One of the things that is frequently said about this version of the Bulls - by us, the media, Vinny, and the players themselves - is that this team is pretty decent when everyone shows up and plays hard. The converse, of course, would be that we can't afford for anyone to have an off night or be out with injury if we want to be competitive.
This makes perfect sense for any team in the abstract, and especially makes sense to anyone who watches the Bulls regularly. But, being a geek (and wanting to procrastinate some real work), I wanted to see how the record actually stacks up under this assumption. I've seen other people raise similar questions about the record, so thought this would be worth putting out there for anyone who is interested.First issue is what counts as a "subpar" night. I used gamescore stats from basketball-reference.com for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it's available for every game. It's also convenient in that it combines a lot of different means of contribution into a single number. There is the issue of it being a sum-total rather than minutes-based stat, but that's not a big concern here as I'm comparing any given game for a player against that players' season performance. I'm willing to live with the fiction that no one's minutes have varied drastically.
Second, to determine which nights are subpar for each player, I computed their season average gamescore and its standard deviation. Any specific game for which a player is more than one standard deviation below their average counted as subpar. This limits the games in question to those that a player is substantially off their normal contribution.
One caveat. I only included Derrick, Jo, Lu, Kirk, and Fish here. They are the top 5 minute guys on the team, and I think most would agree the top 5 that are being relied on for wins. I probably should have included Taj, but gamescore is tough for him because it takes fouls into account and his minutes played have been more varied. Tyrus hasn't played enough games for this to be meaningful, and everyone else either has big variations in minutes or really doesn't come into the whole wins calculus very often. Also, I didn't control for home vs. away games or for quality of opponent.
So how do the Bulls end up looking? Considering only the guys (of the 5 listed) who played:
- In 16 of their games so far, everyone played at least to their average range. Bulls record in these games is 10 and 6.
- In 21 games, one - but only one - of the guys has had a subpar night. The record in these games is 10 and 11. In six of the 10 wins, at least one other player on the team had an unusually good night to serve as a counterbalance.
- Two or more guys have failed to show up on the same night 6 times, and the record in those games is 1 and 5. And yes, in that one win, there was someone else having a great night to offset the two MIAs.
How does that look if we count guys out with injury as having a subpar night? It seems reasonable to consider this as well, since we all know that one of the real rotation guys out with injury means either too many minutes for the rest of the them or minutes from our subpar deep bench. So adding injury games to the list:
- We now have 12 games where all top 5 guys played, and played reasonably well. Our record there is 9 and 3.
- In 22 games, we had just a single guy either out with injury or playing poorly. The record there is 10 and 12. In 7 of the 10 wins, one of the other players had an exceptional game (by their personal standards) to make up for the missing contribution.
- In the remaining 9 games, two or more players were out/played like crap, resulting in a record of 2-7.
And for anyone curious about which players have the most extreme records:
- The Bulls are 6 and 1 when Derrick plays great, and 7 and 1 when Jo plays great. (11 and 2 with at least one of the two playing well above average.)
- On the other hand, it's Kirk along with Jo who has killed the team in bad games. The Bulls are 1 and 5 in both cases. (This doesn't count injury games.)
- Somehow, the Bulls actually have a winning record in Lu's crap games, going 3 and 2.
- Although there's still an impact, Fish seems to make the least difference to the record with his individual game. They are .500 in his great games, .538 in his average games, and .400 in his awful games. Fish also has the curve most skewed toward bad games (6 above average compared to 10 below average).
Like I said above, this isn't exactly startling information. I just thought I'd put numbers out there to back up what we all knew already. :)