This season has been two 3-game streaks: the opening one complete with great vibes, and then the last 3 losses. And it’s a pretty stark difference:
Reason for the Bulls' bad play: They've been the worst defense in the league, which has stalled the O into the halfcourt & limited assists. pic.twitter.com/WkDriPFXZs— Mark Karantzoulis (@MKarantzoulis) November 6, 2016
So you can start with the defense, which when producing makes everything easier. When it’s not, things get ugly.
Post-game after his team’s latest loss, Jimmy Butler did have some leader-y platitudes but also got specific and insightful, here to KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
"Some guys just switch when we're not supposed to switch," Butler said. "I know who is supposed to be switching and who's not. When that happens, don't nobody know what to do because that's not in the game plan, I can tell you that. We didn't prepare for it."
Butler didn't specify who is blowing defensive assignments. But it's clear that after the coaching staff changed the pick-and-roll schemes during the offseason to feature more trapping or outright switching, there are growing pains.
Now let’s talk about the incorrect use of a double-negative. I’m kidding, let’s talk about who Jimmy is not calling out.
Our pal Stephen Noh at The Athletic has a pretty good idea: it’s Rajon Rondo.
Rondo’s switching has the appearance of being completely at-whim. Indiana Pacers’ assistant coach Popeye Jones called the Bulls’ switching “random” during a halftime interview on Saturday’s game, and Rondo’s complete lack of effort to stay with his man often leads to the Bulls’ big men being forced to defend quicker guards in space.
Rondo simply does not play with any sort of force on the defensive end any more, and the Pacers put him through pick-and-roll repeatedly to generate easy mismatches all night.
There’s a few more examples over at this post, which is worth checking out in its entirety.
It’s not just Rondo who’s to blame, though he seems to be the main offender. We’ve all come to know and loathe Dwyane Wade’s bouts of indifference when falling into the photographer area or complaining to officials. Jimmy himself has spaced out on more than a couple occasions. When it comes to the resulting ‘random’ switches, the cause is usually laziness. Instead of fighting through a screen to stay on your guy, easier to just point and tell someone else to get him instead.
Part of this offseason was supposed to be addressing the Bulls defense at the point of attack, and it looks like their starting point guard just can’t do it anymore. That shouldn’t have been a surprise. It doesn’t help that his primary backup, known as a better defender, is out for a while. So as the Bulls try to get out of this slump, look at their effort on that end, as it’s dictating the strategy.