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Can the New Bulls Improve the Little Things? and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

With tomorrow being media day, this pretty much marks my last day of the offseason!

To those who have kept reading or simply stopped by for an article or two during the off months, thank you so much. Things can be a grind some days when … ya know … zero basketball is being played, but we made it!

I couldn’t be more excited to watch another season unfold with the rest of you.

•   If one thing is for sure: We know the Chicago Bulls are a more talented team. Remove the win-loss column and look merely at the roster, and this is arguably the most gifted squad this city has seen since the early part of last decade. Now, how significantly that improves the final record and playoff chances is yet to be seen, but at least the franchise is in a position to drastically improve those things for the first time in a while. Killing teams on the offensive end will be this group’s bread-and-butter. A full season of experienced talent like DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevice, and Alex Caruso should also help stabilize things (not to mention, the addition of a real lead guard playmaker in Lonzo Ball). For this team to really take the next competitive step, however, we can not forget about all the work that has to improve in the margins. Things like …

•   Turnovers! Last season, the Bulls finished with the 2nd-highest TOV% in the east and the 4th-highest in the league. Look a bit closer at the players added since the trade deadline, and it was clear cleaning up this area of the stat sheet was a priority for the front office. Nikola Vucevic averaged just an 8.2 percent TOV% after joining Chicago, which ranked in the 88th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. In 2019-20 for Orlando, his TOV% sat in the 95th percentile. The dude just doesn’t make silly decisions, and DeMar DeRozan proved he can say the same in 2020-21.

•   While DeRozan’s track record may not be as strong, he took great care of the basketball in his playmaking role last season with a TOV% ranked in the 90th percentile. Among players who averaged 25.0 minutes per game last season, DeRozan also has the 5th-best assist-to-turnover ratio right behind guys like Ricky Rubio and Chris Paul, per NBA dot com. In other words, having a strong chunk of the offense flow throw through these two should help eliminate some of the costly turnovers we grew accustomed to seeing. For things to really be “fixed” in the turnover department, though, Zach LaVine and Ball will have to make their own strides (and, for what it’s with, I think LaVine should see his career-high 3.5 TOVs decrease this season thanks to having some of the playmaking and on-ball pressure taken off his shoulders).

•   Another skill that must improve: Getting to the charity stripe. This team sat 30th in free-throw attempts per game last season, and this inability to draw contact likely played a role in their 20th-ranked 4th quarter Net Rating. LaVine was the only player who could fight his way to the line in key situations, and he isn’t even particularly elite at doing so. Unfortunately, Vucevic will not be one of the players to fix this problem, as he ranked just 33rd in FTAs per game among centers who appeared in at least 50 games. Lonzo Ball is another player who can not be relied on despite his strong positional size. Ball has never averaged more than 1.4 FTAs per game in his career, and his shooting foul percentage (the number of shots a player was fouled on) ranked only in the 8th percentile last season. Ew, ew, and more ew.

•   So what about DeRozan? Ding, ding, ding! Yes, he will help. The four-time All-Star has averaged 7.4 free throw attempts per game over his last eight seasons. I do worry a bit about the NBA’s new shooting foul rules possibly taking away some of what DeRozan can do, but he is still a proven commodity when it comes to drawing freebies thanks to his crafty play inside the 3-point line. Meanwhile, maybe Patrick Williams can be of some assistance here with more aggressive offensive play at a more comfortable frontcourt position.

•   Uh, this is kind of interesting.

•   Seriously, it is pretty nuts how Derrick Rose has been able to re-invent his career. He is a completely different player than what we saw in the early 2010s, and I think that speaks volumes about his basketball IQ and fundamental skill (two things that may have gone under-appreciated during his ultra-athletic early years).

•   I love when this happens.

•   I joined the Bulls 101 show last night for some hoops after dark talk. Things got spicy (not really), so feel free to skim through.

•   IT’S JUSTIN FIELDS DAY, BABYYYYYY!

•   It’s so fun to see Toews back on the ice.



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.