Since the Tom Thibodeau era began in Chicago, there’s been one major ongoing area of concern, and no — its not Derrick Rose’s knees. While Rose’s health remains 24/7 – 365 news; the Tom Thibodeau era, even with Derrick Rose has never amounted to much success on the offensive end. Since Thibs’ arrival in the 2010-2011 season, no Bulls offense has managed better than 18th in the league in points per game.
With Rose, the Bulls are a middle-of-the-pack offense fueled by a championship level defense. These past two season without Rose however; the Bulls offense is a train wreck entirely dependent on their world-class defense. At this point, two things have become clear: life without Derrick (as much as it pains me to say) is a life the Bulls cannot ignore or pretend doesn’t exist any longer, and the Bulls will never win anything of importance wielding only a competent defense.
The Bulls plan and anticipate Rose to be fully healthy for the start of the 2014 season, but if Rose were to be lost for any portion of time due to injury, this time the Bulls must be readily prepared for the worst. Enter, Carmelo Anthony. In an ideal world, the Bulls would acquire Anthony in a heartbeat, but an ideal world doesn’t account for over $23 million dollars worth of cap space to be cleared in order to afford paying a max-deal for Carmelo.
So for all intents and purposes of this discussion, lets put the cap space dilemmas and the roster transaction hypotheticals away for now, and just look at why the Bulls so desperately need Melo. For starters, any team could use a guy like Carmelo Anthony. He’s one-on-one, isolation, bailout offense – there’s maybe a handful of those guys in the league. Truly, only a handful, because while there’s plenty of guys in the league who can create their own shot, the vast majority (a certain teammate of Melo’s last season comes to mind) of those guys are called ‘gunners.’ Although gunners are becoming a dying breed, so it seems…alas (here’s a salute to you, Ricky Davis).
Without Rose, the Bulls have stagnancy issues, especially late in the shot clock. Nobody on the Bulls can create for themselves and even when Rose was healthy, defenses would key-in on Rose as the sole source of individual offense. Often, Rose would be forced in to taking +20 footers when the Bulls needed a score, because teams clogged the lane and forced difficult passing angles to teammates.
Rose never had a great tandem in the pick-and-roll to work with, either. Carlos Boozer has fallen out of favor (hard to say if he ever was in favor) with just about everybody in Chicago, but cut him some slack. Rose and Boozer only played about a season and a half’s worth of games together, and he obviously came to Chicago with the intention of being paired with Rose and attempt to recreate some of what he and Deron Williams had while in Utah.
The one area the Bulls have maintained well, with or without Rose, has been spacing on offense. Thibs’ sets, especially this past season with how he utilized Joakim Noah at the top-of-the-key, have always been spacious and not really cramped or condensed. But other than spacing, the problem areas of one-on-one scoring and the pick-and-roll are still very much alive in Chicago until another proven commodity comes along.
Carmelo immediately eviscerates both those glaring weaknesses for the Bulls, and putting him in pick-and-roll with Rose is a tantalizing proposition. Think of it this way: with Rose and Melo in pick-and-roll at the top of the key, Noah roams either baseline, and placing two shooters on each baseline-to-wing extended? That play alone could produce a top ten offense.
The lack of offense from Bulls teams past under Thibs isn’t on account of a lack of spontaneity from Thibs, either. Thibs tries to innovate and tweak, but throw Melo into the mix? All of a sudden Thibs can draw-up plays with multiple weapons at his disposal in mind, instead of just one, or in the case of the last two seasons, none.
While the detractors out there may be more inclined to trade for Minnesota’s Kevin Love, and even Rose himself saying he prefers Love as opposed to Melo. The idea of passing up on a 30-year-old superstar whose reputation and legacy needs winning more than another scoring title depends entirely on if Carmelo comes to that realization. If Carmelo finds that fire and hunger to win a championship? Then Chicago will be the first to welcome him with open arms.
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