The Chicago Bulls are now 0-2 in the preseason, and thus far have shown very little if anything to be optimistic about. With preseason as I stated earlier this week, some things you have to take with a grain of salt, but on the other hand there are larger issues that you can begin to put an emphasis on.
The Bulls transition defense was absolutely atrocious against the Pacers. Monday night they struggled stopping the ball on the break and locating shooters, and Thursday night nothing changed. Right from the get-go the Pacers were on the run anytime they secured a defensive rebound, pushing the pace. Chicago was a clusterfuck getting back in transition; lack of communication, unable to stop the ball on multiple occasions (Paul George euro-stepping through three players) or simply locating shooters running the wings. In all, the Pacers scored 21 fast break points, although one could’ve sworn it was more with all of the open looks the Bulls surrendered. We knew defense would be an issues going into this season, and so far, it’s lived up or should I say down to expectations.
Nikola Mirotic & Cristiano Felicio
Maybe it’s him getting acclimated to his new teammates, or discovering what his role will be this season. But through two games, Mirotic is 2-14 from the field, 0-8 from three and has a combined six points. To say Niko has struggled so far would be putting it lightly. For someone entering a contract season, with so much expected of him Niko is playing with hardly any confidence on both ends of the floor.
On the other hand, a player who’s shown promise in Cristiano Felicio has yet to get a significant chance to make an impact during preseason. Through two games, Felicio has played a total of 16 minutes. Understandably, the frontcourt has a logjam with as many players, but this situation has an odd feeling of what happened last year with E’Twaun Moore. Hopefully Hoiberg doesn’t wait months into the season like the latter to finally give Felicio his due justice.
3 point shooting
As with the defense, we knew that three point shooting would be a weakness of this team, but I’m not sure this bad. Against Milwaukee Monday night the Bulls only mustered to go an abysmal 5-19 from three, while the Bucks went a much better 10-25. Thursday night wasn’t any better. Hysterically, the Bulls went 6-30 from long range (Pacers went 9-19), half of those coming from McDermott in the first quarter in about a minute span. One way or another, the Bulls have to find a way to generate points from beyond the arch to be successful offensively, especially with the three alphas.
More Individual notes:
• Thursday night I thought that both Doug McDermott nor Bobby Portis played a bit better than in their preseason debuts. For McDermott, he was more under control, letting his offense to come him rather than rushing things and going 100mph. Defensively, while still far from good, he was better in defending the pick-and-roll and various isolation plays. Hell, he even managed to grab himself a couple defensive rebounds and even had a steal.
Portis’ activity offensively, more specifically while playing with Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, was encouraging. He showed a nice two-man game with both out of the pick-and-roll, once popping out for a 15 foot jumper and the other out rolling hard to the rim catching a beautiful pocket pass from Wade. The attention is going to be on Wade and Butler in these type of situations, and Portis needs to continue pick his spots and capitalize on that by putting himself in a position to convert.
• Monday night it was a bit surprising to see Robin Lopez show an emphasis on shooting that 15 foot jumper. Thursday night we saw that again, albeit briefly, Lopez stretching his range. If he can continue to do that on a consistent basis it’ll benefit the Bulls spacing offensively greatly.
• For someone who rarely looks for his own shot, Rondo came out aggressive in looking to score in transition. It’s very apparent early on that when Rondo gets the ball after a defensive rebound, he’s going, whether you’re with him or not. Guys need to get used to that too, so far too many times there’s only been one or two other players running in transition with Rondo. They need to learn quickly that if they get out and run with Rondo, it’ll create more opportunities for them.
It seemed as though there was more of focus on the offensive end of setting drag screens out the secondary break, or high ball screens above the top of the key. This is more than likely Fred Hoiberg’s way of stretching out the defense, especially when Rondo is involved to prevent his man from sagging into the paint and cluttering the spacing.
• The backup point guard spot is still a fluid situation. Spencer Dinwiddie continued his strong play Thursday night, grabbing most of the minutes at backup point (Jerian Grant had that role Monday). Dinwiddie finished with 19 points on 9-13 shooting to go along with six rebounds. It’s no guarantee he’ll receive these same minutes next game, but Dinwiddie certainly didn’t hurt his chances Thursday.
• Paul Zipser got his first taste of the NBA! And you know what, he left me intrigued to say the least. He didn’t necessarily wow you while on the floor, but he made some solid plays on both ends. He’ll more than likely spend this season in the D-League, but I did like the way he played.