Jim Boylen Has Bulls Running And Gunning To Start Preseason

When Jim Boylen took over for Fred Hoiberg as Chicago Bulls head coach last season, he slowed everything down so the team could focus on fundamentals. “Crawl before we walk, and walk before we run” was a popular Boylen refrain, and the result was a truly awful brand of basketball that made the Bulls unwatchable and led to a lot of ugly losses.

Chicago picked things up a bit during its one competent stretch in February, but one of the biggest questions entering this 2019-20 season was whether Boylen would fully embrace a run-and-gun style. The hiring of assistant coach Chris Fleming away from the Brooklyn Nets was a good start, and Boylen said the right things about the offensive philosophy all offseason.

Talk can be cheap, though, and it’s what happens in the games that really matters. While preseason caveats apply, the Bulls do indeed look like a team that’s ready to charge ahead offensively.

In the preseason opener against the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago launched 38 3-pointers and played the game at a pace of 111.50, per NBA.com. In Wednesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Bulls got up 37 3-pointers and played at a pace of 113.5.

For reference, Chicago attempted just 25.9 3-pointers per game last season (27th in the NBA) and played at a pace of 99.30 (20th in the NBA). The Bucks and Pelicans both play fast, so this played into the track-meet feel, but Chicago made it a point to push the ball, shoot 3-pointers and cut out mid-range shots when possible.

Keeping up this kind of pace will not be possible over the course of a full season (Hawks were first at 104.56 last season), but there’s no reason why the Bulls can’t be one of the fastest teams in the league. Their top scorer, Zach LaVine, is one of the most athletic players in the NBA. They have a pair of young bigs in Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. (when healthy) who can get out and run. Otto Porter Jr. is one of the better 3-and-D players in the league. They just drafted a speedster in Coby White and added skilled, smart veterans in Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky, plus a stretch 5 in Luke Kornet and an athletic rim-runner in Daniel Gafford.

Simply put, the Bulls have the horses to run and gun 3-pointers, and they had great success doing it against the Pelicans on Wednesday night. Chicago may have lost the game, 127-125, but the first three quarters showed why some think this team can make the postseason after a disastrous 22-win season in 2018-19.

The Bulls were flying up and down the court, whipping the ball around for open shots against a Pelicans team that projects to be good defensively. The home Bulls racked up 71 first-half points, 24 first-half assists and 11 first-half 3-pointers. The third quarter was more of the same, with Chicago pouring in 36 more points to finish with 107 after three, which is when the starters were done for the night. At that point, the Bulls had 34 assists while shooting 53.7% overall and 12-of-29 from 3-point land.

Chicago looked especially potent when it was running a 5-out attack with Kornet at center. At one point in the second quarter, a lineup of Satoransky, White, LaVine, Markkanen and Kornet poured in 20 points in five minutes. Kornet then started the second half in place of the ineffective Cristiano Felicio, and that group (with Porter instead of White) accounted for 21 points in nearly seven minutes of action.

Boylen will have the ability to mix and match his lineups to make sure the Bulls can have multiple shooters and ball handlers on the floor at all times. Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison (when healthy) should all be able to help Chicago push pace as well, and Valentine brings 3-point shooting to the table. Ryan Arcidiacono is another good shooter the Bulls can bring off the bench, and he’s a smart point guard who rarely makes mistakes.

All of this doesn’t necessarily mean Chicago is going to have an elite, high-powered offensive attack this season. It has only been two preseason games and there’s still a lot to work on when it comes to decision-making and taking care of the ball. But in this small sample size, there has been a glimpse of how the Bulls want to play, and the results very well could be explosive if things go right.

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I have been writing about the Chicago Bulls since the 2010-11 season. After briefly running a startup site called Bulls 101, I moved on to SB Nation and wrote for their ...