First Road Trip, the Importance of Vucevic, Rotation Talk, and Other Bulls Bullets

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First Road Trip, the Importance of Vucevic, Rotation Talk, and Other Bulls Bullets

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We got ourselves a jam-packed Chicago sports Sunday, folks! Losen those pants, grab those chips, and sit your ass on the couch!

•   The new-look Chicago Bulls will hit the road for the first time tonight. While the group will be pitted against the same Cavaliers squad they buried in their first preseason meeting on Monday, this matchup isn’t anything to take lightly. A road game brings its own set of challenges, and this group will have to show they can keep up their same confident and collected play on both ends of the floor without the roar of the home crowd. Even more importantly, however, is the fact that this will be the first time they face an opponent who has fresh tape to dissect. Most teams will primarily focus on themselves during the preseason, but Cavs J.B. Bickerstaff can now test out his team’s game-planning capabilities. They will surely throw a different look at the Bulls after what happened earlier this week, and if the prior experience does help slow down Zach LaVine and Co., it will be important to watch how Billy Donovan adjusts on the fly.

•   I love absolute domination as much as the next fan, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t want this team to see a closer game before October 20th. They need to feel what it’s like to play from behind, and I want to make sure none of these former high-usage scorers sink back into their old No. 1 habits. Getting used to help takes time. Sure, there will be moments when LaVine, DeRozan, or Vucevic has the hot hand, but there is no question this team will be at its deadliest when they share the ball. Hero ball shouldn’t be on any of their radars.

•   Vucevic became the forgotten star in the midst of all this change, but the Bulls reminded us he is one of the most important players on this roster Friday night. From the moment the ball was tipped against the New Orleans Pelicans, Vucevic was the priority. Seven of the first nine possessions practically ran through the big man, and they looked something like this:

Post-up feed to Vucevic (missed)
PnR feed to Vooch (pass to Green, stolen)
Screen assist from Vooch for DeRozan midrange shot (made)
PnR feed to Vooch (made)
Vooch 3 (missed)
Ball 3 (missed)
Vooch post-up (blocked)
DeRozan turnover
Vooch putback (made)

•   Of course, the Bulls may have simply been trying something new in this second preseason game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a frequently used recipe in the regular season. Vucevic doubles as one of the best shooting big men and screening big men in the league, his playmaking ability is also nothing to scoff at. Combine all those skills with multiple ballhandlers, and running a large portion of the halfcourt offense through Vucevic makes perfect sense.

“With all the guys I have around me now, I just have so many opportunities to score: Trail 3’s or a lot of drive and kick or pick and pop or the rolls and the dump-offs,” Vucevic said after the game. “There are so many guys that are good on the ball and willing passers. As a big man, I just said a couple of days ago, it’s a luxury to have.”

•   Scoring opportunities will still be a balancing act for this Bulls offense. Vucevic is still going to see his usage take a dip thanks to the sheer amount of talent that now hovers around him. But I think it’s becoming increasingly clear how important this coaching staff views Vucevic’s role within this offense. Likewise, his players seem to recognize that the sooner they can get him going, the sooner the floor will open up for the rest of the team.

•   With all this talent on the roster, it was obvious Donovan would try to stagger things. LaVine and Vucevic seem to be a consistent pair while Ball and DeRozan stick together. DeRozan also got his own little run with the second unit at the end of the first half on Friday, which is something I’d like to see continue. The bench squad needs a more reliable offensive weapon, especially with White sidelined, and DeRozan can takeover the playmaking role for this group. Overall, staggering everyone appropriately (particularly LaVine, Ball, and DeRozan) ensures the opposing team never gets a break from the high-pace offense.

•   The Chicago Sky’s fight for a ring begins today!

•   Bears dodge a bullet.

•   The season is so close I can taste the ice.



Author: Elias Schuster

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