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Bulls veterans shooting the hell out of the ball to start 2020-21 season

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the vets have been a key to success

Chicago Bulls v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Bulls smashed the Mavericks 117-101 on Sunday to snap a four-game losing streak. While Lauri Markkanen led Chicago with 29 points, it was the bench that flipped the game in the first quarter and continued pouring it on throughout.

The Bulls’ bench racked up 61 points, with the trio of Garrett Temple, Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr. combining for 50 points on a ridiculous 23-of-30 from the field. Temple scored 17 points in the first half, while Porter closed the game down with 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the fourth quarter alone. Young was stellar all game long.

This continues a trend of these veterans having an impact on the Bulls’ success, especially Temple and Young. Temple even said after Sunday’s game he thinks this could be the best bench in the NBA.

As the Bulls’ only notable signing in free agency, Temple initially just seemed like a nice guy to have around for depth and leadership. So far he’s looking like one of the steals of free agency at $4.7 million. While a stat line of 9.7 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game doesn’t look like anything special, the 34-year-old’s efficiency has been off the charts and he has had a knack for hitting big shots.

Temple boasts shooting splits of 49.4./43.1/76.9, good for a 63.9% true shooting mark. This blows his 52.2% career mark out of the water. He’s shooting well from all over the floor:

Temple has also shown a willingness to compete hard on defense on a team with a poor defensive backcourt. It’s no surprise he’s playing over 26 minutes per game and is getting the nod from Billy Donovan to close games. The Bulls are a plus-24 in Temple’s 314 minutes, and their offensive rating sits at nearly 116 with him on the court, per NBA.com. That offensive rating dips to 102.4 in his 315 minutes on the bench, giving him the biggest on/off swing in offensive rating on the team. The difference is even more pronounced when garbage time/heaves are stripped out, per Cleaning The Glass (plus-15.8, with Denzel Valentine the next closet at plus-9.8).

After missing the first four games of the season due to a leg infection (probably no surprise the Bulls looked so bad with him out), Young has also been superb following his disappointing 2019-20 campaign under Jim Boylen. Young’s role under Jimbo was a source of frustration for the veteran. He wasn’t happy with his minutes and doing so much work as a floor spacer instead of being in the paint.

Now, while his minutes are actually slightly down compared to last season, Young is back to doing the dirty work inside and making a major impact. After shooting just 44.8% from the field last season, he’s at 59.4% this season, including a whopping 66.7% on 2-pointers. He’s down to just 1.3 3-point attempts per game after a career-high 3.5 last season, and over 75% of his shots are coming inside the paint. He’s a ridiculous 15-of-17 at the rim and 22-of-35 on non-restricted area paint shots.

Young is also providing a bit of playmaking juice with 3.0 assists per game. This number would be a career-high mark despite the fact he’s at just 23.3 minutes per contest. Throw in his hard-nosed defense and ability to play the 5, and like Temple, you see why he’s often closing games. Young is a plus-28 in his 210 minutes, and his on/off splits are also massively in his favor.

Porter’s impact hasn’t been as pronounced, especially when looking at the lineup data, but part of that is him playing a lot of minutes with a young starting lineup that has really struggled together. The veteran has also looked sluggish at times on defense, but his offense is still a nice weapon to have off the bench after he was sorely missed for most of last season.

Porter is putting up 12.5 points per game while shooting a solid 46.0% overall and 41.5% on 3-pointers this season. His 28 points in the second Wizards game led the team, and he played a key role in road wins over the Blazers (19 points and 13 rebounds) and Mavericks.

While Porter’s shooting numbers are around his career averages, it’s safe to assume Temple and Young will have some regression. Even so, it looks like the Bulls can rely on these guys to give quality minutes just about every night, as long as they’re available to play (Porter recently dealt with some back issues). They’ve proven crucial when it comes to the Bulls winning games, and it will be interesting to see how this front office approaches the trade deadline with these vets.