We’re halfway through the 2019-2020 NBA season, and the returns for the Chicago Bulls haven’t been good. Tons of losses, very little progress in the grand scheme of the rebuild, and the preseason goal of making the playoffs is just looking silly at this point.
But when a team has just 14 wins in 41 tries, it is noteworthy that three teams account for 9 of them.
That’s right, the Chicago Bulls are 9-0 against the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, and Memphis Grizzlies and 5-27 against the rest of the league. Those three teams are the only ones the Bulls have beaten twice.
Why them? Well, they’re all bad. But here’s some other more specific things they have in common.
Star Players Having Off Games
In three games against the Chicago Bulls, Hawks star Trae Young has averaged 12 points per game and had a 78 offensive rating.
The one game Morant played against the Bulls, he scored 10 points (his fourth-lowest output of the season). He only hit one third of his shots and had nearly as many turnovers (four) as assists.
Andre Drummond has been either really good or really bad against the Bulls. He had a massive 25 point, 24 rebound effort on Nov. 1. But, he also had scoring outputs of nine and six points that featured a second-half disappearing act on one occasion and an ejection on another.
Star players missing the game entirely
The Bulls have played several shorthanded teams this season. Against the Pistons, Hawks, and Grizzlies the Bulls have capitalized on that advantage.
Because, obviously, it’s harder for the less talented teams to compensate for their stars not playing.
Trae Young missed one of the Hawks matchups against the Bulls. John Collins missed two of them on his PED suspension.
Ja Morant missed one of the Grizzlies battles with the Bulls. To be fair, the Grizzlies probably don’t fall in that bad teams category anymore. But Morant is such a big part of what they do that not having him is a serious loss.
The Pistons have had bad injury luck all season. They’ve only had all three of their best players (Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, and Derrick Rose) in one of their matchups against the Bulls this season. In one game, they had just Drummond. In the most recent matchup, Drummond got ejected in the third quarter so the Pistons were just playing with Rose for most of the second half.
It’s harder for the bad teams to overcome injury, hence why the Bulls have feasted against these three opponents.
One of the few things the Bulls have done well this season is generating turnovers (first in the NBA) and converting those turnovers into easy baskets on the other end (first in the NBA in points off turnovers). They lead the NBA in both categories by a fairly comfortable margin.
Perhaps not a coincidence: the Pistons, Hawks, and Grizzlies are all top five in the NBA in turnovers per game.
Coughing up the ball has particularly hurt the Hawks in their matchups against the Bulls this season. Atlanta had 24 turnovers in one of their matchups against the Bulls and 23 in another
All three teams have averaged 15 or more turnovers in their matchups against the Bulls this season.
The other wins somewhat show this pattern too
The Bulls have five wins this season against teams not in the bad 3.
And many of these wins follow at least one of the patterns mentioned above.
The Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings were missing their best player in their matchup against the Bulls (Kawhi Leonard and De’Aaron Fox). Bradley Beal went 4-for-19 from the field in the Washington Wizard’s 110-109 loss against the Chicago Bulls this season.
Altogether: if you aren’t a very good team that is missing your best player or your best player has a really bad game, and if you turn the ball over a lot, the Chicago Bulls probably had a little bit of success against you this season. Not really much to hang your hat on, despite what inside-the-building positiveity is trying to sell.