Statistically, These Chicago Bulls Are Very Different Than the Team We Saw Last Year

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Statistically, These Chicago Bulls Are Very Different Than the Team We Saw Last Year

Chicago Bulls

I should probably preface this entire post with one important note: The Chicago Bulls have played only 14 games.

For better or worse, whatever version we see right now could end up completely different at the end of the season. Maybe the team finds its groove, maybe the roster looks different after the deadline, and so on. And, hey, while we’re clearing our throat, I’ll say that evaluating this team based on these *particular* 14 games (which have amounted to the 4th toughest strength-of-schedule) feels especially unfair.

Having said all of that, we can not and should not dismiss out of hand what we’ve seen from the Bulls over the first month. Indeed, the one benefit of playing stiff competition right off the bat is that we actually DO get a more immediate look at this team’s true colors. And it sure is interesting to see how that already compares to last season.

When we take a closer look at what the Bulls have done successfully to start this season, it’s almost the polar opposite of how they finished the 2021-22 campaign. I went ahead and mapped out some key offensive and defensive stats to show just how stark the difference is, and we might as well start with the side of the ball that carried this squad one season ago.

Offense2021-222022-23 (14 games)
OFFRTG112.7 (13th)109.5 (22nd)
EFG%54.1 (10th)52.7 (21st)
AST%57.2 (27th)60.3 (16th)
OREB%24.9 (28th)26.8 (20th)
TOV%13.0 (6th)15.6 (22nd)
PACE98.76 (14th)101.11 (12th)

Note: The numbers that are bolded are below the league average.

The Bulls’ offense has been downright ugly in recent weeks. After finishing with the 13th offensive rating in 2021-22, they have started this year with one of the NBA’s 10-worst units. The Bulls have especially struggled to score the basketball at an efficient rate, despite seeing their ability to share the basketball actually take a step in the right direction.

Now, as Zach LaVine becomes healthier and more readily available, we may begin to see this number trend back in the right direction. Not only should he start to score more efficiently, but his presence should only continue to open up the floor that much more for his teammates. Still, it’s abundantly clear that this team hasn’t yet been able to make up for the absence of Lonzo Ball’s high-volume catch-and-shoot ability and playmaking, and I’m not sure they ever will be.

The Bulls are also turning the ball over at a far higher rate. While this feels like another area that can be connected back to not having your starting point guard, the Bulls actually held a top-6 TOV% while Ball was on the sideline last season. So while I can understand at least a slight uptick due to the coaching staff’s desire to pass more and run less ISO ball, there is really no reason the Bulls’ should be turning the ball over this much.

Before I move over to sharing the team’s defensive comparison, I should note that some of these current offensive marks do at least resemble what we saw after the All-Star break last year. The Bulls really fell off a cliff over the final 23 games of the regular season with an offense that sat just 25th in the NBA. So, on one hand, the Bulls scoring this poorly shouldn’t be some kind of unprecedented surprise. But, on the other hand, the expectation was we’d see the return of the more electric scoring that carried them into a playoff position.

Far more startling than the Bulls’ poor offense is the Bulls’ good defense. While the eye test might say otherwise, the advanced stats have loved what Chicago has done on that end of the floor so far.

Defense2021-222022-23 (14 games)
DEFRTG113.2 (23rd)109.8 (7th)
DREB%73.5 (7th)73.5 (6th)
OPP TOV13.1 (24th)16.4 (4th)
OPP PTS IN PAINT49.6 (22nd)49.6 (18th)
STL7.1 (23rd)8.1 (6th)
BLK4.1 (25th) 5.7 (7th)

Note: The numbers that are bolded are below the league average.

After finishing 23rd in defensive rating in 2021-22, we’ve seen the Bulls start the year in the NBA’s top 10. And, again, when we factor in the competition they have seen up until this point, that is a genuinely impressive number.

What is even more impressive is that they are doing this without Ball.

Unlike how the offense has continued to face struggles with him off the floor, the Bulls’ defense has seemingly recovered – at least, on paper. I do think this number is getting a little too generous of a boost from the team’s ability to force turnovers at a top-4 rate, but the Bulls also deserve their flowers for reaching that mark. After all, it’s been one of the ways they have been able to make up for their offensive deficiencies at times, as they currently rank second in points off turnovers.

All things considered, the Bulls’ defensive numbers could actually remain decent as the season drags on. While we all know their three All-Star players struggle on this end of the court, this is seemingly where most of their role players tend to thrive. Whether it be Ayo Dosunmu, Alex Caruso, Javonte Green, or Derrick Jones Jr., the Bulls have many high-energy perimeter defenders to throw at their opponents. Patrick Williams has also started to ramp up his physicality in the front court, while Andre Drummond has been a better-than-expected rim protector in the second unit.

The bigger question for me right now is whether or not the Bulls’ offense can begin to perform like it did last season. As I said, I do believe that LaVine will help push this team in the right direction, but the lack of 3-point shooting and turnovers remains a pretty glaring issue.

Author: Elias Schuster

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