March 12, 2013
ESPN’s Beckley Mason recently penned an article called Its smart to be fun. Mason’s essential point is that current analytics indicate an “athletic, aggressive open-court style” of offense is both efficient and successful.
Mason supports his case with the following extended quote from Denver Nuggets coach George Karl:
Coaching has now gotten so technical and scientific and there’s so much of it and there’s so much video and and there are so many statistics, that basically the reality of coaching is when you play 5-on-5 basketball it’s very difficult to beat the defense and the scouting reports and the preparation and the tendencies that we know teams have. So what we’re trying to do is play before those things can be settled in to.
We want to play early. We want to play before the defense sets. We want to play when there’s mismatches running up and down the court. And to do that it takes a little extra work on working on your spacing and working on your commitment to run and play fast. I mean very few players want to play fast because you don’t get rewarded all the time. You have to run maybe 10 times to get 2 shots, maybe 15 times to get 2 shots.
It’s like offensive rebounding. A lot of big guys don’t like to offensive rebound because you got to go all the time to get a few reinforcements. Our big guys here have done a great job the last few years. They really do run the floor well which helps the beginning of the spacing and gets the freedom of the ball. And then the other sport aspect of it is I just watch football. They’re playing quicker, they’re getting faster. They don’t want the defense to get set, they don’t want the defense to rotate in and match up their strength against your strength.
We’re kind of trying to play not against the strength of a good defensive team, and the weakest part of the defensive team is normally in transition. I watch a soccer team like Spain play and so much of what they do is they don’t hold the ball. They ping the ball around and make quick decisions. And I’m sure they have great plays and great actions, but it’s basically don’t let the defense feel like they can zone in on you because you’re making quick decisions.
Mason then goes on to say:
Translation: The analytics tell us the best way to play is in transition, and with maximum ball movement. That is, to give the fans what they want.
That’s why the Nuggets lead the league in attempts at the rim by a wide margin and score in transition more than any other team. It’s also great news for NBA fans who prize creativity and athleticism.
This got me thinking. So using data from ESPN.com, Hoopdata and TeamRankings, I assembled the following chart showing how the top ten offensive teams (in terms of Offensive Efficiency) rank in various categories:
As you can see, playing fast and taking lots of shots at the rim aren’t necessarily required for success. To wit, two of the top four offensive teams rank in the mid-20s in pace (the Heat and Knicks) while three of the top four rank outside the top 10 in fast break points (Heat, Spurs, Knicks), with one team ranked 29th (the Knicks). Meanwhile, the top four teams all rank outside the top 10 in shot attempts at the rim, with the Thunder (17th), Knicks (20th) and Heat (23rd) all ranking in the latter half of the league.
You could argue that teams make up for these deficiencies with three-point shooting, although the league’s best offensive team (the Thunder) ranks 14th in three-point attempts, while four of the other top 10 offensive teams rank outside the top 10 in three-point attempts, with the Jazz all the way down at 28th.
So clearly there’s more to offensive efficiency than a fast pace, plenty of transition opportunities, a large quantity of shot attempts at the rim and/or hoisting plenty of threes.
And yet it stands to reason that some combination of those factors — if not all of them — would be key ingredients to solid offensive output.
Now here’s how the Bulls rank in all the same categories:
As you can see, the Bulls are a walk-it-up team that doesn’t score many points in transition. This means that opposing defenses have plenty of time to get into position. Furthermore, they attempt the second-fewest three-pointers per game in the league, which means there’s poor spacing. This likely explains why, although Chicago takes a lot of shots at the rim, they rank only 19th in field goal percentage at the rim. It’s probably also why they have such a high turnover rate. It’s difficult to complete shots around the hoop when the paint is clogged, and it’s tough to thread the ball through passing lanes clogged with hands and arms.
So what the Bulls end up with are lots and lots of low-efficiency two-pointers from 16-23 feet. Add in injuries and fatigue, and you have the perfect ingredients for one of the league’s worst offenses.
November 5, 2012
Those are the shooting stats for the Bulls’ starters against the Hornets on Saturday.
For those of you who enjoy simple math, that’s 14-for-53 combined, a conversion rate of 26.4 percent.
