The Kyle Korver Complication
I’m writing this post just hours before the start of the Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat NBA Playoff Series. It’s a rather risky time to write something like this, as I could have the facts thrown in my face in a matter of moments. However, the fact is, that no matter what happens in Game 1 of these Eastern Conference Finals, Kyle Korver—yes, that Kyle Korver—will play a major role in determining which team goes on to the 2011 NBA Finals.
In fact, Kyle Korver is a member of the Chicago Bulls best five-man unit during these 2011 NBA Playoffs. This unit involves Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah and accounts for the second-most minutes of any five-man unit on the Bulls. While the first unit plays more than twice as long in terms of minutes, the adjusted plus-minus ratio of that squad is negative and has a much lower Overall and Offensive rating.
So why is Korver so vital to the Bulls?
Well, on a team that finished just 11th among NBA offenses in terms of efficiency, the Bulls aren’t exactly experts on how to put the basketball in the hoop. They struggle doing so—which is part of the reason Derrick Rose looks so damn awesome on this team, because he gets to take all of the shots while the rest of his offensive inefficient teammates take a back seat.
However, when Korver comes into the game, not only is he a spot-up shooter, he’s instant offense. He doesn’t play starters’ minutes, but when he’s on the floor, he’s the Bulls fourth leading scorer per minute, and that’s nothing to laugh at. They run curls for Korver, they let Korver throw it into the post, and of course, he’ll shoot the quick three on the delayed break. To put it simply, Korver is one of the Bulls best options to get high-percentage shots, and the Bulls do indeed take advantage of that.
But in this series, it’s going to be hard to get Korver on the floor. He doesn’t exactly play great defense, and with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade playing 40-42 minutes per game at the only two positions Korver can defend, how on Earth will they justify putting him on the basketball court?
They can’t, and they probably won’t.
Last round, against the Atlanta Hawks, the Chicago Bulls played Kyle Korver significantly fewer minutes than his average, and Korver only played 5 minutes in Game 5. Like the Heat, the Hawks have highly-productive players at the 2 and 3 positions, and that forced Korver to the bench more often than he’s used to. Against the Heat, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James pose an even bigger threat than Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson do, making it extremely hard to get Korver his regular minutes this series.
So where’s the missing offense from the bench going to come from?
I wish I could tell you where it’s going to come from if the Bulls do indeed decide to play Korver less, but the numbers suggest that the only viable option is Derrick Rose. He’s already doing so much, as he’s near the top of the NBA in usage rate. To ask him to shoot the ball more, especially when he’s not all that efficient, is asking too much of him. But if he doesn’t, who will? In looking at the data, nobody stands out as an answer to the question. And when the data fails to show an answer, chances are there isn’t one.
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