The Bulls enjoyed a prolific offensive performance against the Hawks on Wednesday night, pouring in 136 points on 57.4% shooting. The 136 points set a new franchise record for points scored in regulation at the United Center.
As part of this explosion, the Bulls racked up 32 assists on 54 field goals, which is really damn good! This was their high mark of the season after setting a previous high of 30 against the Raptors on Monday (on just 35 field goals). The Bulls are handing out 23.3 assists per game, which is 21st in the league, though their 60.5 assist percentage is 12th in the NBA.
So, while the Bulls have piled up the assists the last couple games, they’re basically middle of the pack for the season. Not really too notable, until we find out that Jim Boylen wants his team to hand out 35 assists per game ... which has literally never been done, or even come all that close to being done.
After each of the past two games, Boylen has said that one of the team’s goals is to average 35 assists. After he referenced it Wednesday, I asked how he settled on that number. Because it’s a lot. Like, never-been-done-before a lot. No team has ever averaged 32 assists. The ’85 Lakers own the record at 31.40. The 2017 Warriors are the only team since the start of the 1985-86 season to average at least 30 assists, Golden State finishing that season at 30.4. In almost half their games (11 of the 26), the Bulls haven’t even registered 35 made field goals.
The Suns are the current NBA leader with 28.4 assists per game and a 68.7 assist percentage, so obviously they’re not even close to this, ahem, ambitious goal.
Don’t worry, though, because Jimbo didn’t just pull this number out of his ass:
“I watch the films,” Boylen said. “I see the open shots we miss. I see the assists we have. I didn’t pull this number out of the air. This is something that I think we can do. I think it’s attainable. I think it’s a statement to how we want to play. If we don’t get 35 and we get 30, that’s still pretty good.”
Literally every NBA coach could “watch the films” and see a bunch of potential assists not converted due to guys missing shots. That’s just what happens. In no way is 35 assists per game an attainable goal for even the best offenses, but it certainly would be nice to see the Bulls get up over 25 per game as the season goes on. Perhaps these last few games are truly a step in the right direction, but the Bulls have shown zero consistency on the offensive end this season, which is why they rank 26th in the NBA even after Wednesday’s performance.