That starting unit was also 0-for-5 from three-point range (Luol Deng was 0-for-3 and Kirk Hinrich was 0-for-2).
There was some brick-laying off the bench, too, with Nate Robinson going 6-for-16 and Marco Belinelli finished 4-for-10 after a strong start.
As a team, the Bulls shot 33 percent from the field (29-for-88) and 3-for-17 on threes (17.6).
They committed only 12 turnovers, so they had that going for them, which is nice.
Still, the Hornets put on a pretty good defensive performance, especially considering they were playing on the road on the second night of back-to-back games. And they did it without both Eric Gordon and number one overall draft pick Anthony Davis, who was sitting out due to the NBA’s concussion rules.
New Orleans’ defense was aggressive and persistent. The Hornets players didn’t do anything flashy — although Robin Lopez finished with 4 blocked shots and Austin Rivers had 3 steals — but they were consistently physical and they contested everything. And, at times, the Bulls looked intimidated.
Said New Orleans coach Monty Williams: “We don’t get a lot of credit or notoriety for being a physical team, but that’s something we’ve prided ourselves on since I’ve been here, was to play a physical style of basketball, legally. I don’t think we out-worked them, I just think the ball came our way a few times and it was just a major battle in that paint. Anytime you play against Chicago, a team that (Tom Thibodeau) is gonna coach, you know you’re gonna play a team that is gonna hit you right in the mouth.”
On Saturday, it was Thibodeau’s team that got hit in the mouth. Repeatedly.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising. It’s a small sample size — only three games — but the Hornets currently rank eighth in Defensive Rating. They are limiting teams to 98.6 points per 100 possessions. They also rank fifth in Opponents Effective Field Goal Percentage (44.1). So far, they have held the Spurs (99), Jazz (86) and Bulls (82) below 100 points. Not bad considering that, in the early going, the Jazz are averaging 107.4 points per 100 possessions and the Spurs are scoring 105.8 points per 100 possessions.
So the Bulls got a taste of their own medicine: a team working hard and overachieving on defense.
How else do you explain a team with a starting lineup of Ryan Anderson, Greivis Vasquez, Austin Rivers, Robin Lopez and Al-Farouq Aminu coming into the United Center and solidly outplaying a starting unit of Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton?
Look, a lot is being made of Derrick Rose’s continuing absence, but the Bulls should be better than this Hornets team with or without Rose. Especially at home.
But on Saturday night, they were not.
According to Hoopdata, they went only 15-for-27 at the rim (55.6 percent). That’s not a great conversion rate around the basket. The Hornets were extremely physical in the paint, and the Bulls did not respond well to that. They became tentative, and coach Tom Thibodeau noted ”a lot of flipping instead of attacking” when his players opted to drive.
The Bulls also chucked up a long of long two-pointers from 16-to-23 feet — 22 of them to be exact — but connected on only five of them for a conversion rate of 22.9 percent. And I already mentioned their dismal 3-for-17 shooting night from downtown, which made the Bulls 8-for-39 from long range.
Said Joakim Noah: ”Tough day at the office. We got our asses kicked. They outplayed us. They were way more on edge than us. It’s unfortunate because it was a good opportunity to go 3-0.”
Look, some nights the shots aren’t going to go down, I get that. But this was far worse than it should have been.
Thibs, for his part, didn’t think his team’s misdirected shooting was the issue: ”I thought the start of the game set the tone for the game. We were back on our heels. They got an early lead. Their big guys hurt us. The thing about shooting, that doesn’t bother me. If you are taking your shot and you are missing your shot, you can live with that. The thing about the game was our approach to defensive transition. When you are not shooting well, you cannot allow that to sap your energy. You have to get back and set your defense.”
The Bulls did give up 17 fast break points. But, then again, they also scored 21 points in transition. So that part of the game was pretty much a wash.
Look, with all due respect to the NBA’s former Coach of the Year, teams don’t often win shooting 33 percent from the field and 17 from three-point range. Winning under those circumstances would take an even greater defensive performance (which the Bulls did not have) or an overpowering advantage on the boards (only the Bulls were outrebounded 44-41).
