From Continuity to Inconsistency, Clutch Stats Do a 180, Vucevic's Defense, and Other Bulls Bullets

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From Continuity to Inconsistency, Clutch Stats Do a 180, Vucevic’s Defense, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

One day I’m putting ice cubes on my dog’s neck because it is 80 degrees. The next day my dog is looking at me with that signature “what the f**k” face because it’s snowing.

Few things are more inconsistent than springtime in Chicago … but the Chicago Bulls happen to be one of those things!

  • If continuity was the word of the last offseason, inconsistency is definitely the word this time around. Practically every single person that took the lectern at their end-of-season press conference used that term to describe what plagued this season’s team. And I couldn’t help but let out a little frustrated chuckle every time I heard it.
  • Inconsistency is practically the opposite of what continuity is supposed to instill. The benefit of keeping the same group together is knowing what to expect. It’s also supposed to lead to a better understanding of how to finish close games and take care of lesser opponents. The fact the Bulls had an almost identical roster to last season and struggled to do both those things only further emphasizes how wrong the front office’s decision turned out to be. I wish I could say that the organization realizes its mistakes, but I’m truly not so sure after Arturas Karnisovas’ press conference.

  • Look, I’m not saying the Bulls should have made a drastic change after last season. They finished 6th in the East in their best campaign since the 2015-16 season. I understand running it back with this core. But that doesn’t mean you don’t do anything of substance with the rest of the roster. The NBA is an ever-changing league. You can’t stay the same and expect to get better results. You also can’t shoot the fewest 3-point attempts in today’s league and expect to be truly competitive. I’m crossing every extremity and limb of my body in hopes that Karnisovas and Co. have learned the error of their ways and will not make the same mistake this offseason.
  • Again, in theory, continuity should lead to better late-game execution, right? Since you’ve played more of those situations together, you know the best way to approach them. However, for the Bulls, we saw the opposite happen as the “Big 3” spent more time on the court together than any three-man unit in the NBA.
  • The Bulls held the 4th-worst winning percentage in clutch games this season (contests within 5 points with five minutes remaining) with a record of 15-23. Their clutch net rating sat just 16th in the NBA. How does that compare to the first season with this group? Well, the Bulls had the 4th-highest winning percentage in the clutch and the third-most wins. Their net rating also ranked 3rd-best behind only the Suns and Bucks, per NBA Stats.
  • One might assume that this drop-off was due to an individual drop-off by DeMar “King of the 4th” DeRozan, but the six-time All-Star remained one of the top clutch scorers in the NBA! In fact, DeRozan is currently one of three finalists for the first-ever Clutch Player of the Year award and sits behind only De’Aaron Fox for the most total points scored in clutch games this season.

“I think it’s just on all of us,” DeRozan said of the Bulls’ clutch woes. “As a collective, being able to figure out things in real time while we’re out there. Not matter how much you practice, how much you watch film, you got to be able to adapt into whatever environment that you’re going through the last three, four, five minutes in the games. No matter how clutch I can be, I’m one person. No matter how clutch Zach can be, he’s one person. As a collective, we all got to be aware for that IQ wise.”

  • At the end of the day, the Bulls’ inability to finish out games is why they aren’t battling in a first-round series this week. The Heat came into their Play-In game with 2nd-best clutch net rating in the league. They outscored the Bulls 15-1 in the final 2:54 of play. Just brutal.
  • Nikola Vucevic has always gotten flack for his defensive capabilities. More of a lumbering presence, he doesn’t have much verticality and has never been a reliable rim-protector. Having said that, I genuinely believe he deserves some credit for the Bulls’ rising to a top-5 defense in the NBA. The fact of the matter is that doesn’t just happen with a crappy big man in the lineup. I mean, the Bulls finished the year holding opponents to the 4th-fewest points in the paint per game!
  • Does that mean we should now consider Vucevic even an above-average defender? No. But a lot of defense is effort-based and about simply being in the right place at the right time. Vucevic is able to do that, specifically when someone is disrupting the point of attack like Alex Caruso or Patrick Beverley. He’s also sneaky good at playing with active hands and forcing some well-timed turnovers. Anyway, I respect how Vucevic kept it real during his end-of-year presser about his defense. He knows it isn’t his strong suit, but he also knows he isn’t as abysmal as some think.

“Obviously, the defensive part has been a knock against me for some time,” Vucevic said. “I know I have certain things I don’t do as well defensively and there are things I do really well defensively. I try to do my best I can every time I’m out there. Focus on things I do well. Use my IQ to help me on that end. I think this year was one of my better defensive years overall defensively … It shows within the right system any player can try on that end and be good. I think it was the same case for me.”

  • I’m not convinced the Miami Heat are a good basketball team, but I can never underestimate Jimmy G. Buckets. After taking down the Bulls’ in a do-or-die Play-In game with 31 points, he took down the Bucks in Game 1 of the first round with 35 points, 11 assists, and 3 steals. I know he had his breakup with Chicago a long time ago, but it’s still so hard not to wonder … “what if?”

  • As well as the Heat played in Game 1, I will not be shocked if that’s the only win they get in this series. Not only do I think their offense is going to come back down to earth (especially with Tyler Herro now out with a broken hand), but it sounds like Giannis Antetokounmpo could return as soon as Wednesday. He suffered a hard fall and lower back contusion early in last night’s game. The x-ray reportedly came back clear, however, and there is optimism he’ll return soon.

  • At least the IceHogs are in the playoffs!

  • That’s a lot of cheddar!

  • Sure, why not.

Author: Elias Schuster

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