One Team, One Stat: Bulls' offense needs work

NBA.com Global on Oct 06, 2017 11:42 AM
One Team, One Stat: Bulls' offense needs work
Chicago Bulls' Bobby Portis, left, Robin Lopez, center, and Lauri Markkanen pose for a portrait during media day for the NBA basketball team Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com

NBA.com's John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2017-18 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Chicago Bulls, who were the league's worst team in regard to its most important skill.

THE STAT

With an effective field goal percentage of 48.7 percent last season, the Chicago Bulls were the worst shooting team in the league.

THE CONTEXT

Shooting is the most important skill in basketball. And the Bulls were a poor shooting team both inside and out.

The Bulls ranked 29th in 2-point percentage, with four of their five starters --Jimmy Butler, Robin Lopez, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade -- shooting worse than the league average (61.1 percent) in the restricted area. The one that shot better --Taj Gibson -- was traded in February.

The Bulls were slightly better from beyond the arc, ranking 24th in 3-point percentage. But they were 29th in 3-point attempts, one of seven teams that took more mid-range shots (worth 0.80 points per attempt league-wide) than 3-point shots (worth 1.07).

In a season where the league attempted 7,181 more 3-pointers than it ever had, the Bulls were also one of seven teams that made fewer threes than they did in 2015-16. Their most prolific 3-point shooter, Nikola Mirotic, ranked 49th in made threes (129) and 108th in 3-point percentage among 135 players with at least 200 attempts. That's far from elite.

Still, because he actually attempted threes, Mirotic was one of only two Bulls that had an effective field goal percentage above the league average (51.4 percent) on at least 400 shots. The other, again, was Gibson.

With a perimeter trio of Rondo, Butler and Wade, spacing was obviously an issue. Among 174 players (including big men) who attempted at least 500 total shots, they ranked 124th, 131st and 140th in the percentage of their shots that were from 3-point range. As a group, they took 1.9 times as many mid-range shots than threes.

Maybe the spacing improves this year. The Bulls were better offensively with one or two on the floor than they were with all three. Of course all three are gone and Butler will be missed especially.

The Bulls are one of two teams (Philadelphia is the other) that has ranked in the bottom 10 in effective field goal percentage in each of the last five seasons, and with the talent they lost this summer, it's likely that they're about to make six in a row.

BULLS NOTES - GENERAL

1. With 11 trips, they're one of three teams - San Antonio (13) and Dallas (11) are the others - that have been to the playoffs more than 10 times in the last 13 years.

2. Last season, they were 12-9 against the teams with the league's eight best records, but just 13-12 against the teams with the league's nine worst records.

3. Had a better record (8-5) with a rest disadvantage (when they played the day before and their opponent didn't) than they did (7-6) with a rest advantage (when they didn't play the day before but their opponent did). Were one of three teams (Memphis and Portland were the others) that had a winning record on the second game of a back-to-back (10-7) and a losing record otherwise (31-34).

4. Led by double-digits in the first quarter 25 times. Only the Rockets (30), Warriors (28) and Cavs (27) did so more often. But they were just 14-11 in those games. Only Indiana saw a bigger drop in NetRtg from the first to the second quarters than the Bulls, who outscored their opponents by 3.9 points per 100 possessions in the first and were outscored by 3.6 in the second.

BULLS NOTES - OFFENSE

1. Have scored fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average in 15 of the 18 seasons since Michael Jordan's second retirement in 1998.

2. Have ranked in the top five in offensive rebounding percentage in five of the last seven years.

3. They were a bottom-10 shooting team in the paint (24th), from mid-range (21st) and from 3-point range (24th). But they did rank sixth in 3-point percentage (38.2 percent) after the All-Star break.

4. Took 28.1 percent of their shots from mid-range, the third highest rate in the league. Only San Antonio (29.5 percent) and New York (28.6 percent) took a higher percentage of their shots from between the paint and the 3-point line.

5. Won four games in which they made three or fewer 3-pointers. The rest of the league won seven such games total.

6. In the playoffs, they took 62.2 percent of their shots from the restricted area or 3-point range (ninth highest rate among the 16 teams), up from 56.6 percent in the regular season (fourth lowest rate in the league). That was the biggest increase from the regular season to the postseason.