Without Rose, the Bulls’ offense relies on timing, precision, and execution. Nobody — with the occasional exception of Robinson — can really create their own shot.
When a pesky (and very physical) defense digs in and refuses to surrender good looks…Chicago’s offense stalls. Big time.
And it’s likely this problem will occur at times throughout the season. At least until Rose gets back.
October 16, 2012
We already know that defense is the foundation of Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls.
We also know the team is missing its best offensive player in Derrick Rose.
But the offense through the first three preseason games has been worse than we could have imagined.
Game 1 against the Grizzlies:
The Bulls barely broke 90 points while shooting 35.7 percent from the field (including 2-for-14 on threes) and committing 18 turnovers. They also missed nine free throws.
Game 2 against the Cavaliers:
In an even worse offensive showing, the Bulls managed only 83 points on 34.9 percent from the field (including a dreadful 1-for-19 on threes) with 22 turnovers (compared to only 17 assists). This brickfest was highlighted by a 10-point second quarter.
Game 3 versus the Timberwolves:
Things went from worse to worst, with the Bulls scoring a meager 75 points while hitting only 36.8 percent of their field goals, going 3-for-13 from long distance, and bricking 13 of their 35 free throw attempts. They also set a new preseason high with 23 turnovers…to only 10 assists. Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton sat this one out due to “general soreness,” but still.
Except for a couple decent stretches — the third quarters against the Griz and Cavs specifically — these games were hard to watch. Painful even. And, with all due respect, it wasn’t as if the Bulls were facing off against defensive powerhouses. Last season, the Cavaliers and Timberwolves were ranked 26th and 25th, respectively, in Defensive Rating.
The new bench crew has been one of the primary reasons for these poor offensive showings. Against the Grizzlies, they went 12-for-46, which looks even sadder when you subtract Nazr Mohammed’s 6-for-10 performance. Then, against the Cavs, they shot 12-for-45. In Minnesota, they were 8-for-29.
Over those three games, Nate Robinson is 7-for-30. Designated “shooter” Marco Belinelli hasn’t connected on a single three-point attempt (0-for-6) and is 6-for-20 overall. Bench Mob stalwart Taj Gibson is also 6-for-20. I could go on, but trust me, there aren’t any offensive highlights coming from the reserves.
It isnt only the subs, though. Carlos Boozer has yet to shoot 50 percent (3-for-10, 5-for-11, 2-for-7). Kirk Hinrich has played reasonably well, but he’s still 11-for-27 from the field overall and 3-for-11 on three-pointers.
The Bulls D has still been stout — they’ve allowed only 88, 86, and 82 points — but this shooting isn’t getting it done. And it will get them blown out against better competition.
While it’s true that the Bulls aren’t hitting open shots, it’s also true that they aren’t getting many open shots. One of the primary reasons being: they don’t currently have a player who can break down opposing defenses and consistently draw double teams. Movement and crisp passing can create good looks — when you’re not turning the ball over, which the Bulls have been doing a lot of so far, averaging 22 miscues per game in the preseason — but even that can be difficult when defenders can stay home and lock in on their target.
Maybe Thibodeau has some answers. Maybe it’s as simple as the players just getting some of those shots to go down. But in the early going, Chicago is facing a shooting apocalypse.
August 7, 2012
Consistency is something the Bulls have had over the past two seasons. They kept most of the same players, signed just a few new guys, and kept winning games.
But that consistency will be gone this upcoming year, with many of the wins possibly going with it. The Bulls got rid of almost their entire Bench Mob, save for Taj Gibson. C.J Watson, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and John Lucas are all gone. All of the starters will be back, with the exception of Derrick Rose who will miss much of the season recovering from his ACL injury (Luol Deng could also miss time).
Let’s take a look at who is going and who is staying on this Bulls team, and what that could mean.
