Here’s a superlative when it comes to your 2-5 Chicago Bulls: worst in the league at defensive rebounding percentage. And it’s not even that close to the 29th ranked team, with Chicago currently only grabbing 71% of available misses on defense.
They’ve lost this stat with the opponent every game outside of the season opener (when the Bulls were merely average on the defensive glass but pummeled the Hornets on their defensive goal).
I’m not sure head coach Jim Boylen understands the rebound percentage stat, but let’s hear what he has to say about how to rectify this.
“Rebounding has some want-to to it. You gotta want to be physical. I think we’re a team that has to win the 50-50, tip, scrum rebounds because we’re not getting the clean ones right now.”
Oh that’s right...Boylen’s an idiot, never mind asking him.
Let’s instead look at two actual potential causes besides nebulous ‘toughness’ bullshit.
I was nervous heading into this season with this facet of the team, mostly due to the loss of Robin Lopez. While the Bulls certainly needed to move forward with Wendell Carter as their starting center, Lopez was a big part of whatever little success the Boylen Bulls had. He’s always been reputed as someone who may not put up individual rebound stats but helps his team in that area by taking up space and boxing out. Losing Lopez, though his on/off contributions didn’t bear itself out that much last year when helping Lauri Markkanen, was concerning.
With Carter starting alongside Markkanen, and acquiring both Thaddeus Young and Luke Kornet as the big men off the bench, we have a set of frontcourt combinations to analyze.
As you can see, only one combination has been even passable: the Thaddeus Young and Lauri Markkanen combination. This likely should be something used more often, upping Lauri’s minutes as backup center to both keep this combination out there more and also keep Kornet off the floor entirely.
Obviously team rebounding goes beyond the frontcourt combination. One comment lamentation of the Bulls early season has been the use of 3 guards instead of having a usable backup small forward behind Otto Porter Jr.
But while seeing all of Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Kris Dunn out there together has produced poor results, they actually have done better on the defensive glass than their counterparts, including the much taller starting lineup.
Measuring individual defensive rebound percentage (which is more an approximation than the lineup data), nearly everyone is worse than last year at this. Porter and Zach LaVine are near career-lows, and Tomas Satoransky’s individual percentage has gone from over 10% to less than 5%.
For reference, here are the most-used 5-man combinations. As you can see (though in smaller samples), the 3 point guard lineup looks overmatched, but it’s the starters that are getting crushed.
Introducing merely taller players to the back end of the rotation like Chandler Hutchison, Denzel Valentine, and Daniel Gafford may help this. But it could also cause other problems (we can’t be sure any of the aforementioned three are NBA talents), while ignoring the biggest issue which is that the higher-profile guys are bad.
So what is a potential reason for the regression from individuals? Please put your hand down, Boylen, it’s not lack of ‘grit’. And please stop bringing baggied salami sandwiches into these meetings already.
As deftly detailed by Stephen Noh at The Athletic, the Bulls have been way too aggressive in their defensive coverages this season. Especially with a plodder like Kornet or an easily distracted individual like LaVine, this leads to scrambling rotations and easy shots for the opponent.
And as mentioned in that piece, it also hurts the defensive rebounding. I’ll just crib commenter ‘TheMoon’ on this one for reiteration:
Bad rebounding comes from bad rotations.
I don’t, for example, find it credible that Otto and Thad forgot how to rebound for the first time in their lives over the summer. I don’t, for example, find it credible that the Bulls would be fine on the glass if they only had a “true center”.
Good, logical defensive schemes give your team balance and rebounding position. The bulls defense makes no sense at all right now, so they’re always in bad rebounding position.
And he cited this example from the Pistons game, where the Bulls blitz the pick and roll, only to leave a whole side of the basket open for the rebound.
Then I think he also referenced this play in Cleveland.
And here’s one I noticed in the Pacers loss, where TJ Leaf had 6 offensive boards, including a couple on this one play where Kornet is way out on the floor.
This all certainly tracks as logical. So much so even Boylen may change it. At least he’s thinking about it.
The Bulls welcome in the Lakers tonight. They’re thankfully only 25th in Offensive Rebound Rate this young season.