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.