Every so often this season, the Chicago Bulls are revisited by an old friend—call him the Ghost of Seasons Past—that reminds everyone why, for all the grit this year’s edition of the Bulls have shown while staying in contention for a top-four finish in the Eastern Conference, this team has a fatal flaw.
The Bulls are more reliant on having shots created for them than almost any team in the league this season. Other than the Atlanta Hawks, no team has a higher percentage of assisted baskets than Chicago’s 64.8 percent.
Of the players currently in the rotation, only D.J. Augustin scores more than half of his buckets without needing help. Only 43.9 percent of Augustin’s field goals are assisted. Compare that to Mike Dunleavy’s 85 percent rate or the matching 69.4 percent assisted rates of Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler.
According to stats.nba.com’s player tracking data, while the Bulls aren’t particularly adept in the catch-and-shoot—Taj Gibson has the team’s best catch-and-shoot field-goal percentage at 44.8 percent, it doesn’t seem they’re particularly adept at anything else related to scoring the basketball, either.
Butler converts 40 percent of his shots on drives. That is the highest success rate among player currently in the rotation. Dunleavy leads the club with a 42.1 percent rate on pull-up shots.
We’ve recited these stats before, but they bear repeating: Chicago is 28th in the NBA in field-goal accuracy at 42.7 percent, 27th in the NBA in 3-point accuracy at 34.1 percent, 27th in True Shooting percentage at 51.1, tied for 29th in effective Field Goal percentage at 46.4 and 28th in Offensive Rating at 98.2 points per 100 possessions.
Add that 28th-place turnover percentage of 16.6 (meaning roughly one in six possessions results in the ball going the other way up the floor without the Bulls taking a shot) to the mix and what you have is one of the most flawed offensive clubs around.
And as we saw Sunday in Miami, when Augustin can’t get his own offense going—he was 0-for-10 from the floor in 36 minutes—no one can get their offense going. The Bulls shot 35.8 percent in their loss at Miami and were held to less than 80 points for the eighth time in 56 games this season.
Shockingly, the Bulls are, in fact, 0-8 when scoring less than 80 points. But they are also only 4-17 when scoring less than 90. That means if they can just get to 90 points—not 100, not 110, just 90—the Bulls are 26-9.
The Bulls currently lead the Wizards by 1½ games in the race for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, which translates into home-court advantage for at least the first round. But Chicago’s reliance on defense—they hold opponents to 92.5 points per game and have a scoring differential of a mere plus-0.3 points—will, not might, will be its undoing.
Perhaps as much as getting Derrick Rose healthy for 2014-15 is the need, whether via free agency, trade or the draft, to get at least one or two more players capable of creating some sort of offense for themselves.
Because if your offense is solely dependent upon D.J. Augustin to create opportunities when things break down, there are going to be days like Sunday in Miami.