I sat down in front of my trusty computer this morning with my first mug of coffee and I jumped on BasketballReference.com, telling my lovely wife “I’m figuring something out.” I was figuring out how this Bulls season compared to last season at the 35 game mark. The answer? Not well.
This season, the Bulls are 9 and 26 after 35 games. They’ve struggled with injuries. The longest win streak they’ve been able to cobble together is two games (which just happened within the last week), and they’ve changed coaches, shifting team focus from an attacking offense to emphasizing defensive effort.
Last year, the Bulls were 13 and 22 after 35 games. They too had to get over injuries to key players. The longest win streak they were able to put together was 7 games. The combination of Kris Dunn and Nikola Mirotic had put a spark in the franchise. Lauri Markkanen was putting up numbers against stars like Kristaps Porzingas. But tanking was the name of the game, last season. Eventually, Mirotic was traded, Dunn injured, Markkanen injured as well, and when Zach LaVine finally returned from his knee injury… Well, you know the rest.
So, I went over all of that this morning, and as frustrating as the Bulls wins and losses have been these past two seasons, it was something completely different that ultimately caught my eye.
Win Shares “is a player statistic which attempts to divvy up credit for a teams success to the individuals on the team,” and it was this stat that made me do a double take this morning. This seasons current leader in Win Shares for the Chicago Bulls is Ryan Arcidiacono with a 1.9.
So far, Arcidiacono’s contributions on the court have been the most instrumental for the little success the Bulls have had this season. For context, the best single season Win Share in Bulls history belongs to Michael Jordan. He had a 21.2 win share in the 1987-88 season. In the 1998-99 season, Dickey Simpkins led the Bulls in win shares with a 2.9. The ‘98-99 Bulls only won 13 games, and up until this season that was the worst “top win share” in franchise history.
I find Ryan’s 1.9 both surprising and alarming.
Ryan Arcidiacono is a scrappy, tough nosed, effort player, who has learned to do a lot of little things to stay in the league. He should have a 1.9 win share because of all the work he puts in. He has turned himself into a reliable NBA bench player. The surprise and alarm comes from Arcidiacono having the Bulls top win share this season.
Zach LaVine has been the Bulls leading scorer all season long, but his win share is a measly 0.8. Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen are now healthy and playing, but their win shares are only 0.2 and 0.5 respectively. Surprising and alarming.
The season is still young-ish, and there is plenty of time for one of these players to emerge as leader in win share, but for a core that is supposed to usher in a brand new era of success, my advice is “Get Gud!” At the very least, get better than Dickey Simpkins!
If you look back at some of the Stars the Bulls have had over the past 20 or so seasons, you’ll notice that their win shares tend to be in the double digits. Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Loul Deng, Scottie Pippin, and Michael Jordan have all led the Bulls with double digit win shares at some point in their careers. We could argue about how much star power Deng, Noah, Butler and Rose might wield when compared to Pip and MJ, but the real story is that these players proved themselves indispensable to the team’s success. None of the current Bulls have yet to step up to that level of importance to the team. None of the so-called “core” players of this rebuild have proven themselves more indispensable than Dickey Simpkins. Let me repeat that for the back row: None of the “core” have proven themselves more indispensable than Dickey Simpkins! Dickey Simpkins!!!!
Win Share is by no means the be-all, end-all stat, but it can certainly indicate the individual talent level of players on a team, and how much they impact a teams wins and losses. It appears this Bulls team is lacking a strong individual contributor, or at least one that makes enough of an impact on both ends of the floor to generate wins. This sort of stat points to the extreme need for more, and better talent on the Bulls. Until we see an uptick in win shares, I have a feeling the year-to-year comparisons will continue to look grim.
There is a long, nerdy article explaining everything that goes into the Win Share stat on BasketballReference.com if you are interested in learning more about it, here’s the link→ NBA Win Shares.
Just as an aside, that Dickey Simpkins team only played 50 games because of a lockout/strike (I don’t remember which it was) and featured Toni Kukoc as the star of the team. Other notable players from that ‘98-99 roster included Bill Wennington, Ron Harper, Randy Brown, Brent Barry, and man whose name is most commonly mistaken for an illegal sex act, Rusty LaRue. Those Tim Floyd teams were pure butt.