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Reasons to be Optimistic About the Bulls' Offense Improving

The Bulls' offense isn't very good right now, but there are a lot of realistic reasons to believe that will change

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls have been a perplexing team. 13 games in, Hoiberg's offense has somehow fallen from 10th last year to 26th this year. While 26th is pretty awful, there are a lot of reasons to believe that the Bulls' offensive rank will rise as the season progresses. Here are some factors that are holding the Bulls back, and why those factors will probably change:

Rose Will Shoot Better, and it Will Help a Lot

Even the most ardent Rose fans can't ignore that his shooting percentages are near the bottom of the league. To borrow Rose's language, who knows if he'll ever return to greatness. But the Bulls don't need Rose to be a superstar - if he just gets to a league average shooting percentage, the team's offensive rankings will skyrocket.

Rose is shooting 41% on 2 pointers and 17% on 3's. As bad a 3 point shooter as he is, he's not THAT bad. He's also been historically right at league average on 2's for his career, which is at 48%. It's reasonable to think that his shooting on 2's and 3's rise back to somewhere in the neighborhood of his career norms as the season progresses.

If we go back and change Rose's shooting percentages in the 11 games he's played to league-average marks, his scoring average would jump from 13.9 points per game up to 17. The Bulls' offensive rating, which is currently 26th in the league, would skyrocket all the way up to 10th.

This is good news for Bulls fans. We don't know how much Rose's eye problems are hampering him and that could certainly be having an effect on his shot that will go away. Even if Rose's eye isn't the issue, it's safe to say that he's not going to continue shooting at such incredibly poor marks when it is anomalous with the entire rest of his career. When Rose figures out his shooting woes, the team's offense will take a big leap forward.

The Early Offense is Good When it Happens

When the Bulls have listened to Hoiberg and hustled down the floor for early offense, they've scored at a good clip. It's those other ball-stopping possessions that have been killing the team.

On shots taken within 15-18 seconds on the shot clock, the Bulls are 3rd in offensive efficiency. They're 9th in efficiency on shots taken within 19-22 seconds. Those numbers drop to middle-to-bottom of the pack as the shot clock winds down.

Unfortunately, the Bulls don't get enough shots in this part of the clock (1). Additionally, they are near the bottom of the league in transition buckets (2).

The focus on early offense is a total departure from Tom Thibodeau, so the adjustment period is still going on. If Hoiberg can get this team to buy in and listen to the message he's preaching, good things will happen to the offense.

Joakim Noah is Getting His Offensive Groove Back

Joakim Noah has been awful offensively. Early on in the season, he refused to shoot the ball. When he did opt to shoot, he would only take shots in the paint. Even with his stingy shot selection, his shooting percentages are unbelievably bad (3).

The good news - Noah finally showed a pulse on offense in the Bulls' last game against the Blazers. He attempted his first jumper of the season and nailed the shot. He also scored two iso post baskets on nice ambidextrous hook shots. All three of those shots are attempts he would have passed up earlier in the season. It was by far his best offensive effort from a mental standpoint all year.

Noah says he's healthy. He worked on changing his shooting form this summer to a better approach. His decline is totally insane. Like Rose, it's hard to imagine Noah can stay THIS bad on shooting the ball. If he can continue to build on what he showed in Portland, that will be a huge boon for the Bulls.

Mike Dunleavy Will Return Eventually

The Bulls' wings have not been good. Fred Hoiberg has had to use Kirk Hinrich and E'Twaun Moore in crunch time of the past few games because Snell and McDermott both have serious flaws in their game. Mike Dunleavy was a huge part of last year's success, and bringing him in to replace Snell and McDermott's minutes is going to help this team a lot.

This is what Hoiberg told the media about Dunleavy on media day when his injury was first announced:

"When you look, especially from an analytics standpoint, when Mike Dunleavy was on the floor good things happened. You look at the offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency. Mike was as good as anybody on our roster."

Last year, the Bulls were better on both ends of the court by about 2 points/100 possessions with Dunleavy on the floor. Dunleavy was particularly valuable in the playoffs - the Bulls' Net Rating improved a massive 17 points with him on the floor, more than any other rotation player outside of Derrick Rose.

Dunleavy's timetable for return is still totally up in the air, but when he comes back the Bulls will get the wing help that they desperately need.

We know from last year that this team has the talent to be at bare minimum, a top 10 offense. With Jimmy Butler's continued improvement offensively, McDermott's emergence as a 3 point shooter, and a coach more centered on offense, there's no reason why this team can't be in the top 10 by the end of the year. Things need to change, but it's not something the team is incapable of.


(1) Bulls are 21st in percentage of shots taken with 19-22 seconds left in the shot clock and 9th in percentage of shots taken with 15-18 seconds on the clock

(2) Bulls are 24th in percentage of transition looks

(3) Noah has only converted on 34% of his shots and 33% of his free throws.