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Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler Can Work Together Even When Attacking The Same Spot

Rose and Butler both work best when attacking in the middle and not toward the baseline. Does that mean they can't work together?

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

[I told DRoseO1 his comments were too good for the comments. Not as a slight to you other commenters, please keep commenting... -yfbb]

Jimmy Butler has been playing some out of this world basketball. Derrick Rose is finally rounding into form. However, the question seems to be, can they work together? Ball dominant guards and wings have worked well together before, but that prospect becomes easier when one of the players is LeBron or both players are excellent spot up shooters in the case of the splash brothers. After watching last night's game against the Celtics, it seems that both Rose and Butler are best when attacking the middle, and not from the wing, especially in the pick and roll.

Here, we see Rose take and make a tough shot off the pick and roll. While Rose's floater can be an amazing weapon, Rose doesn't really have anywhere to go with the ball other than shoot or kick to Gasol at the three point line. His options are limited, and even more importantly, a kick to Jimmy here would be a very tough pass and Jimmy would likely not be in a position to attack quickly enough to get to the basket. I'm excited that this floater went down, it's a great sign! However, unless Derrick makes an amazing move baseline, his options seem limited here.

Here, the Bulls run a play I really like. They run a small-small pick and roll with him and McDermott. They run the play at the point rather than on the wing. Rose has a kick to McDermott as a strong possibility and if Pau's man helps, it's a pass to Pau for a very short jumper. What I like about this is how easily Rose seemed to be able to attack because the play was in the middle. Without the ability to use the baseline as an extra defender, Rose can go where he wants.

Jimmy had another phenomenal game passing the ball, racking up 10 assists. However, I think Jimmy is better able to attack from the middle rather than the wing. In his 40 point second half outburst, tons of his scoring came off the high pick and roll run at the point. Here is Jimmy trying to run a pick and roll from the wing. Jimmy tries to work himself back into the middle of the floor, but he can't do so effectively from this spot on the floor. If he continued driving baseline, he would have been cut off fairly quickly. He does have an outlet to Rose at the top, but that would have required him to pivot right into Pau's defender. There is an outlet option to Snell, but I doubt it puts Snell in a position to do anything (though it's better than a turnover). In short, the biggest problem I have with running the pick and roll on the wing toward the baseline is that it limits options. If you have players that can beat the help defender on the baseline side, it's amazing! However, if you can't, you are basically allowing the other team to trap your ball handler using the baseline as an extra defender. With team's ICE-ing the pick in roll (thanks Thibs!), running pick and rolls on the wing is tougher.

Here is an example of Jimmy running the high pick and roll in the middle. I like it because this is a tough one to ICE to one side of the floor. Jimmy has the option to ignore the screen and go the other way, which he does. Since he has the option to go either direction, this opens up several possibilities. Jimmy goes with the easy outlet to Pau, but with one more dribble, Miro is open in the corner. Also, since Pau gets the ball right in the middle of the floor, if one of the Celtics defenders on the weakside help too much, he can swing the ball to Portis who would hit Hinrich for an open corner three. The Celtics actually do a good job on this play of ICE-ing the pick and roll to one side, but because the play started in the middle and not on the wing, Jimmy had more room to work with.

This is where the problem lies. I think it makes sense that players that like to attack the rim would want to attack up the middle. However, in Butler and Rose, we have two players that will work best attacking that way. Does that mean they can't work together? I don't think so.

There are several choices.  First, I'd love to see more Rose-Butler pick and roll. I think Jimmy has shown the ability to read defenders and slip screens when necessary. It is also a pick and roll that the Bulls have made work well on the wing, especially if Jimmy sets the screen toward the middle of the floor. I wrote a large comment on it a few days ago. The other thing I'd like to see is either Rose or Butler running pick and rolls in the middle but toward the side of the other player. That sounded better in my head, but I have an example from last night's game.

Here is the play I'm talking about. There is just so much to like about this play. First, this was a screen set in transition. Yay! Second, the screen was set in the middle toward Rose's side of the floor. Take a look at Pau's defender on this play. He's stuck in the middle of the lane. This forces Rose's defender to help, which was probably going to happen anyway, seeing how much defenders are ignoring Rose on the perimeter. However, what's nice is that Rose is the kickout option, and even though he slides down quite a ways, he is still catching the ball a bit off the baseline with room to go to the middle. Imagine that this play was run more over on the wing. Rose would have had to catch the ball deep into the corner, leaving him with less room to play with off the catch. This is important for Rose since you don't want him spotting up for the three. I'd love to see this action run more often, with Jimmy being the primary outlet option for Rose.

That's Jimmy's shot chart. If you ran a similar play to the one above where Jimmy kicks to Rose except with Jimmy as the kickout option, Jimmy could spot up for a left wing three or left wing midrange shot, both are places where he has shot very well. Jimmy also seems to finish better around the basket from the left side as well.

Obviously, running lots of different options on offense is the way to go to keep defenses on their toes. However, Rose and Butler will have more options attacking up the middle. That doesn't mean that can't work together. More 1-2 pick and rolls and making the other player an outlet option on the wing rather than in the corner seems to be a good way to get both players actively involved together rather than just taking turns.