BULLS NOTES - DEFENSE

1. Have allowed fewer points per 100 possessions than the league average in 11 of the last 13 seasons. Have ranked in the top 10 in opponent effective field goal percentage in each of the last nine seasons and in 12 of the last 13. Have ranked in the top five in opponent free throw rate in five of the last six seasons.

2. Forced 13.7 turnovers per 100 possessions. That was only the 19th highest rate in the league, but was up from 12.0 (29th) the season before. That was the biggest increase in opponent turnover rate from 2015-16 to '16-17.

3. Had the league's best first quarter defense, allowing only 99.2 points per 100 possessions in the opening period. Ranked 24th defensively in the second quarter, allowing 109.7.

4. Ranked third defensively after the All-Star break, allowing only 102.2 points per 100 possessions, 3.3 fewer than they allowed before the break. Only Brooklyn, Toronto and Portland improved more defensively after the break.

BULLS NOTES - LINEUPS

1. Outscored their opponents by 12.1 points per 100 possessions with Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic on the floor together. That was the best on-court NetRtg among duos not on the Warriors or Clippers (and within the league's 250 most-used two-man combinations). The Bulls were outscored by 4.6 points per 100 possessions with Butler and/or Mirotic off the floor.

2. Lineup of Rondo, Butler, Paul Zipser, Mirotic and Lopez was one of six Eastern Conference lineups to score more than 120 points per 100 possessions in at least 100 minutes.

3. Outscored their opponents by 13.4 points per 100 possessions in 319 minutes with Butler on the floor without a point guard (Michael Carter-Williams, Jerian Grant, Cameron Payne or Rondo).

4. In the playoffs, they outscored their opponents by 14.5 points per 100 possessions in 67 minutes with Rondo (who broke his thumb in Game 2 and missed the final four games of the series) on the floor and were outscored by 12.7 points per 100 possessions with Rondo off the floor.

5. Of the 504 lineups they used last season (including playoffs), only four included five guys who are still on the roster. Those four lineups played a total of 37 minutes together.

BULLS NOTES - INDIVIDUAL

1. Kris Dunn was one of three rookies (minimum 25 games played) who recorded assists on at least 30 percent of his possessions.

2. Cristiano Felicio grabbed 13.1 percent of available offensive boards while he was on the floor. That was the fifth best offensive rebounds among 220 players under 6-10 who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 or more games. Both Cristiano and Robin Lopez ranked much higher in offensive rebounding percentage (13th and 16th, respectively) than they did in defensive rebounding percentage (66th and 160th) among the 294 total players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 or more games.

3. Jerian Grant shot 36.6 percent from 3-point range last season, up from 22.0 percent the season before. That was the biggest increase among 169 players who attempted at least 100 threes both in 2015-16 and '16-17. The second biggest increase belonged to Grant's brother Jerami.

4. Justin Holiday shot 47.4 percent (45-for-95) on corner threes last season, the fifth best mark among 71 players who attempted at least 75. His 54.7 percent was the best mark among players with at least 50 attempts from the right corner.

5. Zach LaVine was one of six players to average at least five points per game on catch-and-shoot attempts and at least five points per game on pull-up attempts last season.

6. Lopez contested 1,307 shots last season, most in the league. The three guys who contested the most shots (Lopez, Rudy Gobert, and Lopez's brother Brook) were the same three guys who blocked eight shots in a game this season.

7. Lopez committed just 2.4 fouls per 36 minutes, the lowest rate among seven footers who played at least 1,000 minutes.

8. Lopez shot 55.5 percent in the restricted area, the worst mark among centers with at least 200 restricted-area attempts. He shot almost as well (49.1 percent) on paint shots outside the restricted area.

9. Nikola Mirotic had an effective field goal percentage of 59.2 percent after the All-Star break, up from 47.1 percent before the break. That was the second biggest increase among 164 players who took at least 250 shots before the All-Star break and 150 shots after the break. The biggest belonged to teammate (at the time) Rajon Rondo, who went from 40.7 percent before the break to 53.5 percent after it.

10. Denzel Valentine attempted 18 free throws last season, just six for every 100 shots from the field. That was the lowest free throw rate (FTA/FGA) among 33 rookies who attempted at least 200 total shots. He took 72 percent of his shots from 3-point range, the third highest rate among that same group of rookies.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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