The ties that bound Tom Thibodeau to the 2008 champion Boston Celtics have never been hard to find during his tenure with the Chicago Bulls. Those Celtics won mostly thanks to an incredible defense captained by Kevin Garnett in his first season in Boston, a defense Thibodeau largely masterminded. Much of what the Bulls have done tactically in Thibodeau's first three seasons draws back to things he engineered in Boston originally.
This is most obvious in the Bulls' defensive scheme, particularly their 'everyone on a string' philosophy towards help defense. Zach Lowe has written about the 2.999999 principle, about how teams like the Bulls attempt to defend the ball as a group rather than by isolating each individual defender against their offensive counterpart. The results have been amazing and the Bulls have been generally classified as overachievers under Thibodeau mostly because of the tactical advantage their coach gives them.
The Bulls' take on defending the pick-and-roll, a 'blitz the ball hander' scheme, is perhaps the most widely recognized connector back to Thibodeau's Boston days, with Garnett's role in that operation filled wonderfully by Joakim Noah. But there are also some offensive sets Thibodeau brought from Boston to Chicago. The baseline curl the Celtics used to run for Ray Allen is chief among them.
The Bulls have run this play a lot over the last three seasons, with Kyle Korver and Richard Hamilton usually accepting the role of Allen. There's multiple downscreens along the way to help the shooter get open; from the moment you saw Korver or Hamilton trying to juke the first defender, it was obvious the play was coming. I can't think of a more telegraphed set in basketball over the last few years, but it has generally worked so long the screens were able to jar free the shooter.
This is an important set in the Bulls' playbook and one they're not going to abandon anytime soon, even with Kover gone (and not coming back) and Hamilton just now finally being put out of his misery. We know the Bulls are going to have to think about adding wing depth with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2013 draft, so it makes sense to target someone who can fill that role. Fortunately, there's one player who fits the bill perfectly. That would be Cal shooting guard Allen Crabbe (scouting report).
Crabbe reminds me a lot of Hamilton, and not the withering late period version the Bulls have been stuck with the last two seasons. At 6'6, 205 lbs., he has a wiry but ideal build for the shooting guard position. His 6'11.25'' wingspan is also not something to be discounted.
Here's the book on Crabbe: he's a very good shooter from both midrange and deep, and excels in catch-and-shoot situations. Per DraftExpress, he shot shot 44.1 percent and scored 1.21 points per possession on catch-and-shoot plays last year. He got 16 percent of his offense from spot-ups.
Skip ahead to the 3:13 mark in DraftExpress video and I think it will be pretty evident why Crabbe seems like a very good candidate for the Bulls. You can plug him into those Ray Allen-Korver-Hamilton sets without thinking twice about it. That's his game and it seems to mesh perfectly with what the Bulls like to do.
Fact is, there isn't a player on the Bulls' roster with Crabbe's skill set. I'm not exactly writing Luol Deng's eulogy yet like some of you, but if a future Bulls lineup included Jimmy Butler as the starting small forward and Crabbe at the two, I think the duo would compliment each other pretty well. We never got to see what Hamilton and Rose could have done together because of injuries to both players, but there were times when it looked pretty damn good.
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It's natural to compare Bullock to Crabbe, because if Gorgui Dieng isn't on the board it's at least possible, if not likely, the Bulls will have to make this exact decision. While Bullock's skill set is more redundant on the current roster than Crabbe's, it also might be more complete. Crabbe seems to project as an average NBA defender, even with Thibodeau's magic. There's nothing wrong with that. But Bullock will likely be able to defender a wider array of players at a higher level. It's something to think about.
The other thing that bothers me about Crabbe is his lack of a handle. While it's true Derrick Rose will always be the primarily ball handler, a guard is still a guard. By definition, guards should be able to pass, dribble and shoot. That Crabbe only does one of the three particularly well is worrisome. It's the reason he'll be around at No. 20 when the Bulls are on the clock.
Listen: the Bulls are going to have to do *something* about finding cheap wing depth. In the Bullock profile, I proposed a scenario where the Bulls could trade their 2014 first round pick for one in the last five or 10 picks of this year's first round to try to get both Bullock and Gorgui Dieng. We know that's unlikely to actually happen. But what if Crabbe slipped to the second round?
Chad Ford's latest mock draft has that projected to happen. The Cavs own two picks in the first three selections of the second round, and I would think they probably don't need four rookies on the roster next season (Cleveland also owns the No. 19 pick). Maybe the Bulls could find a way to acquire one of those picks?
The cheap labor makes buying a pick a no-brainer, particularly in the second round where the contracts aren't guaranteed. Even if Crabbe is gone by that point (he probably will be), it might wouldn't be a bad idea to take a chance on Ricky Ledo or maybe Tim Hardaway Jr. There's been some buzz connecting Hardaway Jr. to the Bulls at No. 20 and I am not in favor of that. But in the second round? There isn't much downside.
I'm a big fan of Crabbe. He appears to project as a better midrange shooter than Bullock and already has a reliable (though inferior when matched against Bullock) three-point stroke. It only takes one look at his DraftExpress video (linked above) to realize how deep the guy's range really is. I don't think you'd be able to run Bullock in the Korver/Hamilton set, but Crabbe seems like a natural fit. Is that worth the drop in defense?
It's tough to say. This is why the draft is the best.