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Can Fred Hoiberg keep up his ownage over LeBron James? (Bulls/Cavaliers preview)


Cleveland Cavaliers v Washington Wizards Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

[Thanks to ESterps08 for today’s game preview. There are spots available to sign up if you want to do one in the future -yfbb]

Bulls (0 - 2) @ Cavs (2 - 1)

7 PM ET / 6 PM CT on NBA TV for the masochists among us

Cavs Blog: Fear The Sword, where they are allergic to subject lines. I wonder if their emails are all like that.


The Cavs. We know them. They won the East last year. They've got that LeBron guy. He's no GOAT but he's pretty talented. As long as they have him they'll be a threat to come out of the East, and certainly the easy favorite to come out this year too.

What The Cavs Do Well:

It's only three games so there's not a lot to read into this so far, but we can find some things:

Be the pro basketball team located closest to where LeBron James was born.

Pretty important.

Don't Let Themselves Get Too Bad At Anything:

The Cavs through three games (a huge sample size, I know) are middle of the pack in offense and defense. They have three guys averaging 10 points a game, but one of them is DRose and he's unfortunately already hurt. The Cavs are between 10th and 20th in almost every stat you can find this young season. Blocks, defensive rebounds, steals, effective field goal defense, regular field goal defense, the list goes on. Probably just because they're not trying very hard, but right now this is all we have to go on.

What The Cavs Don't Do Well:

Get Assists:

Ranked 24th in the league because LeBron can make his own shot and a lot of the other guys just can't. Not sure how that's something that can be exploited, but there it is. That's one spot worse than Chicago.

/Watches in silent seething rage as the Bulls proceed to let Jae Crowder go off for 29 points with the Cavs racking up 11 assists on his shots

Have Healthy Point Guards:

Isaiah Thomas is out until at least January, possibly longer, with a bad hip. D-Rose, hurt, maybe out for this game maybe not. We'll get the update at some point. Either way he won't be 100%.

General Bench Depth:

Their bench is on the thin side, though keep in mind this is a bench that let go of Kay Felder, who averaged nine minutes a game in 42 appearances. Kay Felder is now a serious contributor in the Bulls rotation. So "thin bench" is all relative when their castoffs are going to get 1000 minutes for the Bulls. It's somehow still a much improved bench over last season, to be sure.

What The Bulls Do Well:

Raise my blood pressure:

Not because of the results, I'm numb to the results. It's the sheer incompetence on the floor that would grind my gears watching even as a neutral fan of the team, and the insistence that absolutely nothing is wrong with something so obviously wrong.

Punching Each Other In The Face:

Maybe they all missed their calling as boxers?

Not Let Opposing Shots Go In:

Bulls opponents are only shooting 43.8% from the field so far this season, good for 9th in the league and actually one spot above Cleveland again! VICTORY IS ASSURED! The Bulls even rank 7th in the league in effective field goal % (for the unfamiliar, a stat that takes a 3-point shot at 33% and a 2-point shot at 50% and considers them about equal)

Have Lauri Markkanen:

It's just our luck that this guy, despite being the one guy in the top 10 not pegged to be a guy you can build a franchise around, will be a guy who you can build a franchise around, and give GarPax another five years to totally waste him. He's looked alright for being thrown right into the fire. I'm pulling for him.

What The Bulls Don't Do Well:


The Bulls have drafted one player this decade who has positive VORP for them. They have drafted two players for the Nuggets with positive VORP for them. You can make the argument Tony Snell is the second most productive player the Bulls have drafted for themselves since 2010.

Point Guardsmanship:

The Bulls have six point guards. All of them are hurt, bad, or hurt and bad. They traded five draft picks for Cameron Payne and are paying him actual money.

Offense, In General:

Through two games, the Bulls have scored a league worst 88 ppg and are registering a league worst 90.4 Offensive Rating, with only the Phoenix Suns' historically bad first week keeping them out of the basement of most power rankings. I'm not sure what Fred Hoiberg's offense is supposed to be, but even the Trest Coast Offense wasn't league worst in the NFL. Last year's worst oRTG belonged to the Tankatron 76ers, at... 104. The infamous 1999 Bulls, who once defied everything we know about basketball and scored a whopping 49 points in one entire game, finished that miserable season at... 93. Yeah.

"But wait!" the more analytically inclined among you might say. "ES, the league average offensive rating wasn't the same in 1999 as it is in 2017, so aren't the Bulls even worse?" Well my friend, that is called Adjusted oRTG, and the current post-merger "champions" are the pre-Carmelo 2002 Nuggets. They scored 100 points as many times as they failed to break 70. They scored 92-odd points for every 100 possessions when the league average was 103 and change for an adjusted oRTG of 88.99. Those 1999 Bulls? 90.2. These Bulls through two games? Not even cracking 86.5. It can't stay that bad the whole season, right? ...Right?

Actually, Everything:

A grand total of two Bulls have played more than twelve minutes on the season and have registered significantly positive win shares. One of them is Robin Lopez, who seems to be one of the few players on this roster who could start for multiple teams around the league. The other in positive territory is David Nwaba. I'm keeping an eye on Antonio Blakeney's 84.9 PER in 1 minute of action though, definitely sustainable. Something to watch for this season: the Bulls all-time lowest seasonal leader (for full seasons) in win-shares was 2003-04 Kirk Hinrich leading the team with 4.1. Does anybody get there this year?


Cavs -14.5 to -15.5 depending on where you're looking...I predict Bulls 98 Cavs 94, double double for Maarkanen, dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria!