NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 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 added some movement to their offense.
The Bulls led the league in player movement, averaging 11.6 miles traveled (from five offensive players) per 24 minutes of possession, according to Second Spectrum tracking.
The Bulls were one of three teams – Golden State and Philadelphia were the others – that ranked in the top five in both player movement and ball movement (passes per 24 minutes of possession).
It was the Bulls’ third season under head coach Fred Hoiberg, but maybe the first in which we really saw his vision of a free-flowing offense. They saw the league’s biggest increase in player movement and its second biggest increase in ball movement from the season prior.
Of course, last season was also the Bulls’ worst offensive season in 14 years. They ranked 28th in offensive efficiency, scoring 4.9 fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average. Talent trumps everything else in this league and while a lot of teams can emulate the Warriors in regard to style, none can match the champs in regard to personnel.
The Bulls’ four leading scorers from the 2016-17 season all left between the 2017 and 2018 trade deadlines. Last season, they were one of three teams – Memphis and Phoenix were the others – that ranked in the bottom 10 in field goal percentage in the paint (52.2 percent – 27th), mid-range field goal percentage (37.9 percent – 26th) and 3-point percentage (35.5 percent – 21st). Player and ball movement don’t matter much if you don’t make the shots they produce.
The Bulls did get a 19-points-per-game scorer in the trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, but Zach LaVine was recovering from an ACL tear and didn’t play until mid-January last season.
The Bulls were better offensively in the 24 games LaVine played (104.2 points scored per 100 possessions) than they did in the 58 games he missed (100.0). But in those 24 games, they were better offensively with LaVine off the floor (107.5) than they were with him on the floor (101.6).
LaVine wasn’t fully recovered from the ACL surgery. He shot a career-low 38 percent and, after playing those 24 games, missed the final 14 games of the season.
So we shouldn’t draw any strong conclusions about how well the Bulls played with LaVine. It might be worth noting, however, that there was less player and ball movement in the games that LaVine played. (It wasn’t a huge drop, though.)
The Bulls added to their talent with the addition of Jabari Parker, who ranked 11th of 12 Milwaukee Bucks rotation players (at least 15 minutes per game in 20 or more games) in assist ratio, recording assists on just 13 percent of his possessions. When the season starts, both LaVine and Parker will both be 20 months removed from their ACL tears. And we’ll see if they keep the ball and the bodies moving.
Note: The above table is based on true possession counts. Other efficiency stats here are based on possession estimates (typically higher than true possession counts).
BULLS NOTES – GENERAL
- One of four teams – the Hawks, Mavs and Clippers are the others – that have seen a win decrease in each of the last three seasons.
- Saw the league’s biggest drop in NetRtg (point differential per 100 possessions), from plus-0.3 (14th in the league) in 2016-17 to minus-7.1 (28th) last season.
- One of four teams – Memphis, Phoenix and Sacramento are the others – that ranked in the bottom five in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
- Had the league’s second biggest differential between actual wins and “expected” wins (based on point differential). Were 27-55 with the point differential of a team that was 21-61.
- Had the league’s worst NetRtg (minus-13.3 points per 100 possessions) in the second game of back-to-backs.
BULLS NOTES – OFFENSE
- League’s worst shooting team (effective field goal percentage of 48.6 percent) over the last five seasons.
- Saw the league’s biggest jump in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range, from 26 percent (third lowest rate in the league) in 2016-17 to 35 percent (11th highest rate) last season, scoring 10.4 additional points per game from beyond the arc.
- Still saw the league’s second biggest drop in OffRtg, from 104.6 points scored per 100 possessions (21st in the league) in 2016-17 to 101.3 (28th) last season.
- Saw the league’s biggest drop (by a wide margin) in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing only 20.6 percent of available offensive boards (25th in the league) last season, down from 27.0 percent (fourth) in 2016-17.
- Had the league’s worst offense (scoring just 97.1 points per 100 possessions in 27 games) against the league’s top 10 defenses.
- Scored just 0.78 points per possession on isolations. That was the worst rate in the league, according to Synergy tracking.
BULLS NOTES – DEFENSE
- Saw the league’s biggest increase in opponent effective field goal percentage, from 50.7 percent (10th in the league) in 2016-17 to 54.2 percent (29th) last season.
- Only team that ranked in the bottom five in both opponent field goal percentage in the paint (ranked 30th at 58.3 percent) and in opponent effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint (ranked 26th at 51.0 percent).
