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The Bulls offense is good

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it's so unfamiliar that people are noticing.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Eleven games is only eleven games, but still seems like it's worth pointing out: this has been a weird experience seeing the Bulls offense look this good with so many diverse ways to score.

Here's Zach Lowe at Grantland:

Behold this masterpiece against Toronto:

Holy crap. Look at everything that happens here: a cross screen for Gasol that is a newly dangerous action; a quick "zipper" pick-and-roll for Jimmy Butler, playing out of his mind so far; a scripted action from Gasol, called "shorting," in which the big man not involved in the pick-and-roll zooms up the lane, catches a pass from the ball handler, and kicks to the shooter open on the weak side. Derrick Rose finishes the job with a corner 3.

For more of the audio variety, a Lowe and Kevin Arnovitz podcast turned into a Bulls lovefest this week as well.

The Bulls are indeed 7th in the NBA in Offensive Rating (pts/possession), and it's not because they're being safe (average in turnovers) or gritting their way via putbacks (surprisingly 20th in ORR). It's instead top-10 marks in shooting and getting to the line that has the Bulls offense performing so well.

It's easy to come up with some of the reasons:

Difference between Pau and Boozer: Boozer had (especially in his final year here) become such a deliberate, plodding player that Gasol's ability to simply react to defenses with fluidity and skill is a welcome upgrade. Boozer was a good passer, but the ball always stopped before even his best feeds. And Gasol just draws more defensive attention with his legitimate 7-foot frame, where even while no longer at his peak he's still tall enough to convert easy looks. This is in contrast to Boozer, where catching it down low guaranteed nothing.

Jimmy Butler raising his game: Butler playing at a max-player level has been a clear upgrade from last season. Butler has fit in to the rest of the Bulls style of being a good decision-maker and a legitimate option both on the block and on the weakside perimeter. Taj Gibson's offensive improvement should also be mentioned, as he's provided a decent post-up option with the 2nd unit.

Shooters: The Bulls are 7th in 3pt percentage this year. Aaron "unustainably hot" Brooks 47%, Mike "still really good" Dunleavy and Kirk "also a player on the Bulls, forever" Hinrich near 40%, with Butler at 37%.

And there's still room for improvement, namely from the rookies and Derrick Rose.

Both McDermott and Mirotic have struggled this season, to where their offense hasn't made up for the obvious defensive issues enough for Thibs to keep them on the court too much. If they follow the usual Thibodeau plan of improving midseason and being integrated into more lineups, their shooting will potentially get the Bulls team marks even higher, at least in attempts (they're below league average in % of shots from three). As a commenter found, McDermott is shooting 11% on uncontested 3 pointers. So that's weird.

They both should improve, but we'll have to wait and see to what degree, and if it's enough to crash the rotation a bit more. Mirotic at least showed the skills on Monday, though he was only getting time because Gasol was out.


Derrick Rose is mentioned last but is the most important factor of getting the Bulls to a sustainably great offense. His 3pt shooting has not been good and overall has not looked completely himself on the court, let alone the struggles he's seen merely getting to that point. Still, as Lowe and Arnovitz mentioned in that podcast, Rose gets those '6 transition points' every game that only he can provide, a margin that makes the difference between good and great.

Rose is still the kind of talent that they'll need to reach that next level when defenses get more intense in high-leverage situations. It sounds trite, but there are moments when the defense is simply at a better level that won't be seen on a November Monday. The Bulls have shown some tightness at the end of games, and Rose is the guy who can lead them through that better than anyone, and it's nice to see he has possibly more weapons beside him than ever before.

What's best is that this means the games are more fun to watch, because Thibsball of years past had gotten rough on the eyes, and there's still obviously a long way to go. To that last point: all stats came from Basketball-Reference, and it should be mentioned by their measure of strength of schedule, the Bulls have faced the weakest opposition in the league thus far.