If Change Is On the Horizon, Has Kornet Shown Enough to Ward off Gafford?

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If Change Is On the Horizon, Has Kornet Shown Enough to Ward off Gafford?

Chicago Bulls

After the first seven games of the Bulls season produced more than their fair share of discouragement, we’re finally hearing Head Coach Jim Boylen talk about change.

Put aside Boylen’s defensive comments from yesterday, and you’ll find that – for a brief moment – he’s now showing some level of accountability: NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson reports that Boylen has given thought to using less of the aggressive pick and roll defense we’ve seen thus far. A change! The head coach also said he wants to address the team’s problem with getting beat off the dribble and could attempt more of a zone. And another!

All of that must be music to Luke Kornet’s ears, a player who’s struggled to gain any fans in his new city.

Viewed as a stretch-big with an impressive three-ball, Kornet has been a liability on both ends of the court to start the season. His claim to fame has been his ability to space the floor on the offensive end and knock down three-pointers easily despite his seven-foot frame. The only problem? He’s connected on just 23.5 percent of his three-point shots to start the season, negating one of the main reasons to have him on the court in the first place!

Even with poor shooting, it’s hard to make a case for why a seven-footer shouldn’t be on the court, but in Kornet’s case, he hasn’t been able to use it to his advantage. He’s only pulling down 2.0 rebounds per game and continues to be dominated in the post.

Defensively, Kornet can barely slow down opposing bigs. He isn’t quick enough to recover after helping double in Boylen’s aggressive pick-and-roll strategy, and his footwork just isn’t smooth enough to stay in front of more athletic bigs.

To be clear though, this rough play isn’t entirely his fault. Boylen’s scheme doesn’t fit who Kornet is as a player. Until the head coach changes his defensive game plan, Kornet will most likely be set up to fail.

The video shared by The Hardwood Herald on Twitter actually does a great job of demonstrating how Kornet could be and has been useful in drop coverage.

Notice how Kornet gets to line up right outside the paint? The big man has less space to travel, and he’s able to actually use his size/length to contest shots. If Boylen switches to a zone, or even just a less frequent blitz, Kornet’s defense could see a pretty huge improvement.

With all of that said, I’m not giving Kornet an “avoid getting benched free card.” The system might not be the best, but he’s also demonstrating how he limits what the Bulls are capable of when in the game. His lack of aggression on defense and helpful rebounding is still very much a problem, and it means we should still definitely be asking about Daniel Gafford.

Remember, the Bulls are dead-last in rebounding percentage so far this season. In fact, a noticeable lack of effort and strength have cost the Bulls numerous times this season -meanwhile, the team’s 2019 second-round draft pick, Daniel Gafford, has expressed both attributes whenever he’s on the court.

He may still be raw and less versatile, but it feels like he can provide (in my opinion) the energy and glue-guy mentality this team has been so desperately missing.

During the preseason, Gafford had the Bulls fifth-best REB% at 10.2 (which was well above Kornet, who recorded a 6.5). One can never truly rely on preseason stats, but the Bulls need to at least give Gafford a chance with some real minutes to see what they have. Chances are, his biggest issue on the court is going to be foul trouble early on, but I’d gladly take that if it means a couple of quick minutes from a defensive, aggressive spark plug.

Also, adding Gafford into the rotation will most likely help keep the Bulls rim-protecting presence at least a tad more consistent. Boylen has talked numerous times about how the Bulls should have the ability to play the same way no matter what combination is in the game, but Kornet isn’t giving the Bulls that opportunity. Gafford is a lot more similar to Carter Jr. in size and skillset than Kornet.

If the Bulls end up changing scheme, it’s quite possible Kornet ends up filling the role just fine. If the plan stays the course though, trying Gafford has to be on the agenda.



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.