[From the FanPosts. As much as I love stats, I love more when they support my observations. I'm very scared that I don't know what I'm talking about when doing recaps and the like -ed.]
Lots of recent posts about how things feel different recently. The Bulls have won 6 of 7, but no game has been easy on that stretch, and it's particularly concerning with the playoffs a week away.
There have been some ideas about what the cause is: Noah's health, Boozer's health, Rose/Watson/Gibson/Bogans being banged up, teams finding success using small lineups. I looked at the basketballvalue lineup data to try to test these, and you download the spreadsheet here. As a qualifier, because of the sample sizes, this post is meant to try to figure out what happened instead of what's happening, if that makes any sense [ed. note: great line, ha. Much more after the jump].
Individual Plus Minuses
Player Orating, Drating, and Raw PlusMinus, last 7 games:
Player Min Orat Drat Net Raw+/-
Deng 277 113.4 102.5 10.9 55
Rose 266 112.4 105.0 7.4 37
Boozer 223 109.1 109.8 -0.8 -1
Brewer 140 106.5 101.5 5.0 9
Noah 136 104.8 101.6 3.2 8
Gibson 134 112.0 106.4 5.6 13
Bogans 125 108.2 111.7 -3.5 -8
Korver 108 110.5 106.4 4.1 15
Thomas 102 114.6 113.5 1.0 2
Watson 97 105.4 107.6 -2.2 -4
Asik 73 116.2 94.2 22.0 29
OVERALL 336 110.4 105.5 4.9 31
Rose and Deng have been the lead dogs all season, and it seems they've kept it up these last seven games. Asik, who is #1 in the NBA in Net Rating (Bulls are a ridiculous +15.04 per 100 possessions when he's on the court this year) is still on track, and he's been so good I'm wondering why his minutes are going down and not up.
Boozer, Bogans and to a lesser degree Noah stand out on the negative side. Their plusminuses are okay, but considering how often they play with Rose and Deng, there shouldn't be that large a disparity. Lineups with Rose and Deng and WITHOUT Boozer and Bogans outscored opponents 101-68 in 42 minutes.
The Starting Lineup Issue
Bulls' starting lineups (Rose, Bogans, Deng, Boozer, and either Noah/Thomas), last 7 games:
107 minutes played, 106.0 ORating, 113.1 DRating, -7.1 Net
It's important to mention that the difference between a 113 DRating and a 101 DRating in 107 minutes is 225pts allowed vs 200pts allowed, so bad luck could have something to do with it. But it's concerning considering they've played Memphis, Milwaukee, Philly, Minnesota, Detroit, Toronto, Phoenix, a bunch of unremarkable teams, and I wouldn't have expected them to be negative over what was supposed to be an easy 7 game stretch.
Playing Against Small Lineups
Simmons and yfbb mentioned the Bulls seem to struggle against small lineups. I went through the opponent lineups of the past 7 games and rated them on a subjective Small Scale. Here's the system:
0: Opponent played a lineup with two legit bigs (examples: Randolph/Gasol, Brand/Hawes, Davis/Amir)
1: Lineup with one tweener big (Arthur/Randolph, Mbah a Moute/Bogut, Thaddeus/Brand)
2: Lineup with two tweener bigs (Arthur/Powe, Warrick/Frye, Daye/Maxiell)
3: Small forwards playing inside (Battier/Gasol, Iguodala/Hawes, JamesJohnson/Amir)
3's were very rare, so I combined them with 2's for the following table:
Against Min Orating Drating Net
0's 158 112.8 103.4 9.3
1's 152 109.2 107.5 1.7
2's/3's 26 104.1 106.3 -2.2
I'd love to try this for a full season but it's too much work. I'm guessing these aren't significant because of the sample sizes, but it supports yfbb's observation that going small has worked against the Bulls recently.
What should the Bulls do in this scenario? Against small lineups in these 7 games:
Bulls Min Orating Drating Net
Booz+Taj 13 96.2 138.5 -42.3
Kurt 39 103.8 112.8 -9.1
Noah 78 108.9 104.8 4.1
Asik 44 113.6 106.1 7.5
DengPF 4 128.6 50.0 78.6
I listed lineups with Deng at PF for reference because I remember finding last week that the Bulls are like +15 net per 100 poss with Luol playing PF this year. I forgot to save the excel, but I'm gonna dig up that stat before the playoffs, and I think that's one option if the opponent goes super-small. For most small lineups, the easier answer is Noah and Asik seem like perfect bigs to play against small lineups because they move so well.
I suspected the Bulls' two worst options were playing a Boozer/Taj frontcourt (giving up a lot defensively, especially against small teams who can penetrate), and playing Kurt Thomas (not his style).
yfbb specifically brought up the Suns game when talking about the Bulls struggling against small lineups. The lineups that killed us late featured Warrick playing PF. For the game, here's how the various Bulls lineups fared against WarrickPF lineups:
Gibson/Asik: 4.9 minutes, +6
Gibson/Thomas: 2.7 minutes, +2
Gibson/Noah: 1.3 minutes, +2
Deng/Gibson: 2.3 minutes, -3
Boozer/Noah: 1.5 minutes, -5
Boozer/Gibson: 5.4 minutes, -7
Boozer had a tough game. Nevertheless, the Bulls did okay overall vs the small lineups, and I think in general the Bulls are deep and flexible enough to handle any style of play. The bigger issue to me is that the Bulls' starting lineup was never that good to begin with, and with these injuries they've really struggled.