Bulls-Rockets Preview

Remember when the Bulls defense and bench was their strong suit?  Well that hasn’t been the case in the past few games. They’ve allowed more than 100 points in four straight games, and are 1-3 in those contests. And their bench, which last year was the best in the league, has lost leads or dropped further behind.

Matt covered the bench issues earlier this week. But I’d just like to add a few thoughts. The Bulls aren’t getting the Bench Mob back. Omer Asik is starting, Ronnie Brewer is playing well, as is C.J. Watson. The Bulls are stuck with what they have for the most part. It isn’t great, but it’s going to have to do. One solution to the problem would be Taj Gibson finding his way out of this funk he is in. Gibson currently has a career low PER, as well as career-low offensive and defensive rebounding percentages. With Asik gone, Taj should be grabbing more boards, but he isn’t. He got his contract extension, so now it’s time he plays up to it.

Jimmy Butler needs to keep doing what he is doing. He’s playing great defense and has the second-best PER on the team (18.2). The more solid minutes Butler puts in, the more Deng can sit (theoretically). Nate Robinson has to continue scoring, because on defense he gives up points because of his size.

Past that, the bench has been terrible. Marco Belinelli’s jump shot has been drier than the Sahara. Nazr Mohammed’s been even worse. And Marquis Teague has only played 30 minutes.

This bench is going to rely on Gibson and Butler playing well. And Thibs is probably going to need a starter somewhere in that equation at all times, because he just doesn’t have five bench guys he can trust like he used to. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the new reality. What was the biggest strength is now a pretty glaring weakness.

The Bulls defensive ratings in their past four games: 113.1 (Boston), 108.7 (Phoenix), 115.9 (Clippers) and 110.2 (Portland). After a solid start defensively, and much easier opponents, the Bulls have fallen to 10th in defensive rating (102.0).

And you know what the bad news is? Their offense has been worse than all of this. They have no one to create. It actually looks like guys are scared to score. In the fourth quarter against the Blazers, four players stood around as Joakim Noah looked for someone to pass. No one cut to the ball or through the lane. They stood there. Three of them on the other side of the court. Noah was forced to try to create himself and only got off a pretty terrible hook shot.

I understand that Thibs prefers defense to close out games which is why Boozer doesn’t sniff the floor in most fourth quarters, but that won’t work if you are losing. Rip Hamilton was 7-10 against the Blazers but was riding the pine at the end of the game, while Marco Belinelli played, even though he has been bad since he was signed. Defense worked at the end of games last year when they held leads in most final quarters, but now that they are behind Thibs is going to have to make some changes to his rotation.

Their offensive rating is 18th in the league, at 102.6. So they are scoring just .6 more points per 100 possessions this season. Last year their defensive rating was 98.3 (2nd) and offensive rating was 107.4 (5th); a difference of 9.1.

The Bulls get their first look at one of the many Bench Mob members they lost when they visit Houston. Omer Asik returns! As you probably guessed I am very excited about this. Asik has been playing well so far in his new role. His rebounding is amazing, and his defense is good.

Omer has a 102 defensive rating which is solid, but it’s the same as the Bulls current number. And, in case you were wondering, Asik’s offense is still pretty terrible. He’s averaging 10 points per game on 44.9 percent shooting, while his offensive rating is 91, which is second worst on the Rockets (to Toney Douglas), but is actually better than Kirk Hinrich’s O-rating (86). So what I take from those numbers is that Omer should be running point guard for Chicago. I may have that wrong, but I doubt anyone would complain about the hilarity of Omer Asik running point guard for a team. Except the coach of said team.


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