The Bulls have put in a moderately large sample of games since their epic disaster in Minnesota. That was hopefully the low point of the season, though to be more accurate that was the accumulation of bad performances than an indictment on the team as a whole. The Celtics on Tuesday gave up 150 points to a terrible team themselves, it happens. They’ve also lost to the Bulls multiple times, so maybe they are just not good?
Anyway, what is to be focused on is if the Bulls are just not good, or not ‘not good’.
I think we all all resigned to their fate as a play-in hopeful, a truly dreary label that will not inspire the front office to shake things up nor ownership to spend more nor fans to care much.
But let’s try anyway to care and look at how the team’s gone in the 8 games since that disaster in Minnesota. They have a 5-3 record in that time, with two of those losses just occurring against the Cavs that could’ve very easily been wins. Though you can argue close wins against the Knicks, Hawks, and Bucks could’ve also easily been losses. Win-Loss record is so flukey, man, gotta look at other stuff and see if we have some hipster wins in there.
These are cherry-picked metrics, but based off of what we’ve been seeing recently.
The Bulls offense has been tremendous even though they shoot fewer three-pointers than ever. The team defense has gone to shit, and it should be noted that the deflections-duo of Javonte Green and Alex Caruso have been only sporadically available.
And you’re not just over-emotional when noticing that they are giving up more offensive rebounds lately: they definitely are.
The last two are commonly referred to as flukey, and it’s concerning that the Bulls defense has been so poor still while getting some luck in the opponent 3 point percentage and free throw percentage. We’ve definitely seen some clutch free throws be missed by opponents in a couple of their wins.
What’s truly brutal is that the Bulls have all this going for them yet still dropped three games! There was thought that the tough early schedule combined with some bad clutch luck would mean that the Bulls could progress to a .500 record. But to do that, you can’t just be .500, you’ve already dug too big of a hole.
To zoom out: this is all on the margins for what is ultimately an average team. Without a roster shakeup, they aren’t going to change their identity (no shooting) and we can pretty safely assesses that some outlier leap from Patrick Williams or Ayo Dosunmu isn’t happening.
What has changed that may fundamentally advance the trajectory of this team is Zach LaVine’s improved offense. His whining through the media was also after that Timberwolves loss, a point in the season where he didn’t earn the status of being someone who applies pressure to a franchise.
He still doesn’t really have that status, given his persistent limitations in decision-making and on defense. But at least he’s making shots now.
Zach LaVine in 14 December games:— Rob Schaefer (@rob_schaef) December 31, 2022
43.2% 3P (6.8 a/g)
82.1% FT (4.0 a/g)
79.5% at rim
That doesn’t look to be a fluke given his past performance, and is actually significant given his role on the team.
But the rest? Eh, just part of a long-ass season. Though I don’t think the team is incorrectly swayed by 8-game samples one way or the other. It’s actually likely worse: they know the team is going middle, but don’t aspire to be more than that. Or at least take the risk required to change it.