One Team, One Stat: No backcourt chemistry for Chicago Bulls

John Schuhmann

John Schuhmann

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2016-17 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Chicago Bulls, who are looking for better chemistry in their new backcourt than they had in their previous one.


The Chicago Bulls were 8.4 points per 100 possessions better when Jimmy Butler was on the floor without Derrick Rose than they were with the two on the floor together.


There were few backcourt pairings that were more talented than Butler and Rose, and a team should benefit from having two guys who can handle the ball and make plays. When the initial action doesn’t go anywhere, the second guy can attack the rotating, weak-side defense.

But Butler and Rose were never able to make each other better. In each of the last two seasons, the Bulls were much better with just one of the two on the floor than with both.

Last season, even with much higher usage rates playing without the other, both players were more efficient when the other was on the bench. Butler had a true shooting percentage of 57.5 percent with Rose on the bench and 55.3 percent with Rose on the floor. Rose, meanwhile, had a true shooting percentage of 51.8 percent with Butler on the bench and 46.2 percent with Butler on the floor.

Both Butler and Rose ranked in the bottom half of guards in assist rate last season. Rose recorded assists on 19.3 percent of his possessions, the same rate as Iman Shumpert. And Butler recorded assists on just 18.9 percent of his possessions.

To further complicate their on-court relationship, neither was able to space the floor for the other. Butler and Rose shot a combined 30 percent from 3-point range last season.

In winning eight fewer games than they did the year before, the Bulls took big steps backward on both ends of the floor. They scored 2.6 fewer points per 100 possessions and allowed 2.5 more. They were at their worst defensively with Rose in the game last season.

Now Rose is gone, and the Bulls hope that Butler has better chemistry with Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. Rondo is certainly a more willing passer than Rose, but floor spacing will still be an issue with the Bulls’ new backcourt.

Rondo had his best and most prolific 3-point shooting season last year, but still isn’t a very eager shooter. Wade, meanwhile, went four months last season without hitting a 3-pointer. He has experience deferring to another ball-dominant star, but all three guys will need to adjust and figure out how to work together.


The Bulls were the league’s seventh best defensive team through January and the seventh worst defensive team over February, March and April.

The lineup of Rose, Butler, Tony Snell, Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol was the league’s best defensive lineup among those who played at least 200 minutes together, but didn’t play together after Jan. 25.

The Bulls were 10.4 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Snell on the floor than with him on the bench. Among players that logged at least 1,000 minutes last season, only Draymond Green (12.0 points per 100 possessions) had a higher on-off court DefRtg differential.

The Bulls shot 55.6 percent in the restricted area last season, the lowest mark in the league. Among 153 players that have attempted at least 350 shots in the restricted area over the last two season, Rose (50.4 percent) and Joakim Noah (47.6 percent) rank 149th and 153rd in field goal percentage there.

One of two teams (the San Antonio Spurs were the other) that saw a drop in both the percentage of their shots that came from the restricted area and the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range. The took 43.2 percent of their shots from the area in between (sixth highest rate in the league), up from 38.5 percent (22nd) in 2014-15.

The Bulls dropped from fifth in free throw rate (30 free throw attempts for every 100 shots from the field) in 2014-15 to 28th (24) last season. Only the Sacramento Kings saw a bigger drop-off in free throw rate.

Nikola Mirotic had an effective field goal percentage of 48.1 percent before the All-Star break and 58.4 percent after it. That was the second biggest increase (behind Joe Johnson) among players with at least 250 FGA before the break and 200 after it. He increased the percentage of his shots that were threes from 54 percent before the break to 62 percent after it.

Rondo has led league in assist ratio each of the last two seasons, recording assists on 37.7 percent of his possessions in 2014-15 and on 42.7 percent of his possessions last season.

Wade’s regular-season effective field goal percentage (45.9 percent) and true shooting percentage (51.7 percent) last season were both career-low marks.

According to SportVU, the Heat scored 1.26 points per possession on Wade drives and the Bulls scored 1.25 points per possession on Butler drives. Those marks ranked 10th and 14th among 110 players that drove at least 200 times last season.

NBA TV’s Bulls preview premieres at 6:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, Oct. 6.

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

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