The Bulls Are Pretty Clutch, Limiting Mistakes, Jim Boylen Speaks, and Other Bulls Bullets

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The Bulls Are Pretty Clutch, Limiting Mistakes, Jim Boylen Speaks, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Can we just take an extra second to appreciate DeMar DeRozan’s month of February? Over his 13 games played, the All-Star starter averaged 34.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. He shot 55.3 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from downtown (1.9 attempts per game). DeRozan strung together a stretch of eight-straight games with at least 35 points on at least a 50.0 percent clip from the field – a streak Wilt Chamberlain can’t even claim.

Have we seen these stats a billion times by now? Yup … but I still can’t wrap my head around them! The NBA has quite literally never seen a month like the one DeRozan just put together. Then, when we throw in the context of his criticized free agency and the Bulls’ past struggles, the story only becomes that much more remarkable.

No matter how this season ends up, I know one thing for sure: I will never forget DeRozan’s first year as a Bull.

•   A lot has changed for the Chicago Bulls in just a year, and I’d say nothing demonstrates that better than the team’s success in clutch situations. During the 2020-21 campaign, Billy Donovan’s crew played a total of 35 clutch games (contests within 5 points with 5 minutes left on the clock). The Bulls held just a 14-21 record in those situations, which gave them the 5th-worst clutch winning percentage in the NBA. One franchise-altering offseason later, Chicago now has the 2nd-most clutch wins in the league behind only the Phoenix Suns with a record of 21-12. Their 17.5 net rating in the clutch also trails only the Suns.

•   DeRozan has easily been the biggest reason for this massive turnaround, leading the league in 4th quarter points with 472 and ranking 2nd in clutch points with 124 behind fellow-MVP candidate Joel Embiid. He’s repeatedly dragged the Bulls back into games this season, putting on a masterclass of midrange bucket-getting and timely decision-making. It’s exactly why a recent pool of executives voted DeRozan as the second-most clutch player in today’s game (which I believe should 100 percent become a yearly award where the trophy depicts three crying dudes trying to stop DeRozan’s turnaround fadeaway).

•   With that said, DeRozan isn’t the only reason we’ve seen the Bulls clutch success significantly improve. Zach LaVine has continued to grow as a decision-maker and winning talent. His 78 points in the Clutch is 10th-highest in the NBA, making Chicago the only team with two top-10 clutch scorers. Likewise, his three total turnovers match DeRozan for the fewest among the NBA’s top-15 clutch scorers. As one of the best three-level hoopers in the game, it has given the Bulls a pick-your-poison duo at the end of close contests. The moment the defense focuses on one, the other will strike. It’s a rare combination of shooting and ball-handling to have in the backcourt, and it’s one reason the Bulls could be set up well to steal some close playoff games.

•   I feel like it’s worth a note that Zach LaVine is averaging his fewest turnovers since the 2017-18 season and his fewest fouls since he stepped into the league. A big reason for his decrease in cough-ups is the diminished playmaking responsibility and overall usage. As for the fouls, he’s gotten some help from a bolstered backcourt on the defensive end, but I think we can also agree he’s continued to make strides on that side of the ball. To be sure, neither of these areas have *drastically* improved, but this is the direction we want to see both categories head as he gets the necessary help around him.

•   Speaking of turnovers, the Bulls have actually been better than I expected in that department all season long. The added ball-handling of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso made an initial difference, but the Bulls have still done a pretty good job avoiding mistakes in their absence. The Bulls have averaged the 7th-fewest TOVs per game this season with a TOV% that ranks 5th-lowest. All things considered, that’s a very welcoming sight after we watched this team turn the ball over at a bottom-5 rate the previous two seasons.

•   Guess who’s back? Former hair-loss-inducing head coach Jim Boylen has found himself at the helm of Team USA. The group is competing on and off to qualify for the World Cup, and Boylen has had the privilege to lead the team of G-League and free-agent players. The Athletic’s profiled Boylen’s experience so far, and while it sounds like he has gained respect from his new players, it doesn’t appear his tactics have changed. Check out this excerpt:

Prior to the most recent Team USA practice he ran, Boylen, 56, the former Chicago Bulls coach, set up a table on the sideline, at center court. And on it, in all their corny, clichéd glory, he placed a hard hat and a megaphone.

Boylen already asked for, and secured, his new players’ signatures on both.

•   Of course, Boylen was asked plenty about his controversial time in Chicago. He didn’t offer much substance, but he did suggest he would change some of what went on behind the scenes. Although to be sure, that doesn’t include the contract he signed:

“Boylen said he was grateful to the Reinsdorfs, not only for hiring him, but for signing him to a contract under which he is still being paid. He said there were things he did while coach of the Bulls that he would change if he had the chance, but he didn’t want to name them because “if I tell you those things, I hurt people.” Without going into detail, he cited the roster and “dysfunction” in the front office.”

•   That’s as much Boylen as I can handle for the day. If you have more stamina, I recommend you check out the full profile from The Athletic below:

•   Can any of those baseball players hoop?

•   Ditto!

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.