Discover more from BlogABull.com
We have already reached "must-win" status, as Bulls embark on first back-to-back
More fallout from opening night heading into hosting Raptors and then at Detroit
It's tough to figure what is a consensus among Bulls fandom and media, and if that even matters. Well, I suppose the second part it’s actually easy to figure: nothing people say about the team actually matters.
For example, while I think it was is ridiculous that Vuc thought the problem with opening night was not enough Vuc, I know *I* don't matter. From what I could hear second-hand, Stacey King was banging on about using Vuc more in that game. But he doesn't matter. Some of the beat media (plus team partners) indulging this ‘the offense should go through Vuc’ narrative - propagated nearly entirely by Vuc himself - is annoying, but doesn’t actually matter.
Will Gottlieb at CHGO tried to figure out, based off the timing of Vuc’s big-mad moment, what Vuc was upset about.
Can see why Vooch was getting frustrated…Vooch got like 3 touches in the third quarter. Hit a hook shot and found Caruso for a 3. Thunder started scoring, Bulls went on a drought. He got a tech for throwing the ball at the stantion.
OK, but to that point when he was removed from the game and yelled at the coach, Vuc played nearly 10 minutes and his team (team-first guy, I’m told) held even with their opponent during that time.
Sure, maybe there are a couple post opportunities missed, but engineering an offense towards a post entry pass is difficult, takes a lot of time, and the Thunder defense was ready to collapse and help inside. And if juding the offense holistically: while getting the ball inside can create three-point opportunities, and Vuc has passing skills, if you’re trying to create a more dynamic faster-paced inside-out offense with a bigger threat at PG, Vuc is now the fourth option in the starting lineup.
Vucevic should not be more of a focal point, and shouldn’t complain about it. I don’t even totally buy that he received any promise that it would be this way and management and Donovan were instead nodding along waiting for him to sign a contract extension only they would ever offer. Hey Vuc, Fit in or fit out, shoot threes when open and that’ll help open up the TEAM’S offense.
So back to the talk about it…what about Billy Donovan and DeMar DeRozan? In the postgame media availability and after practice the next day, they were both bending over backwards to appease Vuc's whininess. Which is understandable in that they want to keep Vuc from derailing the locker room cohesiveness, but still seems only necessary because they’re reacting to the reaction: I think it's lost on the media covering the team that this story could easily be spun as "entitled and aging 4th option is acting out", but it’s like Vuc has some hold over them like he does over AK, remembering the glory days where he was the 13th man on an a couple All-Star teams (the EAST roster!).
But again, that’s all noise, even from the coach and teammates. What will be really interesting to see is if the team on the court scraps their new offensive ethos after one game because some threes didn’t go in and their league-average-ish starting center got upset.
The real problem in that opening night loss was not that, it was the defense.
(nevermind that the franchise bends its entire defensive construct towards Vuc’s limitations…)
Per NBA.com tracking stats, the Bulls gave up THIRTY “wide-open” (closest defender 6+ feet away) threes. OKC hit half of them. Last season the Bulls gave up 17.3 of those per game (12th), and opponents shot a moderately-but-not-entirely unlucky 38.3%. Though they did allow the most threes designated as merely “open” (closest defender 4-6 feet away) and opponents shot a slightly unluckier 34%.
I was worried heading into this season that the defense was not as good as stats showed last year, and it’d be worse this year with the notable change being White playing more minutes. That proved out in the first game, where the Bulls allowed a ton of threes but unlike last year a lot more went in, plus they were facing a dynamic guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and no longer starting backcourt-hounding defenders.
On the bright side: that shouldn’t be an issue in their next game! The Raptors have been called a mirror image of the Bulls in terms of their franchise mid-ness and direction. And on the court it’s similar as well: great defense but poor shooting.
There are some differences though: the Raptors may, like the Bulls, have a ceiling and lack of star power, but unlike our beloved their best players are either in their primes still or yet to enter it. And while also not having a lot of roster turnover, it appears they have decided to lean into what they already did well: out is Fred VanVleet and he’s replaced by worse shooter but better defender in Schroder. They just had Jakob Poeltl for like 20 games last year so he’s somewhat of a new addition as well, a very good defender inside (and isn’t asking for the ball).
And unlike the Bulls, while they are both talking about playing with more threes and faster pace, the Raptors are saying this with a new voice. New Raps coach Darko Rajakovic had a lot more fun walking into their locker room than Donovan did walking in on the players-only meeting.
This is not an opponent that will make it easy on the Bulls offense. The Raptors are going to be very annoying to play against, and likely watch too. They’ve put up the 2nd best defensive rating in the young season with a 92.1 against the TWolves.
And I think the solution won’t be letting the long-armed Raps wait for Vuc to try and get the ball. It’d be more useful to use movement and heavy pick-and-roll/pop to get the defense moving. I think it’s being charitable to assume this, but maybe that is all Vuc is asking for. If he’s instead asking for him to just get the ball more because he thinks others should/would play off him more effectively, I hope Donovan and the actual top three offensive options in the starting lineup do not relent to Vuc’s pressure campaign on the court like they did in public.
It’ll probably be ugly, but just be effective enough to where the Raptors offense should stink enough (only put up 95.1 ORtg in their opener), and get a W.
If Vuc complains after that, his words really don’t matter.