It’s been multiple weeks now where the Bulls season has been a bit of a mess yet the team is still thriving. On the one hand, it’s hard to glean any season-sustaining trends or factors in this long, protocols, winter. On the other, we can figure that this is a team that is deep, withstand adversity, and take care of overmatched opponents.
That’s pretty cool and useful information, and the evidence is coming in the form of entertaining games which rocks too.
Is Vuc Bac?
By Game Score , Nikola Vucevic had his 2nd best game of the season in Atlanta Monday, and has had 4 straight contests with that mark being over 14.
Nikola Vucevic’s last four games:— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) December 28, 2021
19.3 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 3.8 apg (1 tov), 2.3 bpg, 1 spg | 50% FG, 44% 3P
I don’t have a quick way to see if the combined or average game score for all of Vucevic, DeRozan, and LaVine was the highest in that Atlanta win or not, but it certainly seemed that way.
Vuc was getting a lot of guff for his poor shooting, especially missing inside bunnies at an alarming rate. He then received a lot of faint praise for doing other ‘little things’ like his positioning on defense and offering spacing on offense...but screw that: Vucevic needs to hit shots, so it’s awesome he’s doing that now.
Coby vs. Ayo
One of the many welcome changes in ‘the conversation surrounding the Bulls’ is that where prior there was such a dearth of talent where we needed young players to succeed, now it’s a less stressful conversation where we’re talking about 7th and 8th men and the different ways they can contribute.
So a big point in this ‘conversation’ now is the rotational place of Ayo Dosunmu versus Coby White. In this Monday matchup versus the Hawks, White got the start and was getting torched by Trae Young, who (and I am getting this wrong but won’t verify) scored or assisted something like 20 of the first 27 Hawks points.
Later, acting coach Chris Fleming subbed in Dosunmu, who did much better:
Ayo with a great block on Trae. Should just give him all of Coby’s mins in this matchup. pic.twitter.com/Xvo32c7OrH— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) December 28, 2021
In the 2nd half, White still got the start but Fleming assigned Javonte Green to Young. Young was merely 1-4 in that quarter (and a -14 in the game, so it wasn’t a ‘well the Bulls took advantage of a GLeague bench situation) with the one make being in semi-transition against a slow-to-close...Coby White.
But, White is still potentially important in the context of a fully-healthy Bulls team. They don’t really need a guard stopper if they have Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, right?
In that fully-healthy team context, White still shoots a lot more threes than Dosunmu, and maybe that’s what is needed off bench. The major problem is that White isn’t hitting many threes, shooting 27.3% to Ayo’s 38.6%. But it’s informative to see that despite that, Dosunmu has only 2 more 3-point makes than Coby in 223 more minutes.
Yesterday, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic expressed some consternation over the ‘decision that needs to be made’ of White or Dosunmu in the rotation. I’m not sure it’s that complicated: when you need defense (so, when Lonzo and/or Caruso are out) go with Ayo. When you need shooting go with Coby. That is assuming Coby progresses to his averages in 3-point shooting, if not, he’s basically unplayable. And really either guy should be considered on hand in a trade package.
The Protocols-era offense is elite
This is cherry-picking, sure. And against not-good defenses in Houston, Atlanta, non-AD Lakers, and Pacers. But as mentioned above Nikola Vucevic has had a very good last 4 games, and in those 4 games the Bulls have the best offense in basketball, with an ORtg 6 points per 100 possessions better than 2nd place.
The shotmaking just has been incredible:
Narrowing this down even further....— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) December 28, 2021
The Bulls were 29-56 from 14+ feet away from the rim.
Given that 18 of those makes came from three, it's a very bad math problem. https://t.co/BCVcOizMBY
They have also been league-best in turnover percentage, and in Monday’s win a paltry 9.2% of Bulls possessions resulted in a turnover.
What is kind of interesting is that the Hawks were even better, at 9.1%. That’s the difference in not having Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. Over these last 4 games where either or both have been out, the defense has been 24th in the league.
Overall, defense is ‘slipping’ to 10th, but the offense up to 5th. Kind of what we thought the team would be heading into the season in terms of disparity if not outright effectiveness.