- 69 percent of opponents’ shots, the highest rate in the league, came from the restricted area or 3-point range. Saw the league’s biggest increase in the percentage of opponent shots that came from 3-point range, from 30 percent (the eighth lowest rate in the league) in 2016-17 to 38 percent (the second highest rate).
- Saw the league’s biggest increase in opponent free throw rate, from 21.9 attempts per 100 shots from the field (second lowest mark in the league) in ’16-17 to 23.3 (eighth) last season. With the league average dropping from 27.1 to 25.2, only two other teams – Atlanta and Milwaukee – saw an increase in opponent rate.
- Allowed opponents to score 1.15 points per possession, the league’s highest rate, in transition, according to Synergy play-type tracking.
- Opponents recorded assists on 63 percent of their field goals, the league’s third highest opponent rate.
- Ranked last with just 3.5 blocks per game.
BULLS NOTES – LINEUPS
- Got 6,224 total minutes, most in the league (and 31 percent of their total minutes), from second-year players (Kris Dunn, Kay Felder, David Nwaba, Denzel Valentine and Paul Zipser) last season.
- Dunn, LaVine and Lauri Markkanen played just 255 minutes (in 12 games) together. The Bulls were outscored by more than 21 points per 100 possessions in those minutes.
- Lineup of Dunn, Justin Holiday, Valentine, Markkanen and Robin Lopez had a free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of just 0.135, tied for the lowest rate among 48 lineups that played at least 200 minutes together.
- Highest on-court OffRtg among returning two-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes together): Holiday and Bobby Portis. The Bulls scored 112.1 points per 100 possessions in 529 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
- Lowest on-court DefRtg among returning two-man combinations (minimum 500 minutes together): Holiday and Lopez. The Bulls allowed 105.6 points per 100 possessions in 999 minutes with the pair on the floor together.
- Were outscored by 18.0 points per 100 possessions with Cristiano Felicio on the floor. That was the worst on-court NetRtg (by a wide margin) among 326 players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game in 40 games or more.
BULLS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Kris Dunn saw the biggest jump in usage rate (from 14.2 percent to 24.7 percent) among 235 players who played at least 500 minutes in 2016-17 and 1,000 minutes last season. Bobby Portis saw the fourth biggest jump (from 19.3 percent to 25.7 percent).
- Dunn also saw the biggest jumps in points per game (from 3.8 to 13.4 points) and assists per game (from 2.4 to 6.0) among 260 players who played in at least 40 games each season.
- Justin Holiday shot 42 percent from 3-point range at home and just 30 percent on the road. That was the biggest home-road differential among 139 players with at least 100 3-point attempts both at home and on the road.
- Holiday ranked fourth in the league with 140 corner 3-point attempts. The 36,4 percent he shot from the corners ranked just 93rd among 127 players who attempted at least 50 corner threes.
- Holiday was one of four players to shoot less than 50 percent on at least 100 shots in the restricted area.
- Zach LaVine had an effective field goal percentage of 44.2 percent, down from 54.4 percent in 2016-17. That was the second biggest drop among 206 players with at least 300 field goal attempts each season.
- Robin Lopez played only nine percent (141/1,658) of his regulation minutes in the fourth quarter. That was the lowest rate among players who played at least 1,000 minutes in regulation.
- Only 40 percent of Lopez’s shots came from the restricted area or 3-point range. That was the third lowest rate among 180 players with at least 500 field goal attempts. He shot 49 percent on non-restricted-area shots in the paint, the third best mark among 31 players who attempted at least 200.
- Lauri Markkanen was one of just six players to average at least seven rebounds and two 3-pointers per game last season, and the first rookie in NBA history to do so.
- Markkanen grabbed 23.6 percentage of available defensive rebounds while he was on the floor, the highest mark among 29 rookies who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 games or more. He recorded assists on just 7.2 percent of his possessions, the lowest rate among that same group.
- Jabari Parker recorded career highs in both 3-point percentage (38.3 percent) and the percentage of his shots that came from 3-point range (24 percent) last season.
- Denzel Valentine shot 39.4 percent on pull-up 3-pointers, the seventh best mark among 56 players who attempted at least 100 and up from 28.3 percent (on just 53 attempts) in 2016-17.
- Valentine attempted just seven free throws for every 100 shots from the field (51/721). That was the lowest free throw rate among 223 players with at least 400 field goal attempts.
NBA TV’s Bulls preview premieres at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 6.
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