Roster musings

The Bulls might not be done making moves, but this seems like a good time to take stock of the changes, as well as who remains and how all the pieces might fit together. So I dove into some stats on to compare and contrast and see what conclusions I could draw.

Looking at players from the roster at the end of last season in decreasing order of minutes per game, Zach LaVine kicks us off. He's still with the team, but last year was such an incredible year for him that you have to expect some regression to the mean. Even if he doesn't match his stellar scoring efficiency from last year, though, he's still the man.

Next up is another holdover, Nikola Vucevic. He turns 31 in October, so he's more likely to decline than improve. But most likely, he'll just keep performing like he has the past few years.

Coby White is still a Bull, but his role has changed, so I'm treating him as being replaced by Lonzo Ball and replacing someone else in turn. Offensively, Ball's numbers aren't too different from White's, though he gets a few more assists. Last year, he shot better than White, but he's been worse every other season, so it will be interesting to see if that represents real improvement, or if it was just a fluke. Defensively, however, they are in different universes. Specifically, Ball is much better than White. So overall, this change represents a distinct improvement.

Last of the remaining players is Patrick Williams. If he doesn't improve, he's just a guy, but you would expect a 19 year old rookie to improve in his second year.

I was surprised to see that Garrett Temple was somehow the 5th highest on the team in minutes per game. I was torn between listing White or Alex Caruso here (with the other one replacing Satoransky), but I feel like Caruso's game is more similar to Temple's, even though I expect White to get more minutes. Temple didn't really provide all that much in his minutes, other than reasonably solid defense. Caruso, however, is one of the best defenders in the league, and he offers more in pretty much every offensive category than Temple, although Caruso's turnovers are a bit high. Overall, this is a huge improvement.

Lauri Markkanen's status is still up in the air, so for the purposes of this exercise, I'm assuming that he is gone, without any return that's relevant for this season. There's not currently a direct replacement on the roster, unless you count the Euro-stash guy.

Daniel Theis has been replaced by Tony Bradley, who looks like an upgrade in almost every category. Bradley boasts better scoring efficiency, more rebounding, and better rim protection. He did have more turnovers last year, although that was an outlier for him. He's also 2 inches taller, and although they have the same number of years in the league, Bradley is 6 years younger. The only concern is why didn't OKC want him back?

I have DeMar DeRozan slotted in where Thaddeus Young used to be. DeRozan is such an unusual player that it's hard to find a great comp, but Young came the closest. DeRozan will get more minutes than Young did, though; maybe he'll get some of Markkanen's. Anyway, we'll start with the obvious: we're losing size, defense, and rebounding here. They both had unbelievable assist numbers for forwards, but DeRozan's were even higher than Young's, and he committed fewer turnovers to boot. He's a bigger scoring threat, both in volume and efficiency, mostly due to making his living at the free throw line. Free throw attempts are underrated, since there are hidden side effects, such as messing up your opponents' rotations by getting their players in foul trouble, and earning more free throws for your teammates by getting into the bonus quicker. DeRozan is about a year younger than Young, and he doesn't come with the concern that last year might have been an unrepeatable one-off.

Last, but not least, Tomas Satoransky is being replaced by Coby White. Satoransky gets more assists, scores more efficiently, and plays better defense. White takes more shots and turns the ball over less. White is still young and could improve, and it's unknown how he will adjust to his new role. But you'd have to say this looks like a slight downgrade at the moment.

Taking a step back, the first thing that jumps out at me in terms of the overall roster is how much the passing has improved. Ball and DeRozan represent a huge boost in that department, though slightly mitigated by the loss of Young. In fact, the team now boasts 5 players in the top 60 in assist percentage: DeRozan #16, Ball #36, LaVine #44, White #52, and Vucevic #57.

The next theme is having more scoring threats. If you add up the usage percentages of the five expected starters, you get 121.8, and you still have White on the bench. DeRozan and LaVine are both used to going against the other team's best defender every game, so by definition one of them will be going against a weaker defender now. They might also get more open looks due to the other one commanding a double team. Presumably, they won't both be resting at the same time much, so the bench units should benefit from always having a reliable scoring threat.

From a personnel standpoint, it looks like scoring efficiency got worse. The only three significant contributors north of 60% TS% last year were LaVine in a career year, Markkanen, and Satoransky. DeRozan was close to that threshold, with 59.1, but Williams, Vucevic, and Ball are all around 56 - not terrible, but not great, either. The only bench player strong in this stat is Bradley, with a stellar 67.6. So the only way this aspect of the team improves is due to better passing, or synergy between the stars, and that's probably the thing about this roster that worries me the most.

As far as floor spacing, DeRozan doesn't help that at all, but he's basically a wash with Young. Losing Markkanen will hurt, but Ball should more than make up for that.

Rebounding is an area where the team got clearly worse, since they got smaller with the loss of Young. Unless Williams really steps up in this area, it's an area of concern.

DeRozan definitely hurts on the defensive end, especially in comparison to Young, but Ball and Caruso should make up for that. Overall, I'd call this about even.

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