Thursday, January 17, 2008

Chicago Bulls: Style of Play Does Not Match Personnel

I've been thinking a lot lately about what has gone wrong with the Chicago Bulls and why. Upon taking over, John Paxson made it very clear that he was going to build around players with winning backgrounds who will work hard and stay out of trouble. It was looked upon as an honorable thing to do, and everyone supported the idea from the start.

Although many believe that these players are too soft, I don't think this is the real problem for the Bulls. Paxson wants his teams to play tough perimeter defense and on offense execute in half court sets. This is where the flaw is: his players don't fit the style of play he wants. To play tough, active perimeter defense you need big, versatile guards that can defend on the perimeter. To execute in half court sets, you need either a big man that can score with his back to the basket or a wing player that can consistently score off the dribble. The Bulls have none of these things.

So as Chicago had varied success with this for three seasons, once the team tuned out Skiles and began to forget about the ideals they had stressed (toughness, high energy, execution), they began to fall apart. Although the players never fit the style Paxson and Skiles wanted to play, Skiles' superior coaching masked this problem. Once the players put Skiles aside and tried to play differently, it all came crashing down.

So now, either the Bulls need to change their style or vision of how they will play (keep the players) or keep these ideals and change the players to make it work.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Style of Play: Milwaukee Bucks

I spent some time Friday night watching the Bucks-Lakers game and thinking about the type of team Milwaukee is. The Bucks have missed Michael Redd and Desmond Mason for a significant amount of time due to injury. However, they are twenty-third in the NBA in points per game. Though they lack some depth at the end of the bench, they do have a nice collection of young players who can score from outside.

Often times during TNT's studio show, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith talk about "what type of team are they?". This is referring to the Suns and Warriors being up-tempo teams, the Mavericks being a tough defensive team, the Nuggets having the ability to score a lot of points in bunches, the Spurs as a versatile type of team.

So the Bucks - what type of team are they? I think this identity needs to follow the Suns and Warriors into the fast break mode. With a group of talented guards (Charlie Bell, Mo Williams, Michael Redd), versatile big men (Yi Jianlian, Charlie Villanueva), and wings that can score in transition (Bobby Simmons, Desmond Mason) they seem to have some important pieces. Unlike the Suns, they are missing that big time post player that can get out and run, but I certainly think they would have more success if they began to push the tempo. As they are currently constructed, they play Yi and Villanueva interchangibly - I would play them together. A lineup of Williams, Bell, Redd, Villanueva, and Yi would certainly be able to score. This group would probably struggle to defend, especially in the post, but I doubt the dropoff from Andrew Bogut would be great. In fact, I would look to move Bogut in the offseason since he would no longer fit with the team's plan.

Kansas State freshman, Michael Beasley, would likely be the missing piece for the Bucks to really succeed in an up-tempo offense. Since the 2002-03 season ended with the departure of George Karl, the Bucks have been stuck in a funk trying to figure out their next move. Bringing in a coach that will push the offense and adding a big man with great athleticism would give the Bucks a new look, and likely, a successful one.