Bulls appear to drop the ball on pick-and-roll coverage

A constant in every Bulls game this season has been opposing teams attacking the Bulls defense with pick-and-rolls.

Part of the reason is that center Nikola Vucevic never had a reputation as a solid defender. But with their small lineup, the Bulls also don’t have much rim protection once Vucevic is out of the paint.

Ahead of Monday’s game in New York, coach Billy Donovan explained some goals of the Bulls’ pick-and-roll defense, none of which involve the center backing up and staying away from the screen.

“We don’t play a drop. We’ve never played a drop all year,” Donovan said. “Vuc should be up there at screen level.

“The further away you are, the more it gives those (guards) a head start to come at you, and Vuc isn’t necessarily one of those guys that’s going to be Rudy Gobert there. He has to start more top and I think Vuc has done a good job here recently.”

The Bulls put on one of their best defensive performances on Saturday in Cleveland, and Donovan said the plan for that game was to trap the screen in an effort to get the ball dropped by Darius Garland or Caris Levert. Often this leads to passing the ball and the Bulls have to scramble to keep up with the defense.


“We have three or four different things to do in pick-and-roll coverage,” Donovan said. “We definitely want (Vucevic) to feature up there, so he has to read his man. Does his man roll hard, does he jump, what does he do?”

Williams needs activity:

Since returning from left wrist surgery, Patrick Williams has produced modest numbers, as expected. He was averaging 4.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 17 minutes heading into Monday’s game.

“He came back in that first game against Toronto and he played really well off the bench,” Donovan said. “Then he had a few games where you didn’t feel it. Then all of a sudden we come back against Cleveland and you kind of feel it.

“He’s on the offensive glass, he’s had a cut in his back, he’s had a couple defensive rebounds. He has to incorporate that into the game all the time. It’s got to be consistent, running him, getting him his athleticism and strength and his size in the game, there are plenty of opportunities for him to do that.”

Injury update:

The Bulls are not expecting an update on Lonzo Ball’s return until the end of the week when his 10-day non-race stint ends, but coach Billy Donovan has spoken about Ball’s state of mind. Monday. “Lonzo wants to do everything he can to get back to playing,” Donovan said. “So we start from this premise that he wants to do everything he can do.” …

Knicks guard Derrick Rose was shooting before Monday’s game, but looks unlikely to play again this season. Rose has been out since December 16 with an ankle problem.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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