While the Chicago Bulls walked away from their four-game road trip with just a 1-3 record, they actually played some of their most well-executed and watchable basketball in years. The team held their own against the Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Los Angeles Clippers with surprising ease, and it prompted me to take a look at where they stand statistically across the NBA.
I think it’s important to note that we are only 11 games into the season, and everything remains fluid. However, there are some encouraging trends at this point, as well as some concerning trends that could limit the ceiling for this team.
Let’s jump in.
The GOOD …
Stat: 59.2 TS%
Last Season: 54.7, 26th
Why it’s good: In basic terms, true shooting percentage gives us a more comprehensive look at how efficiently a team is shooting the basketball by including 2-pointers, 3-pointers, and free-throws into the equation. What this 6th-place status tells us is that the Bulls are not only generating good looks from the floor, but they are converting on those looks at a much higher rate than in 2019-20. For what it’s worth, the Bulls are currently shooting 47.7 percent from the field (9th) and 37.7 percent from downtown (10th)
Stat: 63.2 FG% 5FT or less from rim
Last season: 29th
Why it’s good: The Bulls were second-to-worst at knocking down these buckets last season despite taking the MOST shots per game this close to the rim. Part of the improvement is certainly due to players like Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. attacking the basket stronger, as well as the team’s motion offense that generates harder to defend passes into driving lanes.
Stat: 22.3 PFD (personal fouls drawn)
Last season: 29th
Why it’s good: If the Bulls aren’t knocking down their high-percentage looks at the rim, they’re at least getting to the free-throw line. The aggressive offensive approach and constant ball movement has led to far more freebies for this team, and with solid shooters all over the roster, getting to the line is clearly advantageous (the team is currently 3rd in the league in free-throw percentage at 81.6 percent).
The free-throw line is a great way to control the pace of play, as well as keep games within striking distance. The Bulls have undoubtedly used that philosophy so far this season, as they currently have the most free throw attempts in the clutch (have played 3rd-most minutes in the clutch this season).
Stat: 24.9 AST
Last season: 23rd
Why it’s good: For Donovan’s system to work, players must be unselfish, and the team’s improved assist totals show us they have done just that. While they are by no means perfect at it, players are actively looking to create the best look, and that has been key to the team’s all-around offensive efficiency this season.
Stat: 104.73 PACE
Last season: 16th
Why it’s good: The Bulls defense is … less than stellar, so the more possessions they can give themselves, the better. Not to mention, running a high-pace offense can throw certain teams out of whack, especially with this energetic young Bulls backcourt.
Stat: 25.1 screen assist points
Last season: 19th
Why it’s good: Setting better screens leads to better shots. Simple.
The BAD …
Stat: 7.5 STL
Last season: 1st
Why it’s bad: Don’t read too much into a significant drop in this category. The Bulls’ blitzing defense last season was meant to force turnovers, but I think we can all agree that it still didn’t make the team better than what we see now on the whole. With that said, the Bulls defense has been down-right atrocious for most of this season, and considering how often they turn over the basketball, it would be in their best interest to generate more turnovers themselves.
Stat: 8.4 OREB
Last season: 14th
Why it’s bad: Keeping possessions alive never hurts, especially when the Bulls rely on their offense to win ballgames.
Stat: 10.5 FBPS
Last season: 7th
Why it’s bad: The Bulls new offense is pretty halfcourt heavy. The team needs to get in their sets and rely on the pick and roll. We can’t complain too much with all the positives we see above, but this team has the speed and versatility to convert on fastbreak buckets.
The UGLY …
Stat: 115.9 DEFRTG
Last season: 9th
Why it’s ugly: Believe it or not, failing to stop the other team from scoring is considered not a good way to win games. I know, shocking.
Stat: 17.8 TOV
Last season: 27th
Why it’s ugly: These players just aren’t very good at holding onto the ball, and that is only amplified by the fact that they are running an offense that relies on smart passing and ball movement. A case could be made that the main reason the Bulls have lost these close contests is due to this turnover trouble, which has also led to 20.4 opponent points off turnovers each game (28th in the league). Until the team can limit the number of easy scores and extra possessions for opponents, it’s hard to see them beating top teams who know how to make fewer mistakes.
Stat: 56.3 OPP EFG%
Last season: 26th
Why it’s ugly: The Bulls can not take advantage of their own impressively efficient shooting performances if they allow the other team to shoot just as well.
Stat: 1.40 AST/TO
Last season: 26th
Why it’s ugly: Again, the Bulls might be succeeding on offense, but it’s practically canceled out by their inability to take care of the basketball. This is the ultimate “shooting yourself in the foot” stat.