Bulls win The Andre Drummond Game
will Vuc's absence mean as much as LaVine's?
I have never taken Andre Drummond seriously: thought of him more of a novelty and seemingly good locker room vet, instead of someone who could be relied upon.
But Drummond proved to me (I’m sure that target was high on his list…) Tuesday night against the Atlanta Hawks that he could enter the starting lineup and produce. 24 points (on 11-13 shooting!), 25 rebounds, an assist, 3 steals, 2 blocks. And most surprising (again, to me, his hater) is 38 and a half minutes and only 4 fouls and 2 turnovers. A lot of my rationale for not buying in to Drummond as a starting level player is my perception that he’s out of shape and will make mistakes the longer you leave him in.
The cheat code for Drummond’s gaudy numbers was offensive rebounding. In the first half, nearly a quarter of the Bulls points came from Drummond putbacks. For the game, the Bulls stole 40% of available offensive rebounds.
The Hawks did well in this department too (32.7% OReb%), but not, like, league-best well like Drummond was leading (ten offensive boards himself).
Nikola Vucevic may be out for a few games. Dropping off to Drummond is not a concern in terms of quality of play, but it will be a noticeable change in playing style. The LaVine-free sharing-and-shooting offense was mostly gone in this game: only 25 three point attempts and they shot 28% from distance. Coby White shooting regression has hit HARD, as he’s gone 2-21 from three his last three games. But if so many misses keep going into Drummond’s hands, you can get offense that way too.
It’s worth noting that the real cost of this injury may be the backup-to-the-backup. Terry Taylor, listed at 6’4”, got the call with 8 minutes off the bench. He was totally fine. I expect the Bulls to stick with that and use more Patrick Williams at 5 as well.
A new, better mid 3
I have always maintained that the Bulls big 3 was a misnomer: It was really a big, like, 1.5…with DeRozan being a clear essential, LaVine neutral, and Vuc negative.
We’ll see if Drummond can keep this up. The offense definitely suffers spacing and passing acumen with Vuc removed, but perhaps it’ll be made up for in other ways, including defense (Hawks shot 84% at the rim, but had relatively few attempts)
LaVine’s absence has so far proved that I was being too kind to him. Already mentioned the general offensive flow improvement, but it’s huge (if only for fans’ peace of mind) to not have Zach on the floor in the clutch:
From old friend Bulls_Jay on that old app:
They've trailed by 9+ in 9 of the 13 games but have come back to lead at some point in all 9 of those games and won 5 of them. They're 20th in 1st-half ORtg but 5th in 2nd-half ORtg, continuing early-season pattern. Bulls have still been bad overall in 1st half (18th in net rating at -3.3) but have been dominant in 2nd half (3rd in net rating at 11.4). Slow starts and big comebacks a theme all season, but they’re winning clutch games now.
Bulls were 3-6 in clutch games before the LaVine injury and are 6-2 since. Pulling out most of your close games will certainly help make things look much better.
DeMar is shooting over 61% in home 4th quarters and over 60% in clutch situations this season.
We’ve already seen what Coby White can do without LaVine. Even in his cold shooting from three last night he was instrumental in the 2nd half with drives inside - shout-out to Ayo as well with this - to keep the Bulls in the game.
The Bulls have their clear (to everyone but LaVine) closer in DeRozan:
And then their second most essential player, Alex Caruso:
A lot of “clutch play” is shooting luck. But with DeMar-Coby-Caruso replacing DeMar-Zach-Vuc as the team’s most important players, they have a formula where the decidedly anti-clutch LaVine is removed, to where the old saying of “preparation meeting opportunity” can hold.
In this battle of play-in hopefuls, I think that Hawks roster is more talented, and they have a better coach. But the Bulls played harder for most of the game, and smarter in the clutch, and earned the victory. And now they’re a full game ahead of them for 10th place.