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Robin Lopez impresses, Rondo doesn’t in Bulls’ preseason debut

(and other Bulls-Bucks notes)

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NBA: Preseason-Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls
I recall this particular attempt ricocheting off the top of the backboard
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The opening stint was good, the third-string end was fun, and everything in between was kinda bad. Here’s some preseason ANALYSIS.

  • Robin Lopez and Taj Gibson were both very solid, and since they’re vets hopefully that can be an expectation. Both guys were very good helping defensively, and when playing together really locked down the defensive boards. Of course, that tandem better do well in that facet, because as we know the offensive flow may suffer with so many non-shooters. While not extending to the three point line or anything, Lopez had a pretty quick trigger finger that I didn’t mind, hitting several mid-range jumpers to punish the Bucks defense when left alone (which was Rondo’s best work last night).
  • Alternatively, the backup bigs of Mirotic and Portis were fairly awful. Both shot poorly from the outside and struggled to finish inside against length. The Bulls effectiveness on the boards also evaporated when Lopez left the game. It’s definitely something to watch with Portis to see if he can be effective when unable to simply overpower players like in summer league. I’m less worried about Niko.

The defense was not very good, and that’s not really a surprise in both that it’s preseason, and it’s the Fred Hoiberg Bulls. Some of it is preseason-skewed like the extra fouls called, but the team also showed some very familiar bad habits of leaving shooters open. The Athletic had a great breakdown of this, where it appears with Lopez they’ll use him in a Gasol-ian way where he zones up in the paint, but they’ll will be more aggressive with everyone else (and last night they couldn’t recover). The transition defense also showed familiar holes. Part of it is lack of effort but sometimes it’s more miscommunication (McDermott found himself caught in no-man’s-land a couple times). I saw in both Rondo and Wade’s defense an initial effort at a steal... but then no subsequent effort. And I don’t think that’ll be just a preseason thing.

  • I thought Rondo was pretty bad, but unfortunately what we should probably come to expect. He’s going to be stat-hunting in his hanging back for free defensive rebounds and hold the ball enough to get his assists. Some of the passes will look damn pretty. He’ll also not do much else and sometimes over pass, and had a few ugly ones in this game. With 5 turnovers in 23 minutes, Rondo seemed to be mentioned post-game by reporters only in the perspective that he was somehow actually too good.
  • There was sort of an inverted result in terms of three pointers: Butler+Wade were 3/3, and Mirotic+McDermott were 0/6. Yes, Wade was 2-2 like it was a playoff game (and not a regular season one where he literally had seven makes all of 2015-16). None of the looks were spot-up attempts or what you’d consider generated in the flow of the offense, more of a ‘hand down, man down’ type of situation, but maybe that’s an effective way for these guys to get off their treys. As a team the Bulls were a 5/19 compared to the Bucks 10/25. I know some are sick of hearing about threes already, but the thing about them is they’re worth 3 points as opposed to 2. The Bulls offense overall, whenever stalled out of initial transition, never really looked good, even in that flurry that started the game. And you could certainly see obvious spacing issues with Taj and Lopez near the FT line and the Bucks defense leaving Rondo.
  • Butler had 5 FGAs and 9 FTAs in 15 minutes of play. Between him and Wade’s offensive style, it may be more effective...but also fairly boring. Not if Wade becomes a 3-point marksman, I guess?
  • Wings: McDermott was first off the bench, followed by Valentine. I un-muted CSN at brief moments throughout the night and at one point did hear Stacey say ‘this is a big year for Tony Snell’ (LOL). Due to the late team surge, Snell was a +/- champ because of course. Valentine may be sitting a few days with this ankle sprain so we’ll see if somebody moves up in the rotation in the next game.
  • PG: Jerian Grant got the call as Rondo’s backup, and was a fairly mixed bag. Had a nice stroke on a couple jumpers, but he had as many bad passes as good ones and didn’t respond too great to any full-court pressure.
  • Bigs: Taj started at PF, then Niko was first off the bench sliding Taj to Center. Portis was then 4th big. Hoiberg’s indicated he’ll rotate the starting PF spot, but if it’s truly a competition then Taj won the first game going away.
  • Deep bench: Isaiah Canaan didn’t play until he started the 2nd half, and fittingly wore Aaron Brooks’s number as he chucked like ol’ Aaron would. Felicio and Dinwiddie didn’t enter until 9 minutes left and did, like, go on a huge run and almost win the game. Felicio is extremely nimble if not fast. Nobody else from Paul Zipser to the camp fodder got in any action.