Bulls' rebounding struggles, corner 3's and point guard musings

USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at the Bulls' recent rebounding issues, their lack of corner threes and some thoughts on Derrick Rose and the point guard position.

The past two seasons, one of the Bulls' biggest strengths was their elite rebounding. Back in 2010-11, the Bulls were fourth in the NBA in offensive rebound rate, third in defensive rebound rate and number one in total rebound rate. Last season, the Bulls were number one in offensive rebound rate (by a rather wide margin), eighth in defensive rebound rate and once again, number one in total rebound rate. So yeah, pretty damn good.

Many expected the Bulls to take a step back in this area this season, and that has indeed come to fruition. The Bulls still do rather well on the offensive glass, as they are currently eighth in offensive rebound rate. But where the Bulls have gotten significantly weaker is on the defensive backboards, as they are 20th in defensive rebound rate.

This issue has really started to come to the forefront in the past couple of weeks. The Bulls have been out-rebounded in five straight games and eight out of their last 10. The only two teams the Bulls have out-rebounded in those last 10 games are the Celtics (last in the league in total rebound rate) and the Knicks (27th in total rebound rate).

So what's been the problem?

As expected, much of this can be explained by the loss of Omer Asik, who has turned into one of the best rebounding centers in the game in Houston. Asik is currently tops among centers in defensive rebound rate and third in total rebound rate. Here's a look at the rebounding numbers from last year and this year for the Bulls' bigs (stats per Hoopdata):

ORR DRR TRR
Joakim Noah 2011-12 14.1 21.8 18.0
Joakim Noah 2012-13 10.5 19.6 15.1
Carlos Boozer 2011-12 6.7 25.2 16.2
Carlos Boozer 2012-13 8.3 27.7 18.2
Taj Gibson 2011-12 11.9 16.7 14.4
Taj Gibson 2012-13 10.7 16.4 13.6
Luol Deng 2011-12 4.1 14.0 9.2
Luol Deng 2012-13 5.5 14.3 10.0
Omer Asik 2011-12 14.8 25.1 20.1
Nazr Mohammed 2012-13 10.8 20.8 15.9

Noah and Gibson have seen a bit of a downturn in their rebounding, but that's almost been mitigated by the increases for Boozer and Deng. Although, since Noah plays a ton, his rebounding numbers certainly have more of an effect on the team's rebounding numbers than Boozer's. And then obviously, you see the difference between Asik and Mohammed. Hell, there's quite a difference between Asik and everybody else in terms of the total package on the boards.

I also took a quick gander at the numbers for the guards/wings, and did notice that Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer were both superior on the defensive glass last season compared to Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler this season. Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson help make up for that differential somewhat compared to the point guards last season, but not enough to make it all up.

All in all, the Bulls are certainly not a bad rebounding team (still eighth in total rebound rate this year), as they still have several willing and able guys in place to get the job done. But there's no doubt it's been a bit of an issue lately, and it really stings to see Asik continue to put forth these monster efforts on the glass with the Rockets.

The Corner 3

ESPN's Tom Haberstroh recently posted an article focused on corner threes (Insider only), which he called "the most important shot in the game." And when you look at some of the teams who take and make a good percentage of these shots, it's not hard to understand why. The top three teams on the list are the Heat, Spurs and Knicks, three teams at or near the top of the league this season.

The Bulls' three-point shooting woes have been well documented over the course of this year, so it should really come as no surprise that they are dead last in the league in attempts from that spot. In fact, it's almost embarrassing how few they've taken. Prior to the Magic game, the Bulls had taken just 2.5 corner threes per game. Here's Haberstroh's take:

Battier, Brewer, World Peace, Green and Novak each have made more corner 3s than the entire Bulls team this season. The odd thing is that it's almost impossible to get off a corner 3 against the Bulls' defense, so they presumably understand how devastating the shot can be. Alas, this is what happens when you gift-wrap Kyle Korver to the Hawks.

Ouch.

What's interesting though is that the Bulls are 13th in the league in corner-three percentage at 39.3. So when they do take them, they're not that awful. The problem is taking them. This can both be explained by the general dearth of three-point shooting on the roster, as well as the lack of shot creators. With so few guys who can break players down off the dribble, shooters aren't able to simply spot up in the corners and wait for open looks as defenders collapse into the paint. And considering the Bulls' "shooters" are often the guys with the ball in their hands (Hinrich and Robinson), that makes it even harder to get up quality looks from the corner.

The hopeful return of Derrick Rose to full health should certainly help the matter, because he will take over primary ballhandling duties and create those goods looks for others. As awful as the Hinrich to shooting guard nonsense sounds, he could provide some value by just spotting up in the corners and being the recipient of Rose drive and kicks. According to NBA.com, Hinrich shot 43 percent on corner threes in 2010-11, 45 percent last season and is 5-of-12 this year.

Speaking of Rose's return, here are some other thoughts on his rehab and the current state of the point guard position on the team:

  • Much has been made of Rose traveling with the team for this Florida road trip. I personally believe it's an absolute non-story, and I won't be genuinely excited about him returning until it's announced that he's cleared for full practice. Nick Friedell said on ESPN 1000 yesterday that he thinks that will happen at the end of January, and that it will then be another few weeks before Rose will be cleared for game action. Which, as was always speculated, would put Rose on track to come back around the All-Star Break. I really can't imagine him coming back any sooner, and he probably shouldn't. Although I will say that I'm definitely not one of those who thinks he should sit out the full season no matter what. If he's ready, he should play.
  • While I'm not feeling the Rose comeback hype just yet, I really can't wait for him to return to the court. Obviously because he's awesome, but also because it will relieve us of the mostly piss poor play we've endured from the point guard position. Hinrich has sucked of course, but at least the team has been somewhat competent while he's been on the floor (2.6 net rating according to NBA.com). Meanwhile, Robinson has fallen back down to Earth after his hot start. He shot 36.6 percent from the field in December and has been generally terrible on the defensive end. He's sporting a net rating of -2.2, which is approaching Boozer levels of bad (-5.0 for Carlos!). Nate is still shooting the three at a respectable rate, but he needs to shoot better overall to help justify keeping him out there, because his defense is pure misery. As for Marquis Teague, he has continued to show nice flashes in his brief stints of action, but his complete lack of a reliable jumper is something that hurts the offense when he's out there. Get well soon, Derrick.
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