Bulls’ offense still a work in progress heading into the offseason

SHARE Bulls’ offense still a work in progress heading into the offseason

Jim Boylen directs the Bulls during a game. | AP Photo/Matt Marton

There was no question that Bulls coach Jim Boylen came in hot that first week on the job in December.

Some of it was just his personality, some of it was a code red ordered from on high, some of it was simply done for effect for a team that needed a little “shock and awe’’ and some of it was just a search for answers.

Boylen, who took over from fired Fred Hoiberg on Dec. 3, wanted to see exactly what he had on the court and off the court — the team’s makeup and toughness.

With only three games left, however, Boylen was honest enough to admit that he doesn’t have all the X’s and O’s answers, especially when it comes to how this team will mesh when everyone is healthy.

All the key core components were injured this season, whether it was Lauri Markkanen’s elbow injury to start the season or rookie Wendell Carter Jr. having to be shut down after 44 games because of surgery on his left thumb.

Veteran Otto Porter Jr. has never even played with Carter because he was acquired on Feb. 6, weeks after Carter was lost for the season.

So all Boylen and his staff have to go on are fragments.


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Markkanen’s February, Zach LaVine’s October and March, Porter’s 15 games before his right shoulder betrayed him and more than a few eye-opening moments from Carter at practice and in games.

Putting those pieces together is what Boylen has been working on in his free time and will continue to work on during the offseason.

“I have a feel [for how I plan to run this offense at full strength],’’ Boylen said. “I have a sense. I don’t want to act like I have all the answers. I think the multi-ballhandler thing is good. Our spacing improved. I thought we established driving the ball to the paint this year. We’ve done that well. So there is some foundation laid.

“But it will be a work in progress.’’

The Bulls’ offense was at its best when the multiple ballhandlers were unleashed, specifically Markkanen. That rebound-and-go mentality saw Markkanen average 26 points and 12.2 rebounds in February. He exhibited ballhandling skills he had previously displayed in international play.

LaVine flashed an ability to rebound and attack the defense before it could get set, and he also set up his teammates, so there’s definitely an offensive philosophy to build on.

Porter will be the wild card in the offense because of his ability to knock down outside shots — an aspect of his game the Bulls were aware of — and a surprisingly good feel for attacking defenses out of the pick-and-roll, a more obscure aspect of his game that wasn’t featured with the Wizards because of their ball-dominant backcourt.

“I was so encouraged with Otto’s ability to run pick-and-roll because that’s something we can expand on,’’ Boylen said. “I don’t know that yet. I think we can.’’

Boylen is all in favor of letting guys rest and recover starting next week, but he also wants them to prepare for a summer of work to help put those unanswered questions to bed.

“We’re building something here,’’ Boylen said. “We’re not a team that’s playing until the middle of May or middle of June and takes a month off. We have to get back to work.

‘‘I know my staff and I will do that. And I’m hoping our team will do that, too.’’

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