Omer Asik: Omer Asik is probably the toughest bench player to say goodbye to, at least for me. His defense was game-changing, even if his stamina was nonexistent. Asik’s 92 defensive rating was best on the team and his ability to alter shots while not fouling was better than most centers in the league. But with that great defense also came terrible offense and even worse hands. Asik posted the worst offensive rating on the team (97), lower than even Brian Scalabrine. The poison pill contract from Houston made it so that the Bulls would really have to invest in Asik, and the worst hands in the NBA. For a guy who played just 14.7 minutes per game, that $15 million in year three was too much. But Chicago is definitely going to miss his defense off the bench, and will miss him even more so if Joakim Noah goes down with an injury. They will also surely miss his eerie similarity to Linguini from Ratatouille.
Ronnie Brewer: Ronnie Brewer’s second year with Chicago was worse than his first, but Brewer still brought defense and intensity whenever he was on the floor. Much like Asik, Brewer was a great defensive player that didn’t have much offensive talent. He started the season shooting really well (64 percent from the field, perfect from deep in four games in December), only to quickly regress to the mean. Ronnie’s end of the year numbers were as ugly as his jumper looks. Brewer finished the year shooting just 42.7 percent from the field, and 27.5 from three (both worse than 2010-2011). His offensive rating and defensive rating also fell this season compared to last one. His defense rating was only slightly worse, going from a 98 to a 99, while his offensive rating fell seven points, to 103. Brewer’s true shooting percentage fell from 51.8 in 2010-2011 to 46.5 this season. He was a great slasher on offense, but he didn’t have a good jumper and was also really great at missing open dunks. He was let go because the Bulls think they have a replacement in second-year player Jimmy Butler. With Asik and Brewer, the Bulls were often looking to play to a 0-0 tie while these guys were in. Brewer’s defense will be missed, but Butler could fill in the role quite well (we will get to him in the next section).
Kyle Korver: The women of Chicago are taking this one incredibly hard. Kyle made the ladies swoon with his looks. And made Stacey King freak out every time he hit a three pointer. Korver was never anything much more than a shooter though, and for a few stretches last season, he wasn’t even that. His 101 defensive rating was one of the worst on the Bulls (he did beat Rip Hamilton’s 104, though; so there’s that). But his offensive rating (120) was tied for best on the team, with Joakim Noah. He shot 43.5 percent from deep, and his 57.5 effective field goal percentage was best on the squad. Unlike the first two guys, Korver didn’t excel at defense, but with the other bench players, this deficiency was often covered up. Korver was the perfect player to pair with Rose: a deadly spot up shooter that you never wanted to leave to help in the lane. But Rose wasn’t healthy much, and John Lucas III just doesn’t strike the same fear into opponents when he is driving down the lane. Speaking of which…
John Lucas III: JL3 was an enigma to me. Going into the year, he wasn’t expected to play many minutes, but things changed with injuries to Rose and Watson. He wasn’t terrible for a third string point guard that’s under six feet tall, but he had his problems. One of those issues was that his X button seemed to be stuck, rendering it nearly impossible for him to pass. And his small frame also didn’t do him any favors on defense, except when he became a hurdle for LeBron James (tune into the Olympics, as Lucas is rumored to be the second hurdle in lane four of the 200 meter hurdles!). Basically you never knew what you were getting from Lucas. He might shoot 28 times and score just 25 points against the Wizards, go 3-11 in a losing effort against the Blazers, or he may go 9-12 with 24 points in 26 minutes in a win over the Heat. Lucas had the utmost confidence in himself and was hustling at all times. He did more than most people expected out of a guy who played just ten minutes in the entire 2010-2011 season. Of point guards that played more than 25 games, Lucas had the ninth highest usage percentage, a little much for a third string guard. JL3 dribbled and shot too much, which was extremely frustrating, but brought a lot of excitement because of those two things as well. And it wasn’t always his fault that he shot so much, considering he wasn’t playing with the most adept offensive guys in the league. I hope JL3 gets minutes in Toronto, because he’s always fun to watch.
C.J. Watson: Watson started 25 games last season because of injuries to Derrick Rose averaging 9.7 points and 4.1 assists. Those are solid numbers, but Watson’s decision making was always iffy. Taking bad jumpers and making questionable passes were all part of the C.J. Experience. He was a good back-up point guard overall, and did a solid job trying to be a starting point guard for 25 games and fighting through injuries. In the end Watson was still a point guard that shot just 36.9 percent during his two years in Chicago (JL3 shot 39.9 percent, for comparison). He was a big reason the Bulls finished the season with the best record, but the Bulls didn’t want to pick up his $3.2 million option. That was an interesting decision, because Rose will be out most of this season, and Watson has experience leading this team. I guess someone had to leave to make room for the return of Kirk Hinrich.
