… and the tactics NBA players use to get to the foul line
The Chicago Bulls made numerous front office and coaching staff changes since their last taste of NBA action back in March. Since then, there is a new head coach in Billy Donovan alongside a plethora of new assistant coaches and an entirely new front office. While the front office did not have much opportunity to change things around the organization roster wise, they are heading into the 2020–21 campaign with a ‘Evaluation of Talent’ attitude. They will roll with pretty much the same roster as they were left with from the previous regime aside from their draft selections, Patrick Williams and Devon Dotson. As well as their lone free agent signee in Garrett Temple.
While the front office was handcuffed when it came to roster moves, the new coaching staff has had the opportunity to implement their schemes both offensively and defensively. They have also begun creating a new culture around the organization. One that will hopefully lead to the Bulls becoming a winning franchise.
The new culture that Billy Donovan and his staff looked to create was not on display when the Bulls tipped off the regular season on Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks. The Bulls saw themselves in a 40 point hole in the 3rd quarter and looked abysmal for the majority of the game. The offense lacked ball movement, player movement, and most importantly shot-making. The Bulls 23% from beyond the arc and 41% from the field. Looking at these numbers, you can come to the conclusion that poor shooting was the problem… However, the defense was even worse.
The Atlanta Hawks put up 83 points in the FIRST HALF of this game… Absolutely zero resistance from the Bulls defense. It was reminiscent of last year when it seemed as though every possession for the opposing team was going to end up in points and there was nothing the Bulls could do about it. Trae Young and the Hawks had their way with the Bulls. They shot an even 40% from beyond the arc and just under 54% overall. The new-look Atlanta Hawks looked every bit as advertised even without a number of their offseason acquisitions and their first round draft pick.
As good as Trae Young was, I have to express my disgust for the way the Bulls defended him. First and foremost, Trae definitely got hair plugs this offseason because he was losing it last year and has a full head of hair this season. Solid move by him.
Now, obviously it is the first game of the season, so there isn’t much the Bulls could do in terms of a scouting report aside from looking at last year’s film. Although, it was abundantly clear the Bulls didn’t even try to scout out how to guard him nor any player on the Hawks the way that game went. Great NBA players like Trae Young add things to their game every year and it was clear what he added this season… The ability to draw fouls. It is an epidemic in the NBA right now where the elite scorers in the league find ways to get to the free throw line. Trae Young is no different. But I do have to express my opinion on the way in which he draws those fouls and gets easy points from the charity stripe.
Some of the top NBA scorers do it. James Harden, Damien Lillard, Luke Doncic amongst others. They come off a screen with their defender trailing and when they feel their defender on their back, they jump back into them to draw contact while throwing up a wild shot. The Ref sees the contact which is really a 50/50 split of contact between the opposing defender and the teammate setting the screen and blows his whistle giving the shooter 2 or 3 free throws depending on whether he was behind the arc or not. Trae Young pulled this move multiple times against the Bulls, and wound up scoring a game high 37 points. 12 of which game from the free throw line.
I don’t have a problem with being able to draw fouls and get easy free throw attempts. As I mentioned, Trae Young did this multiple times throughout the game. One of which was just inside halfcourt… he came up the floor, called for a screen, went off the screen with Bulls 2-way player Adam Mokoka trailing the screen, he then jumped back into Mokoka while throwing up a wild shot from just inside the halfcourt line. Ref blows the whistle… boom… 3 free throws… 3 easy points for Trae. That is where I have the problem. The fact that he can jump back into his defender who is standing with his hands straight up in the air, throw up a hail mary of a shot from half court and get three free throws… Yes, he draws contact and I understand that, but he is the one initiating the contact. There is nothing the Bulls defender can do to avoid the contact when Trae literally jumps backwards into the body of his defender. It is maddening…
The thing that makes me most mad about this new wave of drawing bogus fouls is the fact that nobody on the Bulls does it. Nobody has added the cheap foul draw to their game. However, that is what is most infuriating. If anyone on the Bulls started doing this move, I can guarantee it would not be called EVERY SINGLE TIME like it is for Trae Young, James Harden, Dame Lillard or others who do it. The Bulls don’t have any ‘All Stars’ that get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to drawing foul calls. If Zach Lavine tried to do this move in a game and he throws up a wild shot from half court… The ref would swallow his whistle and Lavine would end up on ‘Shaqtin a Fool’…
Players that have mastered the art of drawing fouls are elite scorers in the NBA there is no questioning that, but NBA refs should study this move closely and really determine whether or not the defender is committing the foul or if the offensive player is initiating the contact that otherwise would not occur if they don’t jump backward, contort their body, flail their arms and fall to the floor… While I don’t see that happening any time soon as the NBA officiating seems to get worse and worse every season, it is something that the NBA needs to look into for future seasons. Like I said, I am all for creative scoring and finding your way to the free throw line, but you can’t reward a player for throwing up a half court heave just because he knows the ref is going to blow the whistle and give him three shots… Just my two cents… Carry on.