With the emergence of Jimmy Butler playing at an All-Star level thus far this season for the Chicago Bulls, as described here and here, the Bulls have yet another weapon on offense. When healthy, the Bulls have one of the best backcourts on the league. Not many teams can throw out guys with the caliber of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. On one hand, you have Rose. Rose is a mastermind with the ball, sometimes overthinking what he should do with it. The court is his canvas, and he is his own paint brush when he has the ball. Not many people can keep up with Rose on the floor, and Rose is always a threat with the ball in his hands. On the other hand, you have Butler. Butler is an emerging talent on the offensive end. He is consistently getting to the free throw line and is in the top-tier in the NBA in ability to get to the line. Standing at 6'7", he is a match-up nightmare for most shooting guards, and the Bulls like to run a lot of post plays for Butler. Butler has shown more confidence in his jump shots, shooting a better overall field goal percentage and three-point percentage than last year.
When you combine Rose and Butler, not only do you get an excellent backcourt, but you also have one of the quickest backcourts in the league. Rose stands at 6'3" and Butler stands at 6'7", so they usually have the height advantage against their defenders. With size and speed already on their side, both Rose and Butler are looking to take advantage of their defenders, and generally, the results have been good. They shoot 46.6% from the field on average per night, including 32.3% from the three and 80.5% from the line. They are scoring an average of 37.3 points per game, notching 8.5 rebounds per game, and are dishing out 8.2 assists per game, all while turning the ball over 4.9 times.
Something the Bulls haven't done much of this season has had a lot of success in relatively small sample sizes. With Rose usually having the height and speed advantage over his opponent at his position (with the same being said for Butler), the Bulls should look to run a two-man pick-and-roll game with Rose and Butler. Granted, both players need to be healthy. Last night, Derrick Rose had to leave the game in the 2nd quarter because his hamstring started bothering him again (it's worth noting that last night was a second night of a back-to-back and Rose hasn't started and finished two consecutive games yet this season). Last night was the first time the Bulls lost when both Rose and Butler play, previous being 4-0 on the season.
Let's take a look at the results from last night when Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose ran the pick-and-roll game.
Last Night Against The Nuggets
The Rose-Butler pick-and-roll only happened twice last night. On both occasions, the Nuggets decided to double Rose. The first time, Rose found Butler on the baseline and Butler buried an 18 foot jump shot. The second time, Rose dished it to a cutting Butler who made it to the rim for an easy lay-up. Those were two of Rose's three assists on the night (in 10 minutes). Two chances, four points.
This is the problem that the Bulls could cause by running a Rose-Butler pick-and-roll. At the top of the key (or at the top of the wing), you have Derrick Rose with the ball in his hands, surveying the field. He is a proven top-notch ball-handler; someone who is just as capable crossing you to the ground as he is shooting straight over you. Rose has always been tough to guard 1-on-1, generally drawing a double team whenever the Bulls set a screen for him. If they don’t double him, Rose uses the screen to get his defender behind him, opening up the rest of the court for Rose to use at his leisure. Either Rose can stop-and-pop and pull up for a 15-18 foot jumper, continue driving to the lane looking for a lay-up/dunk (and look for an and-1 or to at least draw a foul), force another defender to step up to try and stop him, thus forcing the rest of the defense to rotate, which most of the time leads to Rose hitting the open man on a quick pass for a shot attempt.
As for the screener, as I have said, he's an emerging talent on offense, and soon, defenses are going to have to start game-planning against him. If you leave Butler to go double Rose, there are a few things that could happen. Rose could dish it to Butler, and if the defense fails to rotate over to him, he could shoot a jump shot from 15-18 feet out, an area he's shooting a career high in. Butler already has the third best shooting percentage among shooting guards in the NBA. Once defenses realize this, they will start to rotate over to him. If it's down by the baseline, chances are that it will be a big-man rotating to cover Butler. If that's the case, you can expect Butler to blow right past him and get to the hoop, at least drawing a foul, if not making a lay-up or forcing an and-1 as well.
With an offense that already has a post presence the likes of Pau Gasol, an emerging Butler gives the Bulls starting lineup (when fully healthy) another lethal weapon. Utilizing a Rose-Butler pick-and-roll game a little more could open up realms of possibilities on offense for Chicago. Both Rose and Butler are showing this season that they can find the open man on offense, no matter who it is. Forcing defenses to rotate can leave guys like Mike Dunleavy or Kirk Hinrich open on the three-point line, or can leave guys like Taj Gibson or Joakim Noah wide-open in the lane. Another possibility with the pick-and-roll with Rose & Butler is give-and-go. If Butler holds on to the ball for a second when he catches the pass from Rose, his original defender may try and rotate back onto him. If that happens, Rose has the quickness to get behind his defender and cut down the middle of the lane. The possibilities are seemingly endless with a Rose-Butler pick-and-roll. With Butler being an emerging talent on offense, might as well take advantage of that and utilize him within the heart of the offense and make defenses work to get their stops.