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.

NBC Sports Chicago launches new show Bulls Outsiders

NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago launches new show Bulls Outsiders

Chicago, IL (October 15, 2018) – NBC Sports Chicago – THE Home of the #AuthenticFan – has announced it will launch Bulls Outsiders, a brand new, live, multi-platform, fan-interactive Bulls program that will provide a fresh take on that evening’s game and much more from three non-conventional sports show hosts.  Bulls Outsiders will make its network debut after the Bulls 2018-19 road/season opener this Thursday, October 18 (approx. 10:00 PM CT) immediately following Bulls Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois on NBC Sports Chicago+, via live stream to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive, and -- on Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago). NOTE: Bulls Outsiders will also re-air on the main NBC Sports Chicago channel on this night at 11:00 PM; the majority of airings will also air live on the main channel location.

Hosted by three, die-hard Bulls enthusiasts – Matt Peck (@Bulls_Peck), David Watson (@bawlsports), and John Sabine (@jsabine214) – Bulls Outsiders will provide viewers with the hottest takes, insightful analysis, and spirited commentary from the fans' perspective. This new half-hour program will immediately follow the network’s dedicated, season-long presentation of Bulls Postgame Live for all 82 Bulls games this season.  

In addition to the lively post-game discussion with the show’s hosts, Bulls Outsiders will also emphasize heavy viewer interaction via fan engagement on a number of the network’s social media platforms including Twitter (@NBCSBulls; fans urged to utilize the Twitter hashtag #BullsOutsiders in their posts) and Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago), which will enable Bulls fans to directly interact with the show’s hosts via comments and questions pertaining to that particular evening’s game, the key topics presented to them that night, or anything else they want to discuss from a league-wide NBA perspective. 

“Our primary goal at NBC Sports Chicago is to super serve our fans and with the introduction of Bulls Outsiders to our multi-platform programming line-up, we are able to continue that mission with a fresh and fun new program that not only speaks to Bulls fans, but one that directly involves them in the dialogue,” said Kevin Cross, Vice President of Content for NBC Sports Chicago. 

In preparation for the hiring of the program’s three primary hosts, NBC Sports Chicago reached out to a number of notable local (and vocal) die-hard Bulls fans who stood out among the vast Bulls social media community. Candidates who responded back with interest were simply asked to shoot a one-minute video on their phone and offer up their take on Chicago native/Simeon Career Academy H.S. grad Jabari Parker joining the Bulls via free agency.  From there, the initial two dozen candidates were narrowed down to eight, who were then all brought in for in-studio auditions. Following the lengthy on-camera process, Cross, along with Bulls content producer Kevin Anderson, finalized their decision and welcomed Peck, Watson, and Sabine to the NBC Sports Chicago family.  

“It was an intricate process in choosing our hosts, but there’s no doubt Matt, David, and John have a great chemistry and solid individual strengths,” added Cross. “I’m also excited about how Bulls Outsiders will take fan interactivity to a brand new level and I couldn’t be more pleased that we will be able to deliver this show to the passionate and undeniably-dedicated Bulls fan base.”

Please note the following Bulls Outsiders host bios:

Matt Peck - Podcast host/writer for ‘Locked On Bulls’

Age: 31

Hometown: Glen Ellyn, IL

Favorite Bull of all time: “MJ, obviously…but Rodman is a very close second.” 

Favorite Current Bull: Lauri Markkanen 

Favorite Bulls moments: 

1st place – “1997 NBA Finals Game 1. MJ hits the game-winner at the buzzer after Karl Malone misses 2 FTs...Mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays."

2nd place – “2011 Eastern Conference Finals Game 1…Bulls blow out the ‘Heatles.’ Taj destroys Dwyane Wade's soul. And has a FILTHY put back dunk late with the route on. The Madhouse goes insane. We all leave that night thinking we were about to win the title.” 

David Watson - Bulls writer/podcast host for BawlSports.com

Age: 39

Hometown: Chicago, IL                            

Favorite Bulls player of all-time: Michael Jordan

Favorite current Bulls player: Lauri Markkanen

Favorite Bulls moment: “Jordan Flu Game in ‘97…Noah dunk on Paul Pierce in ’09 first round Game 6 Triple OT…oh, and that Pippen dunk on Ewing in the ’94 playoffs.”

