Man, the mental gymnastics you need to perform when you root for a bleh average team. Especially one that doesn’t have many outs in terms of potential moves.
The Bulls responded from rock-bottom against the Magic with back-to-back improbable wins over the East’s best teams in the Bucks and Celtics. Then split two games against the more-evenly-matched Thunder and Jazz. Then got totally clowned by the West’s best in Phoenix.
What have we learned? What is there to learn beyond what we already knew? This team is fundamentally flawed, but also reliably puts forth an effort that allows them to overcome their shortcomings. That there are some real problems with the roster (their two in-prime best players have knees made of corkboard, and I won’t belabor the LaVine conversation here but he looks really bad), but no big swing attempts at a solution: the coach isn’t going anywhere, they have few assets to trade, and won’t spend any more money.
So this could all be seen as pointless discussion given those major problems. But that’s the blog life.
I don’t know how this team has a top-10 defensive ra...oh they don’t anymore
Thank you Bulls for establishing base sanity in showing your true colors as a defensive unit. It never made sense that this team was still statistically doing so well even as we watched them get cooked by any team that passed the ball twice or had more than one offensive threat.
After allowing the Suns 132 points in regulation, the Bulls defensive rating is now 112.1 , good for 11th in basketball. As old friend of the blog Mark K put up on YouTube yesterday, there was a lot of scheme and personnel changes but nothing made up for the fundamental problem of having so many bad defenders on the roster:
The Bulls will face two top-10 offenses in the Warriors and Kings coming up, so that will probably go down further.
Change the starting lineup already
So beyond tired of this. Patrick Williams had some non-empty games last month but has gone back in the toilet with two straight turds: a combined 1-12 for 7 points. Even in the game the Bulls won by 7 in Utah, lineups with Williams were a -4 in 24:32.
He’s not producing box score stats, and he isn’t a good defender.
Meanwhile, the Bulls continually put themselves in a hole and then call on Alex Caruso to play balls out.
In the second half of the game in Phoenix, Donovan had Caruso come in with the game already well decided, and this dude is using his physical brand of defense which includes a heavy diet of running into screeners or ballhandlers and hitting the deck to generate turnovers.
The most important thing on this screen is the game score:
Overall in total minutes this season, Caruso is a +76 for a team that has a negative differential overall. Why is he still being deployed like he’s some secret weapon? Is it just to generate tweets about how underrated he is? Start him! He probably won’t play any less desperate even if not coming in with his team behind, but they can still limit his minutes while leveraging them against the best opponents at the most critical times.
Bulls shooting woes include Ayo Dosunmu
The KC Curse...longstanding beat writer has to write something about trends even when there isn’t a trend to be had. So on November 12th there’s an article about Ayo Dosunmu’s improved three-point range, when he’s hitting 38.3% on 3.9 attempts per game.
Now he’s down to 32% on 3.1 attempts per game.
That is still an uptick from his rookie season, but far from a ‘leap’ and far from what the Bulls need out of their lineups. Here was the autopsy from the Phoenix game as detailed by Will Gottlieb of CHGO:
The Bulls shot 4-for-25 from deep. They were only 1-for-14 in the first half. So I looked into how their shooting affects their performance:
In games where the Bulls make 10 or more threes, they are 7-5.
In games where the Bulls make fewer than ten threes, they are 2-7
In games where the Bulls attempt 30 or more threes, they are 5-4
In games where the Bulls attempt fewer than 30 threes, they are 4-8
The Bulls can’t just be a “shoot threes when they’re making threes” team. It’s extremely difficult to win in today’s NBA if you are at that kind of disadvantage.
It’s clearly not just Ayo. LaVine’s make percentage is near a career-worst. Vuc is showing his 40% season was the outlier not the regular. Williams makes a great percentage but you can time his release with a sundial.
But there aren’t bigs or wings on the roster that will be better in this category. No to Darnell Mayberry’s idea of playing Dalen Terry. I think instead the Bulls just have to play Coby White more and keep using Goran Dragic a lot more than is likely comfortable long-term. Maybe for the starting lineup, definitely start Caruso but depending on opponents size make the decision of Ayo or Williams instead of always starting both.
They’ll probably improve but not enough
As said in the beginning, despite these huge flaws the Bulls do find ways to win. Generating possessions through the turnover and rebounding edge, usually. Or there are nights where they simply make their threes.
And they aren’t as bad as their record. The schedule has been very rough:
if you're looking for Bulls "positives," it's that their schedule has been an absolute murderers' row and they've been mostly competitive outside of a few ugly games and have some big wins. upcoming stretch vs. similar teams will be telling https://t.co/0ixim0Nse7— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) December 2, 2022
And if the Bulls can at least keep games close, the heretofore lack of performance in the clutch may even out.
Won’t mean they’re very good, and involves a lot of luck to determine whether they finish 7th or 12th in the conference. That’s far from a great place to be in, but that’s all this team can give us.