Carlos Boozer: I will be holding a “Carlos Boozer was amnestied!” party when it happens. All are invited. You have to draw on your hair. From the “I Would Have Bet All My Monies Against This” department: Boozer was the healthiest Bull last season, starting all 66 games. He averaged 15.0 points on 53.2 percent shooting and 8.5 rebounds on the year. Solid numbers, but with Boozer there always seemed to be something missing. He almost exclusively shoots his jumper/fadeaway now, rarely going to the basket. According to HoopData, Boozer had 4.2 attempts at the rim per game last year, down from 6.0 attempts in 2010-2011. His attempts from 3-9 feet fell as well, while his attempts from 16-23 feet rose from 3.0 attempts per game in 2010-2011 to 4.6 last season. Boozer gets lot of criticism (a lot of that from me), but 15 and eight is solid, even if he can’t play defense.
Jimmy Butler: Butler is the reason Brewer was expendable. He did his best Brewer impression, shooting 40.5 percent from the field, but did average 10.9 points per 36 minutes, which is solid. And after his great summer league, expect him to build on his rookie year, with his expanded minutes.
Luol Deng: Deng had his first All-Star season last year, even though his scoring dipped (15.3 last season, down from 17.4 in 2010-2011) as well as his field goal percentage (41.2 percent, down from 46 percent). Pre-All Star Break, Deng was averaging 15.9 points per game on 42 percent shooting, and 40.6 percent from three. Those numbers fell to 14.8 points per game on 40.2 percent shooting, and 33.6 percent from deep. Maybe that was fatigue from the scrunched schedule (and Thibs’ refusal to let Deng rest more than three minutes per game), or more likely, Lu battling through the wrist injury. Deng’s numbers may have been down slightly, but Thibs still leaned on Deng heavily. Lu played 39.4 minutes per game, by far the most of anyone on the team (Rose played 35.3 minutes per game, and the next closest was Joakim Noah at 30.4 minutes per game). His three point percentage did rise, from 34.5 percent to 36.7. He’s also been playing well for Great Britain during the Olympics, while playing almost all of those games as well. Lots of trade rumors surrounded Deng near the trade deadline, but he is still on the team, and will probably play heavy minutes once again this season. He may still need surgery on his wrist, which could spell an ugly start to the season for the Bulls.
Taj Gibson: The lone Bench Mob member that will be with the Bulls, is also the best Bench Mob member. The frontcourt of Gibson and Asik was scary good, protecting the rim and changing shots better than most starting frontcourts. Asik will be missed, but Gibson will continue, and now will be paired with Nazr Mohammed. Gibson’s 96 defensive rating was third best on the team, and his 109 offensive rating was top five as well. He shot 49.5 percent from the field last season, better than 2010-2011. Gibson’s percentage from 10-15 feet rose from 28.8 percent in 2010-2011 to 37.2 percent last season. His shooting at the rim and from 3-9 feet also rose slightly. Gibson is in a contract year, and will be getting a big contract soon, so hopefully he put in one of those great contract years that many guys do. The problem with Gibson, is that, going into his fourth season in the NBA, he will be 27 years old already. He may not have much room for growth, but if he improves his midrange jumper, he will soon be the starter at power forward for a team (hopefully for the Bulls, when they re-sign him and amnesty Boozer).
Rip Hamilton: Rip was supposed to be the answer at shooting guard, but was very much not. The 34 year-old Hamilton was rarely healthy, playing in just 28 games. When Rip was healthy, he shot 45.2 percent, his best percentage since 2007-2008. His passing was impressive, and his motor on offense added an interesting wrinkle in the Bulls’ offense. Ultimately though, Rip’s defensive rating of 104 was worse than his offensive rating (101), so the Bulls were losing when he was on the floor. His 13.2 PER also means he was a below average player. And if you weren’t sure if he had a poor season, you can look to earlier this summer when no one wanted to trade for him. Maybe if he is healthy he can get some sort of rhythm this season, but it’s safe to say Hamilton will be gone after his contract expires next season.
