Nikola Vucevic, the Chicago Bulls' star center, is fast becoming an integral piece in their high-paced five-out offensive scheme. For those that don't know, a five-out offense is when all players are lined up around the perimeter, including the big man.
A core principle of the five-out offense is that the center is either a capable three-point shooter or playmaker, to keep the defense engaged so they don't sag off when the big is outside the paint. The Chicago Bulls have the perfect blend of speed and power, with Nikola Vucevic falling into the latter category. A plodding big-man, Vucevic is often the last man to join an offensive possession, but often that plays into the Chicago Bulls' hands.
You see, when you have players such as Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, and DeMar DeRozan, the onus will always be on pushing the pace to get early offensive opportunities. Seldom will the Chicago Bulls ask their star scorers to all the opposition defense to set up before looking for scoring opportunities - quite frankly, that would be incredibly counter-productive.
Rather, the Chicago Bulls rely on Nikola Vucevic's floor spacing and passing ability to provide them with clear-cut driving lanes, and allow their wings to work off-ball for screens and re-locations. The threat of Nikola Vucevic's three-point shot, coupled with his ability to see over the defense and make the right read has provided the Chicago Bulls with a near perfect balance when operating in their five-out offense.
Of course, situating all five players outside of the perimeter isn't always a possibility, so teams often run a four-out-one-in brand of offense. The only player on the interior in this offensive sequence is the big-man, either hovering around the dunker spot, setting cross screens, or posting up on the low block or at the elbow.
Nikola Vucevic has never been one to pressure the rim in terms of shot attempts within four feet - he would rather use his pull-up jumper from both the short and long mid-range, possibly due to his effectiveness as a short-roll outlet. Regardless of the why, the Chicago Bulls' gameplan fits right into Vucevic's love for the mid-range and three-point game.
LaVine is a rim-pressuring slasher who likes to drive the lane when coming off screens, while DeRozan is one of the best mid-range shooters in the NBA. Having a big man clogging up the paint isn't conducive to how the Chicago Bulls are looking to attack their opponents.
Think about it like this: Everytime Nikola Vucevic is on the low-block, or chilling around the dunker spot, the defense is focused on protecting the rim, making it harder to slashers or pull-up shooters to find space or shooting pockets. Place Nikola Vucevic at the elbow or on the perimeter, and the defense has to space out, leaving space behind them which can be exploited with smart off-ball movement.
There's a method to all this organized madness.
Admittedly, the Chicago Bulls' will still love the rebounding that Nikola Vucevic brings, both offensively and defensively. The level of glass control the Chicago Bulls now have, with the likes of Ball, Vucevic and Patrick Williams on their roster, will ensure teams struggle to dominate the boards - something the Chicago Bulls have struggled with in recent seasons.
Within the Chicago Bulls' new system, which has been buoyed by the team's recent acquisitions, Nikola Vucevic can be more deliberate in his decision making, and will make use of a varied usage rate as a result. He may not have had the greatest start to his career in a Chicago Bulls uniform last season when the team missed out on the playoffs, but everything is looking rosy right now if the team's preseason performances are to be believed.
There's still a long way to go before the Chicago Bulls earn the right to be considered contenders in the Eastern Conference - something that may not happen until they add more depth to their bench unit. But with Nikola Vucevic anchoring the team's two primary offensive schemes, while also providing solid defense from drop coverage, the Chicago Bulls are a team trending upwards.
With another game to play next Saturday, when the team faces the Memphis Grizzlies for their final preseason game, there's still time to see the Chicago Bulls look to implement more wrinkles to their offense.