John Sabine - Actor, copywriter, and improviser…he has performed with The Second City IO and The Improvised Shakespeare Company.

Age: 34

Hometown: Originally from Dallas, TX…has lived in Chicago for the last 11 years

Favorite Bulls player of all-time: “Pippen or Rodman, it's probably Rodman. Is it weird it's Rodman?”

Favorite current Bulls player: “Lauri Markkanen, but really Bobby Portis. I want to be friends with Bobby Portis.” 

Favorite Bulls moment: “Jordan's return from baseball. As a kid I couldn't understand, I said "wait ...he just decided to not play and now he decided to play, but like he has a new number and he's still awesome...what?!’ or…either 2013 Round 1 Game 4 against the Nets 3OT, Nate Robinson. It was a Marvel Movie.” 

REMINDER: NBC Sports Chicago will carry the 2018-19 Bulls HOME OPENER on Saturday, October 20 (Bulls Pregame Live presented by Coors Light at 6:00 PM; Bulls vs. Pistons tip-off at 7:00 PM; Bulls Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois at approx. 9:30 PM, which will immediately be followed by Bulls Outsiders at approx. 10:00 PM).


Re-focused Zach LaVine primed to bounce back: ‘I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for’

Re-focused Zach LaVine primed to bounce back: ‘I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for’

Healthy in October for the first time in three seasons, Zach LaVine entered training camp as the $78 million man looking to justify one of the summer’s largest deals that many criticized.

And just a few days into camp, the spotlight homed in on him further when the Bulls lost Lauri Markkanen to an elbow injury.

LaVine responded to both challenges, putting together a preseason performance that not even the most optimistic expectations could have included.

In just 22.3 minutes he averaged 17.8 points on 52 percent shooting, made 44 percent of his triples and got to the free throw line a team best 4.8 times per game. In short, he looked much more like the potential franchise-building piece the Bulls believed they were acquiring 19 months ago.

“I’m my hardest critic, so there’s nothing on the outside that I haven’t told myself of where I want to be at. You want to tell the doubters on the outside I told you so, but it’s mostly coming from a place where I want to prove to myself what all this hard work is for.’’

The fifth-year shooting guard was fluid, attacked in a variety of ways and looked like part of the offense, something that at times was non-existent during last year’s injury-riddled comeback season. Taking shots in rhythm, attacking the rim instead of settling for contested jumpers, running the floor. LaVine looked a lot like the player who shot 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from deep before the ACL injury in 2017.

“I think I found a good rhythm and then just keep that going into the regular season. I think last year still, I was trying to catch my rhythm with the games I played,” LaVine said Monday at the Advocate Center. “I’d play two good games and two bad games. I felt like that up and down was a little bit with the consistency of not playing. Now that I’m back fully I think that’s where I should be.”

The offensive uptick is a sight for sore eyes, especially with Markkanen on the mend. But where LaVine can quiet his harshest critics – including himself – is on the defensive end.

It’s just a five-game sample size, but LaVine’s individual defensive rating of 97.3 was better than the team’s overall 100.2 rating. A year ago, LaVine’s defensive rating was 113.9, the worst on the team, and worse than the team’s overall 110.4 mark. They’re baby steps, but steps nonetheless for a player who knows what the book says about him on that end of the floor.

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” he said. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

The preseason is one hurdle cleared, but they get much taller and difficult to get over when Thursday and the Philadelphia 76ers come around. No matter who starts in the frontcourt – Fred Hoiberg isn’t ready to announce Bobby Portis and Wendell Carter Jr. yet – or if the Bulls get good Jabari Parker instead of preseason Jabari Parker, all eyes will be on LaVine.

It’s the contract. It’s being the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butle trade. It’s how well he played before the injury and how dominant he looked in the preseason. He’s off to a good start and knows now is this time to build on it.

“There are a lot of things you want to reach and get better at every year, and I put a lot of work into this offseason,” he said. “I have a lot of things to prove and want to get better at, and yeah, I feel like it’s just motivation for yourself when you want to accomplish things.’’