The Chicago Bulls experiment seems to be paying off early in the 2016-17 NBA season. Coming into the season, many experts wrote them off. The likes of Basketball Insiders and NBA.com writers and staff members have this team around .500 and barely making the playoffs, if at all. Even some media members have them last in their division. With a disappointing season last year and an overhaul of the roster, there was reason to be skeptical heading into this season.
Except this season hasn’t gone as we’d expect. In fact, the Bulls are playing some of the best basketball in the NBA out of the gate. They beat the Nets, Pacers and Celtics to start the season and will face the Celtics for the second time this year tonight on ESPN. Chicago is currently the best offensive team in the league.
Last year the biggest problem for the Bulls was scoring. Their offensive rating was ranked 23rd in the league with 105. They have always been a solid defensive team and struggled offensive, something that head coach Fred Hoiberg was supposed to fix. This year, it seems his system is working much better, although it is only 3 games into the season. The Bulls are ranked first in offensive rating with 117.6.
The Bulls have been excellent in their offensive rebounding opportunities, collecting 33.6% of their missed shots, which is first in the league. This group, with Taj Gibson, has always been good on the glass. You can also look to the addition of Robin Lopez for the reason they have been rebounding at a higher rate offensively. Also, having a point guard who helps rebound in Rajon Rondo makes them that much better.
Chicago has been really efficient in scoring the basket. Their effective team field goal percentage increased by 5 points, shooting as a team around 53%. Their pace and turnovers percentages have not changed, just their shot selection has improved allowing them to score more easily.
The biggest improvement Chicago has made this season is their three point shooting, which comes as a surprise considering the players they’ve added in the off season do not help in this category. Isaiah Canaan has been lights out, shooting 50% from three while taking four attempts per game. Jimmy Butler has also improved his percentage (31% to 55%) while still averaging over three attempts per game. The best surprise for the Bulls is the fact that Wade is now taking more threes. He is also hitting them at a career best (career 28.6%, shooting 56% this year).
Do I expect them to continue to make threes at this current pace, no. However, they do have a few guys who can hit open threes like Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, and Isaiah Canaan. They will continue to see open looks with Wade and Jimmy Butler looking to get to the room, creating space around the perimeter. The three point shooting right now is complimenting the style of play that Wade and Butler like and I don’t see that going away anytime.
The addition of Rajon Rondo has improved the team’s ball movement, as expected, and it has also improved the team’s rebounding (also thanks to Robin Lopez). Their pace shouldn’t be a problem down the road, if they can continue to score efficiently as they have been. What coach Hoiberg is doing right now seems to be working and the Bulls are looking like a contender in the Eastern Conference landscape.