Last season, the Bulls bench ranked 13th in points per 100 possessions (106.3), 10th in rebounds per game (14.3), ninth in points per game (31.0), tied for 7th in assists per game (6.9), tied for fourth in steals per game (2.7), and an amazing third in the league (behind Boston and Utah and ahead of the Lakers and Cleveland) in net points (+462). That’s some pretty impressive bench production! And note that the four teams around them in net points were a combined 241-87…that’s a winning percentage of 73 percent. So bench-wise, the Bulls were in elite company in 2008-09.
Now check out how the starters ranked in comparison: 19th in points per 100 possessions (105.7), 17th in rebounds per game (27.8), 13th in points per game (71.2), 24th in assists per game (14,2), 19th in steals per game (4.7), and a dreadful 21st in net points (-577). The only teams that ranked below them in net points were New Jersey, New York, Golden State, Minnesota, Memphis, Oklahoma City, Washington, Sacramento and the L.A. Clippers. Note those were all bottom-feeding lottery teams. Further consider the fact that those squads had a combined record of 221-517 (a winning percentage of 36 percent).
So it seems that the Bulls’ bench production more important than we might have guessed…and that the relative productivity of the starters was actually much worse. If the Bulls are going to be more than a seventh or eighth seed this season, they have to continue to get strong performances from their reserves while getting much better total production from the starting unit. If I had to guess, I’d bet that will start (if it happens) with defense.