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John Schuhmann

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Derrick Rose (left) and the Bulls emerged as the best defensive team in the NBA last season.
NBAE via Getty Images

StatsCube: Bulls' title hopes hinge on more offensive output


Posted Dec 2 2011 7:19AM

To get ready for the 2011-12 season, NBA.com StatsCube breaks down the critical numbers for all 30 teams.

Behind the MVP and the Coach of the Year, the 2010-11 Chicago Bulls finished with the best record in the league. Derrick Rose was the big story all year long, but it was the league's No. 1 defense that drove the Bulls to 62 wins.

But defense wasn't enough in the playoffs. The Bulls came up short offensively in the conference finals against the Heat and clearly need to improve there to take the next step.

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2010-11 BASICS
Record: 62-20
Pace: 92.9 (22)
OffRtg: 105.5 (12)
DefRtg: 97.4 (1)
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

In his first season as an NBA coach, Tom Thibodeau made a huge impact in Chicago. The Bulls were a good defensive team in Vinny Del Negro's final season, ranking 10th on that end. But they were still the most improved defensive team in the league last season, allowing 5.2 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did in 2009-10.

Most improved defensive teams
Team 2009-10 Rank 2010-11 Rank Diff
Chicago 102.6 10 97.4 1 -5.2
Memphis 107.6 24 102.5 8 -5.1
Philadelphia 107.6 23 102.5 10 -5.1
New Orleans 107.3 22 102.5 9 -4.8
Boston 101.1 5 97.8 2 -3.3

Thibodeau is no stranger to leading an elite defense. He spent the previous three seasons as an assistant in Boston, and going back 15 seasons, there have only been two seasons in which teams he has coached for haven't ranked in the top seven defensively. And in 11 of the 15 seasons, his team has allowed less than a point per possession.

Defensive efficiency ranking, Thibodeau-coached defenses
Season Team DefRtg Rank
2010-11 Chicago 97.4 1
2009-10 Boston 101.1 5
2008-09 Boston 99.4 2
2007-08 Boston 96.2 1
2006-07 Houston 97.5 3
2005-06 Houston 100.6 7
2004-05 Houston 98.9 4
2003-04 Houston 96.4 5
2002-03 New York 103.7 25
2001-02 New York 103.0 18
2000-01 New York 95.5 3
1999-00 New York 98.1 7
1998-99 New York 94.3 3
1997-98 New York 97.1 4
1996-97 New York 97.6 1

The clearest indication of Thibodeau's ability to coach defense is how good the Bulls were there from top to bottom. They had 19 different lineups that played at least 50 minutes together, and 13 of the 19 allowed less than a point per possession.

The Bulls were at their best defensively when they had their bench on the floor. They had three lineups that played at least 100 minutes and allowed fewer than 85 points per 100 possessions, and all three included Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson. Along with Omer Asik, Brewer and Gibson formed the best defensive three-man combination in the league.

Fewest points per 100 possessions allowed, three-man combinations
Team Combination GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg
CHI Asik, Brewer, Gibson 64 520 100.3 87.3 +13.0
CHI Brewer, Deng, Gibson 73 637 104.1 88.2 +15.9
CHI Brewer, Korver, Watson 79 545 101.0 90.3 +10.8
CHI Brewer, Deng, Rose 77 784 106.3 91.9 +14.4
CHI Brewer, Gibson, Watson 71 573 98.7 92.4 +6.3
BOS Davis, Garnett, Pierce 66 762 108.3 93.3 +15.0
CHI Brewer, Gibson, Rose 74 547 108.4 93.6 +14.8
BOS Allen, Davis, Garnett 66 802 106.8 93.7 +13.1
BOS Davis, Garnett, Rondo 55 660 106.7 94.5 +12.2
MIA Anthony, Bosh, James 61 540 108.8 95.2 +13.6
Minimum 500 minutes played

Of the 299 NBA players who logged at least 750 minutes last season, Asik had the lowest on-court defensive rating (90.9 points allowed per 100 possessions). And five other Bulls ranked in the top 14.

(Well-rounded) Bulls on parade

The Bulls didn't just improve defensively. They were also the second-most improved offensive team (a hair behind the Miami Heat) last season, scoring 4.7 more points per 100 possessions than in 2009-10, when they ranked 28th in the league offensively.

Rose carried a huge load offensively, ranking second in the league in usage rate behind Kobe Bryant, and using 31.1 percent of the Bulls' possessions when he was on the floor. No player in the league had more unassisted field goals than Rose.

Most unassisted field goals
Player FGM Assisted Unassisted % Unassisted
Derrick Rose 711 195 516 72.6%
LeBron James 758 245 513 67.7%
Russell Westbrook 614 108 506 82.4%
Kobe Bryant 740 278 462 62.4%
Dwyane Wade 692 254 438 63.3%
Monta Ellis 726 296 430 59.2%
Tony Parker 555 144 411 74.1%
Carmelo Anthony 684 326 358 52.3%
Chris Paul 430 77 353 82.1%
Amar'e Stoudemire 744 392 352 47.3%

Offensively, the Bulls were best on the glass. They ranked fourth in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 29.4 percent of available offensive boards. Only the Minnesota Timberwolves scored more second-chance points per 100 possessions than the Bulls did.

Among players who logged at least 750 minutes last season, Joakim Noah and Asik ranked fifth and sixth in offensive rebounding percentage respectively, both grabbing 13.7 percent of available offensive boards when they were on the floor. Gibson also grabbed more than 10 percent in his minutes.

The Bulls were also a top-10 team in getting to the free throw line. Rose ranked 11th in the league with 555 free throw attempts, while Asik was the only player in the league to play at least 100 minutes and attempt more free throws (145) than field goals (141).

PLAYOFFS
Record: 9-7
Pace: 89.8 (8)
OffRtg: 101.6 (8)
DefRtg: 98.2 (2)

After winning nine of their first 12 playoff games, the Bulls were eliminated with four straight losses to the Heat in the conference finals. Chicago followed a huge offensive performance in Game 1 with a putrid 90 points per 100 possessions over the course of Games 2-5.

The Heat did a good job of keeping Rose away from the basket. In the first two rounds, the MVP attempted 9.3 free throws and 9.0 field goals within five feet of the basket per game. In the conference finals, he attempted just 6.4 free throws and 7.6 field goals within five feet of the basket per game.

In the four losses, the Bulls' starters, despite scoring just 88 points per 100 possessions, actually outscored the Heat 103-101 in 64 minutes. But Chicago got scorched whenever it went to the bench, allowing 110 points per 100 possessions in the other 133 minutes.

Do the Bulls need a new "two?"

It's hard to blame starting shooting guard Keith Bogans for the loss to the Heat, but all season, he was seen as the weak link in that starting lineup. And the numbers show that the Bulls were much better offensively with Kyle Korver at shooting guard, and much better defensively (in a small sample size) with Ronnie Brewer at the two.

Bulls' efficiency with Rose, Deng, Boozer and Noah on the floor
Shooting guard GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Keith Bogans 29 419 102.1 97.6 4.5 +49
Kyle Korver 28 166 120.3 108.5 11.8 +46
Ronnie Brewer 18 47 101.3 92.7 8.6 +7
Other - 13 109.4 115.5 -6.1 -2
All 29 646 106.9 100.4 6.5 +100

Both Brewer and Korver are under contract for this season, while Bogans' contract is non-guaranteed. The Bulls seemingly have the best of both worlds with the Brewer-Korver combination, but would probably love to add a shooting guard that can give them production on both ends of the floor.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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