(I'll preface by saying that tonight's game was against an out-manned Wizards team, so it's tough to glean that much relevance)
Those who are seemingly to be hard-wired to yelp 'low post presence' when describing the Bulls don't fully get it. Mostly by overstating the 'need', but also by assuming that it has to be Pau Gasol, or some other 7-footer. Or even a player that does most of his damage in the post.
That's not the need. The symptom keeping the Bulls offense at a below-average efficiency is that unless they're in transition, they have to run their full offense to get a good shot. There's nothing wrong with doing that a majority of the time, but having an option to ditch their 'stuff' and just give it to somebody for a high-percentage look (or a quick double-team) is a nice failsafe to keep from having the notorious long scoring droughts while also keeping the turnovers down.
But how often is that really needed, a half-dozen possessions a game? The Bulls should ditch their whole up-tempo, ball-movement, player-movement scheme to acquire some lumbering oaf? Make a trade for someone just because they have a jump-hook? It's not like the Bulls don't have enough size or depth (and -hopefully- skill) in their frontcourt anymore.
I like instead what the plan seems to be: give Luol Deng a chance to be that guy.
And why not, look at couple of other elite teams in the conference: Detroit posts up their guards and Prince. KG likes his game more as a high-post facilitator, so Paul Pierce is their best post player. The Cavs have big Z, but it's not like they're running every play through him (if they indeed run plays in Cleveland). If the Bulls get Kobe Bryant, then he'll be that guy.
In the preseason so far, Luol's started out looking to post up. The results have been mixed, and we have no idea if or how effectively it'll work in the regular season, but at least it's looking like he's been working on it. And it's a better option then acquiring someone, unless we're talking about a major upgrade to the rotation.
Some of the fawning over Aaron Gray in the game thread comments were the genesis of that point. Nothing against Gray, but his low-post game isn't some 'missing dimension', because Gray won't be getting any meaningful minutes this season, and if he is we should all be frightened . The whole idea of needing this low-post presence is that it'll be needed against good teams when the 'normal' Bulls offense needs some help generating easy shots. So would you rather see Gray out there for the sake of having someone to post-up? Or instead trust one of your best players (and therefore on the court) in Luol Deng to attempt the same?
Some other thoughts from Tuesday's preseason game:
- Besides the post-ups, Luol also tried to diversify by using the ball fake. Take that Mr. 'Luol has no trickery' Hollinger!
- Noc is still gunning, a lot. He had a couple jumpers blocked as well, not a good sign. An even worse sign if he keeps it up when Gordon gets back.
- The 2nd quarter was pretty abysmal offensively, with way too many near-violations of the shot clock. Not a big deal since there were some poor lineups out there, but it brought back bad memories of Bulls games past. And it featured a spectacularly-missed Ty Thomas fallaway jumper.
(quick aside on Thomas: this has been suggested before, but he's also a low-post option. Teams just have to foul him when he catches the ball in the post: not because he'll make a great move, but because he'll jump over their heads. And in the theme of this post, the key is that he's on the team and on the court, so lets use him for the few posessions the offense needs it.)
- Nice to see Noah blaze past former Bull Darius Songaila on one play. Ya know, seeing the difference between Bulls big-men past and present, hopefully.
- I thought Kirk looked excellent in the 3rd quarter. I'll scoff at any mention of him not being enough of a 'true' point guard. Bob Cousy's dead, (he's not?!?!) teams need offense from their point guard, and especially the Bulls who regularly play one non-factor on offense as is. So if Hinrich wants to dribble right to a spot and take an uncontested jumper himself, go crazy.
- I'm still not sold on the Deng(SG) and Noc(SF) lineup combination, but one thing Skiles' guard rotation has taught us so far is that it looks like Duhon is strictly relegated to being Hinrich's backup, and that's a good thing. So far we've seen Gardner and Deng at the two, and remember that Gordon, Sefolosha, and Griffin may also be ahead of Duhon on the two-guard depth chart. Perhaps tiny-ball is done forever.
- We all got a first look at Joe Smith. His rebounding looked suspect, but even on a bad wheel he was more mobile than PJ Brown, and that's the key to any Bulls big.
Ok, so the Bulls played their starters more than the Wiz, but consider this: The Bulls outscored 'em 21-11 in the first quarter, and 36-21 in the third. The defense looked dominant. I'm very very excited to see this team in full, and thus am holding nightly vigils for the return of Ben Gordon.