As the season winds down, the Bulls are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive.
We've talked a lot about turnovers and poor defense, and anyone who follows this team knows how those shortcomings led to a 16-game streak where the Bulls surrendered 100 points or more. Thankfully that streak is over, so today we'll look at how improving their offense can improve their playoff chances.
Here are two interesting metrics from the Bulls offense so far this season:
The Bulls rank 28th in the NBA with an average of 1.07 points per shot attempt, but oddly are one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the league.
It's weird to see a team that shoots the 3-ball so well, rank second worst in the league when shooting closer to the hoop. It's even weirder to see a top five 3-point shooting team rank so poorly in points per shot, according to Vantage Sports, since shooting 3's well typically means more points per shot.
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You may think that Jimmy Butler's injury has caused the Bulls' offensive output to tank, and it certainly contributes. But in his stead, players like Mike Dunleavy, Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose have put up comparable numbers — in an analytics sense — to make up for Butler's absence.
A better explanation comes to the surface when you take a look at the Bulls' ability to get open, and knock down open shots.
According to Vantage Sports, the Bulls are bottom five in the league when it comes to Open+ Frequency and Open+ FG%. These metrics are fairly self explanatory.
The first measures the percentage of shots taken where the Bulls create enough space to get an open look, or a shot with a late-arriving defender. The second metric simply shows the Bulls FG% for those open shots.
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If a team is low in either of these categories, it's not good, but they can usually make up for it by performing well in the other. However, when a team performs poorly in each category — like the Bulls — that spells trouble. These two issues compound to create a much larger problem, often leading to stretches of offensive ineptitude, and disappointing losses.
With a slim margin for error in the coming weeks the Bulls must create more open opportunities for themselves, and they have to take full advantage of every one of those opportunities. A couple of missed shots could mean the difference between a couple of wins or losses. And in the extremely tight race for the last few playoff spots in the East, a couple of wins or losses could mean the difference between postseason play, and going home early.