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Bulls Week 1 recap: Small Sample Size Theater

There's quite a lot of bad and some good. But remember, it's too early to draw firm conclusions!

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

We're one week into the new NBA season, and things haven't exactly gone too well for our Bulls. Derrick Rose is full of rust, the shooters can't shoot and the defense has been uncharacteristically shoddy at times. Add all of this up and you have a 1-2 team that's one miracle Rose floater away from being 0-3.

While it's natural for some to press the panic button, it has been just three games and there are some special circumstances that can help explain the struggles. We all know Rose's deal, and while he looks worse than probably any of us could have imagined, there's little reason to expect it to stay this way.

In addition to Rose working out the kinks after an 18-month layoff, these are the first games this specific starting lineup has played together (Joakim Noah's preseason injury threw things off), so all the guys are getting used to playing with each other. It does all start and end with Rose of course, so once he gets going, the starting lineup should be dominant. We saw some signs in Philadelphia before everything went to hell in the second half.

The play of the bench has been up-and-down, and I won't lie and say the apparent lack of depth may be a concern. Mike Dunleavy has been extremely underwhelming, but as evidenced by past years, it usually takes a little while for guys to become comfortable with Tom Thibodeau's system. Lest we forget the original Bench Mob wasn't great from the start and guys like Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson weren't exactly lighting it up at the start of last season.

All this being said, one of my favorite pastimes is taking in some #SmallSampleSizeTheater. With the Bulls' special circumstances and the lack of data after just three games, it's impossible to make conclusions about anything. But it's still fun (well, maybe not so much) to take a look at some of the trends to see what has gone both wrong and right.

Derrick Rose

  • Rose has historically been an excellent finisher at the basket. Thus far, Rose is just 9-of-25 (36 percent) in the restricted area. While he does look good athletically, he doesn't seem to be playing above the rim, which has increased the number of shots he has had blocked. Danny Savitzky of Fox Sports and Grantland noted that Rose has already had eight shots blocked at the rim this year, nearly three a game. In 2011-12, he was at about .72 per game and in 2010-11, he was at 1.09 per game.
  • Both Ricky and I have lamented Rose's lack of a mid-range game. It's not something that Rose should rely on, but a part of his game that helped make him a more complete player during his MVP year. It's also something that should help prolong his career. This year, Rose has taken just nine shots in the 5-to-19 foot range, with only two makes. He's just not a threat from mid-range AT ALL right now, and defenses are loading up on his drives.
  • Rose's defense has been less than stellar, and it really shows in the Bulls' defensive rating when he's on the floor. In 101 minutes, Rose has a defensive rating of 104.2 (points per 100 possessions). Blech.

Jimmy Butler

  • Butler is currently the only Bull with a positive net rating, sporting a +1.5. And when Butler has been off the court (think: Heat game), the results have been disastrous. The Bulls' defensive rating with Butler off the court (34 minutes) is a woeful 108.3.
  • Going back to even the preseason, Butler's three-point shooting has come back down to earth after last year's hot streak. He's just 2-of-9 in the regular season.
  • While Rose isn't getting to the line, Butler is doing a much better job at it, attempting 5.0 per game. He's close to the rate he was at his rookie season after seeing a dip last year.

Luol Deng

  • We were all hoping Deng's shooting would see a boost this year after two sub-par seasons. The early returns are ugly. Deng is 3-of-23 on shots longer than 10 feet, including 0-of-8 on shots from 15-to-19 feet and 1-of-12 on threes.
  • On a more positive note, Deng has done a nice job moving off the ball and getting open around the basket, which is a big reason why he's 13-of-18 in the restricted area.
  • 12 of Deng's 18 baskets have been assisted, with seven of those coming from Noah and Carlos Boozer.

Carlos Boozer

  • The Bulls' offense has been at its best with Boozer on the floor. He currently is the only Bull with an offensive rating north of 100 at 100.5.
  • We always clamor for Boozer to spend more time in the post and less time shooting fadeaway jumpers. After three games, 25 of Boozer's 41 shots have come in the restricted area, and he's finishing at an 80 percent clip. More of this, please.
  • While watching the games, it appears Boozer has played a bit better defensively. However, he still has the second-worst defensive rating of the main rotation players, and the defense improves by nearly four points per 100 possessions when he hits the bench.

Joakim Noah

  • As Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday, Noah is still a work in progress. Noah sports the second-worst net rating out of all the rotation players if you count Nazr Mohammed as a rotation player, otherwise, Jo has the worst at -10.6.
  • Noah is shooting just 31.8 percent overall and is 5-of-13 in the restricted area. Not good for a 7-footer. Not good at all.
  • On the positive side, Noah is rebounding as well as ever. The big man has a defensive rebound rate of 32.1 percent. For reference, it was at 21.8 percent last season


  • It appeared in preseason that Taj Gibson had really improved his jumper. So far in the regular season, he's 4-of-9 on shots over 10 feet. Not a bad start.
  • Kirk Hinrich has turned the ball over 2.2 times per 36 minutes in his career. This year, that number is at 5.5 times per 36 minutes.
  • Mike Dunleavy has generally looked really awful, but he somehow has the second-best net rating on the team at -0.1.
  • Nazr Mohammed has a net rating of -15.7. Yikes.
  • Poor Tony Snell. Those seven minutes against Miami were truly ghastly. Not even going to post the ugliness.


  • The Bulls' starters have played 53 minutes together, sporting an offensive rating of 98.2 and a defensive rating of 101.9.
  • The second-most used unit is Hinrich/Butler/Dunleavy/Gibson/Mohammed with 11 minutes played. Surprisingly, they have done REALLY well, with a net rating of 31.8. Mohammed's other minutes must be really awful considering how well that lineup has done.
  • The Boozer/Gibson frontcourt duo has actually had quite a bit of success, boasting a net rating of 9.5 in 29 minutes. If those two can continue to play well together, that hopefully means more minutes for Taj and less Nazr.
  • On the other hand, the Rose/Hinrich backcourt has been especially awful. In 22 minutes, it has an offensive rating of 86.4 and a defensive rating of 111.1.
  • The Rose/Butler/Deng/Gibson/Noah lineup that we've pined for so much has played just five minutes together and has been a disaster. Net rating of -46.2.

Fun with SportVU

  • Butler leads the Bulls in distance traveled at 2.6 miles per game. That puts him 0.2 miles per game behind the leaders, Bradley Beal and Chandler Parsons.
  • Rose is fourth in the league in touches per game and tied for second in time of possession.
  • While Rose is only averaging 4.3 assists, he's tied for third overall in secondary assists (hockey assists) per game at 2.3.
  • While Noah has struggled, he has done a nice job defending his opposition at the rim, holding them to 38.5 percent.
  • Noah is third overall in uncontested rebounds per game at 8.3. This could help explain his high defensive rebound rate.
  • Rose is shooting just 25.0 percent on his drives
  • Deng is shooting 6.3 percent on 5.3 catch-and-shoot opportunities per game.
  • Rose is shooting 6.3 percent on 5.3 pull-up attempts per game.
  • Boozer is tied for second in the league in close shots points per game at 7.3.

Minutes watch

Butler leads the team at 36.8 minutes per game, but it could be a few minutes higher if not for the foul trouble against Miami. Deng is the same story, as he's "only" at 35.3 minutes per game. Noah is under 30 minutes per game, which is good to see considering his preseason injury. Rose is at a reasonable 33.5 minutes per game, although that should go up a bit once he starts playing better. Gibson is at 24.7 minutes per game, which is a step in the right direction. However, he should be playing even more.

All data is from the Stats page.