If the Bulls Could Stop Turning the Ball Over, That Would be Great

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If the Bulls Could Stop Turning the Ball Over, That Would be Great

Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls have gone just 6-9 in their last 15 games. In those nine losses, they have averaged 16.0 turnovers a night. Only the Nuggets and Timberwolves have averaged more in losses over their last 15.

Taking care of the basketball is one of the few things this roster has actually been rather good at since its inception. They finished with the 6th-lowest TOV% in the NBA last season, and they entered 2023 still possessing a top-10 TOV% in the NBA (9th, to be exact). Since the turn of the year, however, the Bulls have only seen this number trend in the wrong direction, particularly over this last month.

The Bulls’ 14.8 turnover percentage in February was the 8th-highest in the NBA. We’ve watched them commit at least 16 TOVs in four of their last nine games, including this most recent contest against the Toronto Raptors when they coughed up the ball 19 times.

Now, to the Raptors’ credit, they do force opponents into turnovers at the second-best rate in the NBA. But that still doesn’t make the Bulls’ performance acceptable, especially in the thick of a heated Play-In Tournament race. Not to mention, a bulk of the screw-ups felt self-inflicted, as six of the turnovers were due to offensive fouls.

Arguably more frustrating than watching the Bulls get called for two three-second violations, however, was watching them repeatedly fail to convert entry passes. I counted six instances where the Bulls turned the ball over on pretty basic feeds into the post. While some were due to Nikola Vucevic simply losing the basketball, others were either poorly-executed or poorly timed passes.

“Our execution of actual passing – there were so many opportunities I thought in the first half where we threw passes to guys who were open that took them out of shots,” head coach Billy Donovan said after the Tuesday night loss. “We got to better in terms of execute the pass, where it’s got to get on point, on time, where it’s supposed to be.” 

This has been a significant problem all season long for the point-guard-less Bulls. The lack of a true facilitator to help set up these three scorers is a big reason why we have watched their overall offensive rating drop to the 7th-worst in the NBA. And, to be clear, it’s not that Zach LaVine or DeMar DeRozan or even Ayo Dosunmu is incapable of setting up their teammates. All three have proven to be willing and capable playmakers. The problem is that asking any one of these players to be the primary distributor is asking far too much.

The addition of Patrick Beverley was also never going to solve this problem. While Beverley has provided a greater sense of urgency and another needed defensive presence next to Alex Caruso, he’s never been considered a true point guard. Instead, he’s long been a defensive specialist who can knock down the occasional 3 and hustle for the occasional offensive rebound. He’s averaged just 4.5 assists per 36 minutes over the course of his career, and his usage rating has never sat outside the NBA’s 36th percentile.

With that said, it’s not like help is on the horizon. The Bulls have to make taking care of the ball a team priority if they even want to think about securing a spot in the Play-In Tournament over these final 20 games. After all, they already have far too many other issues to worry about!

Author: Elias Schuster

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