller is a top player. But you have to get your players in the right places.
Clearly, the Bulls are operating at a shortage with Thomas and Aaron Gray still out.
You can take losses out west, but not by trailing the Lakers by 24 and the Nuggets by 25.
Teams have begun to adjust to what the Bulls do. The Bulls might want to give opponents something else to look at and think about. It’s got to be time for the running of these Bulls.