Four Factors: How do the Bulls stack up against the East?


Four Factors: How do the Bulls stack up against the East?

Statistician Dean Oliver is credited with identifying the Four Factors of Basketball Success, or put simply the four possession-based statistics he believed most accurately determined how teams won basketball game. Within these advanced statistics are shooting (40 percent), turnovers (25%), rebounding (20%) and free throws (15%). And with the Bulls ready to begin their seventh straight postseason, we took a look at where Tom Thibodeau's group stacks up against the rest of the Eastern Conference in these four categories.

Effective field goal percentage (FG + 0.5*3 FG/FGA)

On offense

East ranks: 1. Atlanta (52.7%) 2. Cleveland (52.0%) 3. Toronto (50.8%) 4. Milwaukee (49.9%) 5. Washington (49.9%) 6. Brooklyn (49.1%) 7. Chicago (48.9%) 8. Boston (48.9%)

If there's one area that's going to cripple the Bulls this postseason it's their inefficiency from the field. It's a glaring weakness that the Bulls, with an uptick in pace this season, are ranked 21st in the NBA in effective field goal percentage (48.9%). If you need context for how important a statistic this is, consider that the 16 playoff teams ranked in the top-22 in the NBA in it. And the Bulls were tied for worst (with Boston) among the 16 playoff teams. Thibodeau's group will get by with stingy defense, but they'll need to get better looks at the basket and not force the issue, specifically Derrick Rose. Atlanta (3rd in eFG%) and Cleveland (4th) will make them pay if they don't.

On defense

East ranks: 1. Chicago (47.3%) 2. Washington (48.1%) 3. Milwaukee (48.7%) 4. Atlanta (49.2%) 5. Boston (49.4%) 6. Cleveland (50.2%) 7. Toronto (50.6%) 8. Brooklyn (50.6%)

The Bulls haven't shot it well this year, but neither have their opponents. Despite a year in which their defensive numbers dipped, the Bulls still ranked 4th in the NBA in opponents' effective field goal percentage. Joakim Noah hasn't been fully healthy all year and Pau Gasol has been just average defensively, but it hasn't slowed down Thibodeau's five-man defensive philosophy. The scoring numbers this year were nice, but if the Bulls play deep into May and potentially June it's going to be because of their defense and ability to force misses.

Turnover rate (Possessions ending in a turnover)

On offense

East ranks: 1. Toronto (13.3%) 2. Boston (13.8%) 3. Brooklyn (14.3%) 4. Chicago (14.4%) 5. Atlanta (14.6%) 6. Cleveland (14.9%) 7. Washington (15.3%) 8. Milwaukee (17.0%)

It's no surprise that the Bulls' turnover rate improved this season with Derrick Rose - not Joakim Noah - running the offense. They ended the season ranked 15th in the NBA in the category (14.4%) after finishing 27th a year ago (15.7%). They likely would've been better had Rose not missed 31 games due to injury. The biggest contributor to the Bulls' turnover rate was Butler, who finished with a career-low 7.7 turnover rate percentage with a career-high 21.6 percent usage rate; of players who attempted at least 900 field goals, Butler finished with the lowest turnover rate. Quietly Pau Gasol also recorded the second lowest turnover rate (10.7%) of his career.

On defense

East ranks: 1. Milwaukee (17.6%) 2. Atlanta (16.5%) 3. Boston (15.1%), 4. Toronto (14.8%), 5. Brooklyn (14.3%) 6. Washington (14.2%), 7. Cleveland (13.9%) 8. Chicago (12.6%)

Though the Bulls hovered around top-10 efficiency much of the year, it wasn't because of their ability to force turnovers. For a fifth straight year under Thibodeau the Bulls did not finish in the top half of the league in opponent turnover percentage; still, it was at an all-time low under Thibodeau, finishing 29th in the league with a 12.6 turnover rate percentage. The Bulls simply aren't going to turn over teams. But there will be ample opportunity for them to improve on that statistic, as the Bucks are committing turnovers on 17 percent of their possessions, 29th in the NBA. Something's gotta give.

Offensive rebounding rate (Oreb / (Oreb + opp. Dreb))

On offense

East ranks: 1. Chicago (27.0%) 2. Cleveland (26.8%) 3. Toronto (25.6%) 4. Milwaukee (25.4%) 5. Washington (24.9%) 6. Boston (24.7%) 7. Brooklyn (23.9%) 8. Atlanta (21.4%)

Of the shots the Bulls have missed this season, they've done a stellar job grabbing them. The Bulls ranked first among playoff teams. Though he couldn't replicate his Defensive Player of the Year play and took an expected step back offensively, he averaged a team-high 3.3 offensive rebounds. Pau Gasol's career year on the glass included 2.8 offensive rebounds per game, and Jimmy Butler (1.8) was second among guards in the category (Russell Westbrook, 1.9). The Bulls' shooting isn't going to get significantly better overnight, so staying active on the offensive glass will remain important.

On defense

East ranks: 1. Washington (22.7%), 2. Boston (25.0%) 3. Cleveland (25.3%) 4. Chicago (25.6%) 5. Brooklyn (26.3%) 6. Atlanta (26.6%) 7. Milwaukee (26.7%) 8. Toronto (26.7%)

Rebound margin is NOT your friend. Forget that the Bulls were seventh in the league in defensive rebounds per game or fifthin rebound margin; the Bulls have not done well on the defensive glass. Opponents grabbed 25.6 percent of missed shots last year, ranked 19th in the NBA, down from 10th, 13th and 7th the last three seasons. We saw it in April's loss to the Bucks and earlier in the year against the Cavaliers. They'll need to improve in this department, to be sure. Joakim Noah's health could loom large in that respect.

Free throw rate (FT/FGA)

On offense

East ranks: 1. Chicago (30.4%) 2. Toronto (29.5%) 3. Cleveland (28.7%) 4. Brooklyn (26.7%) 5. Atlanta (25.9%) 6. Washington (25.9%) 7. Milwaukee (25.8%) 8. Boston (23.3%)

It may go unnoticed by some, but getting to the charity stripe is an important factor in winning. And in this category the Bulls have been phenomenal, with an East playoff-high 30.6 percenet free throw rate. It should come as no surprise that Jimmy Butler led the way, totaling 463 free throws (7th in the NBA). Pau Gasol wasn't far behind, ranking fourth in the league among centers with 366 free throw attempts. Surprisingly enough it was Nikola Mirotic who also contributed, with a 45.5% free throw rate, second on the team behind Butler. In the season's final two months that percentage increased further. His continued aggressiveness getting to the line will loom large in the postseason.

On defense

East ranks: 1. Cleveland (23.8%) 2. Atlanta (24.2%) 3. Chicago (24.2%) 4. Brooklyn (25.3%) 5. Boston (27.5%) 6. Toronto (28.4%) 7. Washington (28.4%) 8. Milwaukee (29.8%)

The Bulls were equally good at not allowing teams to the charity stripe. Though they ranked behind the two top seeds in the East, the lack of opponents' free throws is yet another indicator that Tom Thibodeau's defense is equipped for the postseason. Opponents had a free throw rate of 24.2 percent. Their total efficiency was down (11th in the NBA after four straight years in the top-5) but they're not giving many free points to opposing teams, and are actually better in this category than a year ago.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.