(670 The Score) The Bulls were 27th in the NBA in offensive efficiency as they went 22-43 last season, a fact that wasn’t lost on the players, including several who were frustrated by their utilization in former coach Jim Boylen’s system.
As training camp has opened at the Advocate Center this week, the offensive end represents the area the Bulls must improve in significantly if they’re to achieve their stated goal of making the playoffs. New coach Billy Donovan understands that, and to hear players like center Wendell Carter Jr. tell it, he has been proactive on that front when it comes to making changes.
“From what he told me, he watched film on us and saw how versatile or the potential of me being versatile on the court,” Carter said Thursday. “He actually came to me and told me that he wants me to be more interchangeable and learn the four position, learn the five position. It will just help us out on the offensive end. He’s actually came to me about those. I think that’s a good thing.”
Carter, 21, had a minimal role on offensive end while averaging 11.3 points last season. After averaging 8.4 field-goal attempts in 25.2 minutes as a rookie, Carter’s opportunity dipped, as he averaged 8.0 field-goal attempts in 29.2 minutes in his second year. That represented the seventh-most field-goal attempts per game of any Bull, despite Carter shooting a solid 53.4% that was the second-best mark on the team of anyone in the regular rotation.
Already, Donovan has discussed his desire for Carter to be more of a “facilitator.” As Carter explained, that means more touches around the free-throw line, where the hope is for him to use his vision and instincts to make the right reads.
“In the talks that we’ve had, he wants me to play a lot from the trail position, catching it at the free-throw line, making my decisions there, possibly attacking the rim from there or going dribble hand-offs, picking-and-popping, playing from there, playing out of the dunker (spot), which I’m used to,” Carter said. “So he’s expressed all those different kind of styles of play for myself. I’m definitely excited to see how it’s all going to unravel once the season gets underway.”
Donovan’s conversation with Carter about how to best utilize him is a theme. Big man Lauri Markkanen also has expressed his enthusiasm for Donovan’s plan to get him on the move more after Markkanen was a spot-up shooter too often for his liking last season. Early on, Donovan has stressed the need for the Bulls to cut more off the ball in the half-court setting, which he believes can naturally lead to better ball movement.
And as Carter mentioned, Donovan is trying to adjust his system to his players’ strengths rather than expect them to fit into any preconceived plan he had.
“I feel like every player plays well in a certain style of play,” Carter said. “And I feel like the style of play that I've been presented with and how we're going to play as a team, I feel like is going to be amazing. After playing with most of these guys for two years now, I know what they're good at, what they're not good at.
“I feel like Billy has kind of catered to that. If someone likes to come off a stagger screen to a one-two shot, he's going to make sure that's done for that player. So, I feel like he's just catering all his offense to everybody's strengths and catering the defense to everybody's strengths. So I feel like that's what’s giving me that confidence that we're going to be really good this year.”
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.