The injuries to 4 rotation players really sucks the fun out of watching Bulls basketball lately. Not just because we want to see the guys play (not you, Denzel Valentine) but because we’re told that we can’t ‘judge’ anything that happens in the interim. And I love judging!
I suppose there was an established opinion that we could judge the team’s effort, especially after the total shellacking they suffered at the hands of the Warriors. In that time the Bulls defense’s only effectiveness was in the shareability of their shame-videos.
But in the three games since, all home contests against quality teams in the Nuggets, Pacers, and Rockets, the Bulls were ‘competitive’. They wound up losing all three, two of them in the final minute. But that is relatively ok, even encouraged if you’re tank-humping already (for fuck’s sake, you guys...).
I do wonder if they have actually shown improved effort, or at least to the point where it is commendable. It might be that they have just been a bit lucky.
The defense was good, but not great in those three games. They had defensive ratings of 106.3, 113.7, and then holding Houston to 99. The latter is obviously outstanding, but all three games had skewed raw numbers because the pace was surprisingly low, between 92-97 possessions.
And if you’re watching these games and remarking that the Bulls are getting a bit fortunate in their three-point makes, I think that bears out: For the first 10 quarters of this 3-game post-Warriors stretch, the Bulls made 46% of their threes.
Then in that second half against the Rockets on Saturday, the only time where you could say they were non-competitive again...they shot 0-13 from distance. And 12 turnovers, yeesh...
You can look at Antonio Blakeney as a representation of this streakiness. After his big game on Friday where his shooting kept the Bulls close, this was from Michael Walton at NBC Sports Chicago:
Overall Blakeney is shooting over 50 percent from the field this season and while this exact figure may not be sustainable, the specific areas in which he has improved in offers some hope.
To be exact, Blakeney is shooting an astonishing 71 percent on shots 3-to-10 feet from the basket after hitting only 17 percent of these same shots in 2017-18. He is taking 20 percent of his shots from 10-16 feet and hitting 46 percent of those shots, up 5 percent from last year.
I look at that ‘specific area’ as something unsustainable too! And Blakeney went 0-6 in under ten minutes of action in that Houston game.
He’s still at over 55% on threes for the season. Arcidiacono over 46%, Justin Holiday over 41% (will have to see if that’s because of the home-heavy schedule) and Cam Payne on the strength of ‘that one Cam Payne game’ is around league average.
So I am still wary that the Bulls have actually hit a level, there still may be farther down to go before they start getting guys back.
On the bright side, we have seen actual important work from Wendell Carter and Chandler Hutchison, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Though maybe we shouldn’t judge?!?