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The Bulls offense is onto something

Will Gottlieb Avatar
October 8, 2023

MILWAUKEE — It wasn’t the result they wanted, but there are a lot of positives to take away from the Bulls preseason opener: a 105-102 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bulls looked amazing in the first quarter. Everything the players and coaching staff talked about regarding their desire to shoot more threes, play with more motion and movement, get up and down, get all the way downhill on drives came to fruition from the tip.

The Bulls shot 10 of their first 19 shots were from three. They attempted four free throws and held the Bucks to none. They had four offensive rebounds and only one turnover in the first quarter. They led 30-21 after the first quarter, and I have to admit, that brand of basketball was extremely fun.

“Quick decisions, getting downhill,” Coby White said after the game. “Creating opportunities for us to get the best shot. That’s definitely how we want to play next season.”

After a nice stretch from various iterations of the second unit (Jevon Carter, Ayo Dosunmu, Alex Caruso, Andre Drummond and one of Torrey Craig or Patrick Williams), the core four starters (Vucevic, LaVine, DeRozan, White) return to the court, only to default back to their 2022-23 ways.

“We know if it’s going to be DeMar and Zach and Vooch, as well as they shot the ball, it’s still the 24th best offense,” Donovan said. “It’s not when they shoot the ball. When they shoot the ball, they’re elite at it. It’s what are we doing away from the ball to create space, create opportunities.”

It would have been nice to see what worked so well in the first quarter carry over to the second. But the Bulls are trying new things and it’s going to take time to settle in. As long as they continue to see progress and buy into the fact that they’re on the right track, they’ll continue to improve.

Coby White is a stud now

There probably hasn’t been a game in the DeRozan era where you could earnestly say Coby White was the best player on the floor.

Until Sunday.

In just 23 minutes, White scored 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, 2-of-5 on threes, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and two turnovers. White was the lone starter in the positives in plus-minus. He commanded the game well, bringing the ball up and initiating the offense.

“He sees the bigger picture of the game, it’s probably slowed down for him,” Donovan said. “And I think getting us in and out of stuff, he’s done a good job of that.”

He looked poised bringing the ball across the timeline and entering it to Vucevic in the high-post or top of the key. It may not seem like much, but that allows DeRozan and LaVine to get into position to be able to move and set screens away from the ball in order to complicate things for the defense.

From there, he was able to move into actions that helped the Bulls generate good shots out of his movement and scoring gravity.

Of course, there’s always room to improve — White’s first comments after the game were about the few mistakes he made.

“I think there’s things he can still get better at,” Donovan said of his point guard. “I didn’t feel like, his rookie year, he progressed to seeing the game that way. What I mean by that is, ‘who just made a shot, whose got a hot hand, who hasn’t touched the ball in a couple possessions, who do we need to get involved, are we getting stagnant, do we need ball movement, who do we need to go to?’ Those things, he’s further along. He can still get better, but he’s further along. “

Quick hitters

Starters

  • LaVine (9 points on 4-of-7 shooting), DeRozan (7 points on 2-of-6 shooting) and Vucevic (4 points on 1-of-3 shooting) played only the first half. They were each +10 in the first quarter and -11 in the second.

Patrick Williams

  • Williams played minutes with the starting group and as more of a lead initiator alongside an all-bench unit. I like giving him an opportunity to get reps in each of these roles, and it’s something he probably needs to do a lot more of to continue to stretch his game both as a role player and more of a shot creator. Williams finished with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting. He hit three three-pointers and added a steal and a block. Still, he had only two rebounds in 22 minutes and one assist to two turnovers.

Dalen Terry

  • Terry continues to be plagued by a lack of shooting and handles. If defenses don’t respect his jumper, they can sag off of him. If his handles and explosion aren’t elite enough to beat that kind of defense, he’s going to struggle. The transition game, activity and ball pressure looks great, but his offense is going to prevent him from getting minutes.

Julian Phillips

  • He was a little out of control and lost in the speed of the game, but Phillips had some interesting flashes. He airballed his first attempt — a corner three which he rushed in an attempt to get his feet set in spite of a bad pass. He also collected a loose ball and slammed in a tomahawk. He also had a nice block while backpedaling to contain a driver.

Ayo Dosunmu

  • After starting 51 games last season, Dosunmu is now moved into a co-point guard role with the bench unit. Based on the rotations from the first preseason game, he still figures to play minutes, but in a smaller role.

Up Next:

Bulls host the NBA Champion Denver Nuggets on Thursday night for the first game at the United Center of the 2023-24 season

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