Joakim Noah: Not only were Jo’s defensive numbers good (96 defensive rating), but his offensive rating was tied for best on the team (120, with Korver). Although his points, shooting and rebounding numbers fell slightly, he recorded the highest PER of his career (19.6). He’s currently still recovering from an ankle injury that forced him out of the playoffs, and scarily, was still bothering him enough to keep him from participating for France in the Olympics. Noah missed just two games this regular season though, a big jump from missing 24 in 2010-2011. Jo’s defense and hustle helps the Bulls a ton and they’re going to need him to be healthy more than ever this year. Boozer and Noah, who played together a lot in 2011-2012, actually started to mesh, which was a good sign after a shaky (and injury plagued) first season together. Noah shot just 21.7 percent from 10-15 feet, but Finger Gunz shot 43 percent from 16-23 feet (up from 33 percent in 2010-2011).
Derrick Rose: The only guy that’s untouchable on the roster had a tough season last year. He couldn’t get healthy, and then…well we all know what happened. Rose is going to be out for most of the next season, and won’t be 100 percent for a while after that. He is a hard worker, so he should come back just as strong, but it’s scary to think his career may have been altered by one awkward landing. Rose will be just 24 when this season starts and 25 when he (should) return to full health. He’s still approaching the prime of his career, and has time to reach that potential he was destined for.
What it means:
The Bulls’ bench helped them get a lot of wins in the regular season. They didn’t help as much in the playoffs, but were integral filling in for injuries and outplaying the opponents’ bench to stretch a lead or claw back into the game. There is no doubt Chicago will miss these guys. The injury to Rose only makes the outlook for this season more grim.
Jeff Van Gundy thinks it will be a good season for the Bulls if they win half their games. I have to agree with this, considering Rose’s absence, Deng could miss the beginning of the year, and Carlos Boozer is the starting power forward (just kidding, kind of). After two great season under Tom Thibodeau, Bulls’ fans are in for a tough one this year.
All of these moves are, apparently, part of a grand plan that the Bulls have decided upon. That plan is to hit free agency in 2014 with lots of cash and hope to land a big name free agent. That doesn’t make a ton of sense for two reasons. First, the Bulls haven’t had great luck in free agency, and banking on a free agent to sign with you, over the other 29 teams, isn’t a safe bet. Secondly, the 2014 free agent class isn’t really great. Oh, and a bonus reason: basically throwing away two full seasons for a possible free agent doesn’t seem like the best basketball plan. But it sure is a great financial plan!
Chicago had the type of team that was supposed to contend for titles for years to come. But Rose’s ACL injury changed all that. Now it seems the Bulls will struggle during 2012-2013, and are planning on conceding the 2013-2014 season as well. They may never reach that podium that they seemed so primed for just one year ago.
March 28, 2011
The latest “Article of Outrage” about Derrick Rose’s presumed MVP award comes to us courtesy of Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald.
Thank the Basketball Gods!
We needed another scribe to save us from the creeping menace of Rose’s MVP candidacy.
Le Batard’s piece doesn’t break any new ground. It’s basically a zero calorie version of several similar articles I’ve already read and linked to on this site. In summary: Advanced metrics prove Rose isn’t the best player in the league, his numbers are essentially the same as Russell Westbrook’s, Chicago’s offense is mediocre, the real MVP is Chicago’s defense, yada yada yada.
Like I said, we’ve heard it all before.
Still, let’s take a closer look at this section:
“The Bulls aren’t exceeding expectations because Rose is a ‘leader’ or ‘knows how to win’ or is ‘clutch.’ They are exceeding expectations because no team in the league strangles the opponent better on defense. You want to give the Bulls coach of the year for that? Cool. Defensive player of the year? Fine. But MVP for the league’s 20th-ranked offense? The one scoring less than Indiana, Toronto, Philadelphia, the Clippers and Sacramento?”
