Bulls

Lackluster Defense Barricading Bulls From Playoffs

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Since the Bulls acquired Nikola Vučević, they have a 6-11 record.

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One of the main reasons behind the rough stretch? The defense. If the Bulls want to become contenders in the Eastern Conference, more of a defensive presence will be needed on a nightly basis.

Recent Concerns

In Chicago’s eleven losses since acquiring Vučević, they have surrendered an average 116.4 points per game. This would rank them 27th in the league for the entire season.

In the six wins they have had with Vučević, they Bulls have allowed an average of 100 points per contest. A 16.4 point-per-game difference determines their wins and losses. For a team like the Bulls, they can’t afford to take nights off defensively. When they are locked in, they can win.

Remaining locked in, though, is the big question.

Defensive Metrics

Defensively, the Bulls don’t match up well with the rest of the league. They are ranked 27th in the league in opponents points in the paint, allowing a total of 49.8 points per game. The Bulls rank 20th in opponents points per game with an average of 112.1. Teams score the ball efficiently against the Bulls, ranking them 25th in opponents field-goal percentage, at 47.7%.

For the Bulls to take the next step, the defensive end of the floor should be the number one priority. The top-ten teams in the league in opponents points per game are all playoff teams, while the bottom five are among the worst teams in the league. While offense does win games, defense is what wins championships. Of the last ten NBA champions, the Warriors are the only team that finished outside the top ten in opponents points per game.

Who Steps Up?

Good teams defensively have players who “want-it” on that end of the court. That man for the Bulls, is still unknown. They hope Patrick Williams can be the guy, but 59 career games isn’t enough to determine his future. Daniel Theis brings good energy as paint presence down low, but as an unrestricted free agent this summer, it is unclear if he’ll be on the team moving forward.

Both Coby White and Lauri Markkanen are in the bottom half of their positions in defensive real plus-minus, with ratings of -0.93 and -0.53. Additionally, opponents offensive rating increases from 112.5 to 115.6 while Vučević has been on the floor for the Bulls. As three of the Bulls most important players, they are not playing up to par defensively.

Key To Success

To become among the tops of the league in team defense again, the Bulls need more from their core guys. White, Markkanen and Vučević are on the floor too much to be taking possessions off defensively.

Artūras Karnišovas has gone on record with what he likes out of guys on his roster, with defensive ability being among those. With a lack of true defense stoppers on the roster, it is something that will almost certainly be addressed this offseason.

Because of their aggressiveness at the trade deadline, the Bulls have chosen the direction they are heading with this team. A duo of Zach LaVine and Nikola Vučević will be in Chicago a long time. Who plays beside them, remains to be seen.

Only one thing is certain – for the Bulls to become a playoff threat, defense needs to be among the top of the priority list.

Follow us on Twitter @BullsLead for the latest Bulls news and insight. 

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About Tim Houlihan

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