Mercifully, the ugly West Coast road trip wrapped up for the Bulls this week, but the losing streak did not. The Bulls have lost 10 in a row. The latest defeats coming at the hands of the L.A. Lakers, Denver Nuggets, and Miami Heat. It’s been a painful 10 games.
There isn’t much to say about the losses. At a certain point during these games, everything fell apart for the Bulls. They would turn the ball over. They allowed easy buckets, and they found themselves in a double digit hole which they could “never” get out of. Once the team experienced one of these soul sucking lulls in competitive effort, the game was over. The foregone was concluded in their minds and it became the reality on the court.
The Bulls need someone to break them out of their funk, some thing to break them out of their death spiral.
Whether it’s a change in philosophy, behavior, personnel, or just a cream puff team to beat up on, the Bulls need to stir the pot and regain some confidence. Fortunately, the hard part of this seasons schedule is behind them. This next week features games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks, two teams the Bulls should be able to beat, or at least stay competitive with for all four quarters.
Wendell Carter Jr is out 2-3 months. He requires surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb. So that’s pretty bad. Yet another injury to a core player.
This season has been marred by injuries. Anyone essential to the future of this team has been hit with the injury stick. Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis, and now Carter have missed months, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine have been out weeks, and Denzel Valentine is sitting for the entire season. The players that seem ready, willing, and able to compete every night are Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaq Harrison, Robin Lopez, Chandler Hutchison and Jabari Parker (I’d include Cristiano Felicio and Antonio Blakeney, but nobody wants to see them playing).
I don’t want to use injuries as an excuse for this season, that’s the job of the Bulls front office.
The fact is, we the fans were promised more out of this season. Both the team and the front office have failed to deliver on that promise, at least up to this point in the season. Lauri Markkanen has failed to improve on the success of his rookie season. Kris Dunn has failed to grow as a playmaker and shooter. Zach LaVine, after a torrid start to the season, has failed to lead in his role as the anointed star of the team. Even Coach Jim Boylen has failed in his attempt to bring the team back to basics and instill a winning culture in the locker room.
This season has made it painfully obvious: There are no leaders on this team.
The Bulls Win Share Leaders: Chasing Dickey Simpkins 2.9
1. Ryan Arcidiacono 2.1
2. Wendell Carter Jr. 1.8
3. Zach LaVine 0.8
MVP of the Week: The Fans
The MVP of this week is anybody that watched those horrible Bulls games. It was sad, awful, and a little traumatizing. Thank you to everyone for supporting and commiserating with each other. Sports teams have the unique ability to unite all sorts of people, even when a team is losing. So hang in there Bulls fans, it’ll get better, someday, maybe.
Stat of the Week: 84:21 Minutes Played
That’s the number of minutes Markkanen, Dunn, LaVine, Carter, and Hutchison have played together this season. It’s the 4th most amount of minutes any Bulls lineup has played together, but is only a shadow of the 228:39 minutes the lineup of Arcidiacono, Carter, Justin Holiday, LaVine, and Parker have played. In those 84 minutes, the core players have managed to achieve a lousy -42 plus/minus (point differential), the second worst plus/minus of any of the 250 different lineups the Bulls have put on the floor this season.
There are many excuses available to explain away the lack of success this core group has experienced; Injuries, lack of time together, lack of NBA experience, there are a plethora of excuses. The real issue is that the lineup is NOT working. Maybe they do need more time to gel, but with the way these core players continue to suffer injuries, that time is not guaranteed.
Zach LaVine frustrated after another blowout loss. pic.twitter.com/JtGaQZdqDl
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) January 20, 2019
When the core lineup is broken down into smaller parts, you begin to see a fundamental lack of chemistry among the players. The four man group of Carter, Dunn, Markkanen and LaVine, in the 191 minutes they’ve played together, have a +3.6 turnover rate against their opponents turnovers. That means they give the ball to their opponents 3.6 times for every 1 time they are able to force a turnover. Not good.
The 3 man combinations of 1) Carter, Dunn and LaVine, 2) Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen, 3) Carter, LaVine and Markkanen, are all worse than -22 plus/minus. 6 of the top 7 worst two man combinations in plus/minus for the Bulls this season feature some pairing of the so called Core Four (Carter, Dunn, Markkanen, and LaVine). Their plus/minus range between -15.9 and -22 for 6 different pairings of those four players. Only the 2 man combination of Justin Holiday and Cameron Payne was worse (-25 plus/minus), and neither one of those guys is on the team anymore.
While 84:21 is not enough time to thoroughly evaluate the core lineup, the picture those minutes have painted for the Bulls future appears bleak. Oddly enough, the best lineups (2 man through 5 man), according to plus/minus, ALL feature Ryan Arcidiacono. I suppose that’s why Arch leads the team in Win Share. Thanks to the combined resources of BasketballReference.com and NBA.com, the two websites where all my stats come from.
I hope I haven’t left you more depressed to be a Bulls fan than this dumb 10 game losing streak already has. Even with all the negativity surrounding this team, I believe they can turn it around. Time heals all wounds, and maybe a trade, a high draft pick (Zion Williamson), or a big free agent signing will help move time along for this sorry team. Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!