I’m not sure how Le Batard — an apparent proponent of sabermetrics — has managed to quantify leadership or measure its impact on the Bulls’ success, but I sure wish he’d share his wizarding secrets with the rest of the free world. Based on post-game comments and quotes from Rose’s coaches and teammates, it’s pretty clear they all respect, admire and have the utmost faith in him. That has to have some impact on the outcome of games, right?
I’ll concede there’s no way to know whether the Bulls are winning due to Rose’s leadership qualities. Ditto for Rose’s knowledge about how to win at basketball.
The clutch thing, though? We actually have stats for that. According to 82games.com, Rose ranks seventh in clutch points (43.2), 10th in clutch assists (9.7) and, despite being a point guard, compares favorably in clutch rebounds (11.3) to Dirk Nowitzki (11.6), LeBron James (12.1) and Kevin Durant (12.9). And anybody who watched Chicago’s victories over the Grizzlies and Bucks last weekend will tell you that Rose’s clutch skills are worth wins.
But again, whatever.
Now we come to another commonly stated sticking point: “But MVP for the league’s 20th-ranked offense? The one scoring less than Indiana, Toronto, Philadelphia, the Clippers and Sacramento?”
Reminder: Le Batard repeatedly mentions the importance of advanced metrics in his article. In fact, he devotes an entire section (including a discussion of baseball) to it. If advanced metrics were a giant cartoon sledge hammer, LeBatard would be repeatedly hitting us in the head with it. But then, in crunch time, he uses Chicago’s raw PPG stat to bolster his argument.
Because, see, that allows him to use phrases like “20th-ranked offense” and make unfavorable comparisons to bad teams. That seems a little like prestidigitation in my book.
But, I say again, whatever.
Yes, the Bulls rank 20th in PPG at 98.5 points per contest. But here’s a point well worth noting: Now that they have a full roster of healthy bodies, the Bulls have jumped to 12th in Offensive Efficiency (105.2 points per 100 possessions). This after a season in which they’ve been hovering somewhere in the 15th to 20th range.
The Bulls are currently only one-eighth of a point out of the 10th spot in Offensive Efficiency (and a mere two-tenths out of the 11th spot). Based on their recent play — they’ve had Offensive Ratings of 110.4, 143.2, 135.4, 114.9 and 108.4 in their last five games (that last of which was achieved on the second night of back-to-backs on the road against the league’s fourth ranked defense based on Defensive Rating) – the Bulls could concievably finish in the top 10, thus rendering the whole “mediocre offense” more myth than reality.
And think about it:
Carlos Boozer, the team’s second-leading scorer and second-highest FGP shooter has missed 23 games this season. Without Boozington, the Bulls have no inside game to speak of. Even recently, Carlos has looked out of sync due to the lingering effects of a sprained ankle. That certainly hasn’t helped the offense.
Joakim Noah, the team’s fourth-leading scorer and highest FGP shooter, has missed 30 games this season. Without Noah, the Bulls didn’t rebound as well or run as much. That certainly hasn’t helped the offense.
To reiterate: Two key pieces of the team’s offensive system have combined to miss 53 games.
Kyle Korver is the team’s only consistently high-percentage three-point shooter (42.8 percent on the year). Yet Korver doesn’t start and plays only 20.4 MPG. Keith Bogans has picked it up since January, but he averages 3.7 FGA in 17.7 MPG, and opponents don’t respect his shot. This hurts spacing, which holds down the offense.
A large percentage of the roster is filled out with rotation players who aren’t what you’d call scorers (Bogans, Ronnie Brewer, Kurt Thomas, Omer Asik, Taj Gibson). Even Noah is more of an opportunistic scorer and not really somebody a coach would call plays for.
Despite all these factors, the Bulls’ relative inefficiency on offense keeps getting pinned on Rose, as if there are no other contributing factors. Although, as I pointed out, with everybody back and healthy, the offense is trending upward. With games left against the Timberwolves, Pistons, Raptors, Suns, Cavaliers, Knicks and Nets…a top 10 finish in Offensive Efficiency doesn’t sound too absurd. And top 10 can’t be considered mediocre, can it?
Something to think about.