NightMare

If you’re like me you’ve been pinching yourself for a week to see if you’ll wake up. The Bulls have started the regular season 1-3, and I feel like I’m living a nightmare. Over a month ago, I blogged about the Bulls schedule and what some likely win totals for this season might be. Even in my worst case scenario, the one in which I had the Bulls only winning 28 games, I still had them 4-1 at the end of October. There was no way anyone envisioned a 1-3 start for this Bulls roster. What the hell is going on?

1, 2, Don’t know what to do…

Through the first few games of this regular season, the Bulls defensive rotations have looked bad. Players are running around like headless chickens. There have been multiple times in every game when two (or more) players have tried to guard the same person, leaving opposing players wide open. The communication between Bulls players on defense has not been good, and it’s led to Bulls defenders switching and/or not switching at the wrong times and onto the wrong man, making the job of the offense too easy. Also, throughout the first couple games, the effort in closing out on perimeter shooters has been weak. The Charlotte Hornets set a franchise record in 3 pointers made (23) in their win against the Bulls, and about half of those shots were wide open. While the defense has gotten better since the disastrous opening game of the season, there is still a lot that needs to be improved.

The Bulls are cream puffs in the paint. That’s not technically true, but it’s hard not to think that when you have the vision of Pascal Siakam flying down the lane and blitzing the rim burned into your memory. The interior defense has not been that awful, but it hasn’t been great either. Lauri Markkanen, Luke Kornet, and even Wendell Carter Jr, have all struggled to protect the paint, the rim, and their dignity in the face of strong front court opponents. The Bulls have allowed their opponents to score 46.5 points in the paint per game. That’s 13th in the league, slightly above the median (which is good), but while they’ve been packing the paint to help the bigs defend the rim, they have left teams with open shots, especially open 3 point shots. The Bulls are one of the easiest teams to get, and make, a 3 point shot against. Opponents are attempting 36 three pointers per game (23rd in the league) and are shooting 39.6% from 3 point land (26th in the league) against the Bulls. That translates to about 43 points the Bulls give up to opponents per game on 3 point field goals alone. That’s a lot of points they’re giving up on the perimeter in order to be mediocre at defending the paint.

3, 4, Need to rebound more…

In Monday’s loss to the New York Knicks, the Bulls were out rebounded 38 to 63. The Knicks had 25 offensive boards. Two nights before that the Toronto Raptors out rebounded the Bulls 59 to 45, with 10 rebounds off the offensive glass. And the night before the Raptor game, the Memphis Grizzlies out rebounded the Bulls 56 to 45, with 15 offensive rebounds. The only team the Bulls have managed to out rebounded this season is the Charlotte Hornets on opening night (49-41).

It’s not just getting out rebounded that hurts, it’s the offensive rebounds in particular that are killing the Bulls. They are giving up 15.8 second chance points per game, that’s the 4th worst amount in the NBA. Only the rebuilding Grizzlies, Hornets, and Pelicans are giving up more 2nd chance points than the Bulls. It might be time for Coach Jim Boylen to add Daniel Gafford to the mix. His energy and strength could be put to good use on the glass.

5, 6, Chucking up bricks…

The Bulls are missing a lot of shots. They are 27th in the NBA in field goal percentage, shooting a measly 40.5%. Their 3 point percentage is even worse (27.5%). Only the Orlando Magic are shooting a worse 3 point field goal percentage than the Bulls. Lauri Markkanen is 5-27 from beyond the 3 point arc for a woeful 18.5%. Otto Porter Jr is 9-24, shooting just 26.5% from the field. Tomas Satoransky is shooting 29.2%, and just 22.2% on threes. Only 5 Bulls have field goal percentages above 40%: Coby White (43.8%), Zach LaVine (45.1%), Thaddeus Young (50%), Wendell Carter Jr (52.6%), and Ryan Arcidiacono (6 for 9, 66.7%). A lot of the bad shooting will figure itself out as the law of averages takes effect, but with so many of the Bulls shooters in a funk to start the season, it’s no wonder they’re 1-3 instead of 3-1.

7,8, No one’s great..

There is no “Alpha Dog” on the Bulls roster this season.

 

For all Zach LaVine’s talk about being tired of people “talking shit” about his defense, even as he makes it known he thinks he should be an All-Star, so far he has done very little to stop the talk or make the team. It’s not that LaVine hasn’t put up numbers, he was phenomenal against Memphis, it’s that he still makes dumb decisions at the end of games. Whether it’s driving the lane and laying the ball up for 2 points with less than 5 seconds left in the game when you need 3 to tie, or taking long, contested shots early in the shot clock when the Bulls have the lead with less than 3 minutes left in the game, Zach LaVine does not understand how to win basketball games. It’s this basic gap in his basketball IQ that is holding him back from greatness.

Likewise, Lauri Markkanen has a gap in his basketball game: Consistent aggressiveness. Markkanen is a dominant beast putting up 30+ points with 15+ rebounds when he’s motivated and in his groove, but when he’s off his game you may as well call him Ferdinand instead of The Finnisher. Lauri needs to play with swagger. He’s a better basketball player when he’s got that cocky smirk on his face and is pulling up from 3 like there’s no tomorrow. Lauri needs to get his groove back and stay in that groove for an extended period of time (the rest of his career) before he can be considered great.

For those of you who are big Wendell Carter fans, he needs to stay healthy before he can claim greatness.

9, 10, Never win again…

As this living nightmare of a season wraps it’s razor sharp claws around us, it certainly feels like the Bulls may never win again. This first week has been pretty rough. Those of us who entertained some hope for the playoffs have seen those dreams shredded by the Charlotte Hornets, Toronto Raptors, and New York Knicks. I’m not willing to give up completely on the post season, but I keep pinching myself and I’m not waking up from the nightmare. We lost to the Knicks for crying out loud, and the Hornets too! Oh God, Luke Kornet is jacking up another 3 pointer! There’s no escape! NO, NO, NO! Not Kris Dunn from the corner!!! I gotta wake up!!! SHOOT THE THREE, ZACH! WHY DIDN’T YOU SHOOT THE THREE!!! I HAVE TO WAKE UP!!! DRIVE THE BALL, LAURI!!! SOMEONE PLEASE! HELP ME WAKE UP!!! PLEASE! WAKE! UP!