BoxScore Geeks' 2014 Chicago Bulls Preview

The Numbers

  •  Average Seed
    4
  • 📉 Pessimist
    37.3 wins
  •  Realist
    45.6 wins
  • 📈 Optimist
    54.0 wins
 First Seed
 
11.0%
⋆ Division
 
21.2%
 Top 4
👍 Over (55.5)
 
12.0%
ğŸ‘Ž Under (55.5)
ğŸŽ€ Playoffs

The Brief

Who exactly is Derrick Rose? That has been the central question for the Bulls Franchise for the past six seasons. My new game metric thought he was the 14th most productive player in the NBA for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons and a clear star. The problem is that it's been three full seasons since he's been able to stay healthy and on the court (yes, three, he only played 39 of 66 regular season games in 2011-12).

This question is compounded by the fact that the Bulls' plans A, B and C at guard seems to be Rose. History is not really on their side.

The Story

The Bulls and Rose seem to do this dance every year, don't they? The Bulls put all their eggs in a the very fragile Rose basket and are stunned when it goes belly-up. Let's put some data around how it's a bad plan. Here are some names:

Alvin Robertson (1996), Bernard King (1988), Bill Cartwright (1987), Doug Overton (2004), Frank Johnson (1993), Gilbert Arenas (2010), Kenny Walker (1994), Lester Conner (1989), Michael Jordan (2002), Norm Nixon (1989), and Roy Tarpley (1995).

These are the 11 players I could find that came back to play after basically missing two seasons. Before their absence, they averaged 2180 minutes and .148 Wins Produced per 48 for their career. The season they came back, they averaged 1685 minutes and .085 Wins Produced per 48. That's a 22% drop in minutes and a 43% drop in production.

Using that as a benchmark, the Rose projection that you'll see below is downright optimistic. Tyler Ennis, Jordan Adams, Shabazz Napier and Kyle Anderson all were available for the Bulls in the 2014 draft at #11. I feel very strongly that this will come back to haunt them.

Last Year

  •  Actual Wins: 48
  •  Expected Wins: 45.4
  • ⚅ Lucky Wins: -1.0

 

 

Player Minutes Age WP48 Wins
Joakim Noah 2820.0 29 .254 14.9
Jimmy Butler 2591.0 24 .180 9.7
Mike Dunleavy 2584.0 33 .127 6.9
Taj Gibson 2351.0 29 .086 4.2
Carlos Boozer  2141.0 32 .007 .3
Kirk Hinrich 2116.0 33 .057 2.5
D.J. Augustin  1857.0 26 .118 4.6
Tony Snell 1231.0 22 .062 1.6
Luol Deng  860.0 29 .132 2.4
Nazr Mohammed 562.0 36 .085 1.0
Derrick Rose 311.0 25 -.175 -1.1
Marquis Teague  242.0 21 -.224 -1.1
Mike James 77.0 39 -.183 -.3
Erik Murphy  62.0 23 -.198 -.3
Jimmer Fredette  56.0 25 -.074 -.1
Cartier Martin  48.0 29 .263 .3
Tornike Shengelia 17.0 22 .042 0
Ronnie Brewer 2.0 29 .049 0
Jarvis Varnado  2.0 26 -.334 0
Louis Amundson  1.0 31 -.035 0

 

 Indicates that the player is no longer with the team.

  • 45.4 total Wins Produced
  •  9 players leaving
    (5269.0 minutes, 6.0 wins)

The conventional wisdom about this Bulls team is that by finishing at 48 wins last year, they completely overachieved. Is that really true?

We see that the reality is a little different. Rose was terrible when there and that was not often. Noah however has been the best player on this team basically since he showed up in the 2007-08 season and last year was his best year. Noah played 2820 minutes (this was 5 whole minutes a game better than his previous high), and that was the engine that drove the Bulls success. Thibodeau absolutely drove his best players Noah, Butler and Dunleavy into the ground with minutes. They also found something in Augustin that gave them a fair replacement for Rose.

It's hard for me to see that injury luck holding in 2014/15, particularly when you consider the players that were added to the roster.

This Year

  •  Projected Wins: 45.6
  •  Conference Rank: 3
  • % Playoffs: 87.8

 

 

Player Position Minutes Age WP48 Wins
Joakim Noah 5.0 2452.6 30 .179 9.2
Mike Dunleavy 3.0 2370.1 34 .108 5.3
Pau Gasol  4.0 2156.6 35 .056 2.5
Derrick Rose 1.0 1988.1 26 .157 6.5
Jimmy Butler 2.0 1979.0 25 .180 7.4
Kirk Hinrich 2.0 1512.2 34 .080 2.5
Taj Gibson 4.0 1455.2 30 .116 3.5
Tony Snell 2.0 1236.1 23 .096 2.5
Nazr Mohammed 5.0 1142.0 38 .043 1.0
Doug McDermott  3.0 1109.0 0 .093 2.1
Aaron Brooks  1.0 804.4 30 .042 .7
E'Twaun Moore  1.5 703.7 26 .047 .7
Nikola Mirotic  3.5 435.9 0 .168 1.5
Cameron Bairstow  4.0 335.1 0 .025 .2

 

 Indicates that the player is new to the team.

  • 📅 42.6 WP last year
    by these players
  • 🔀 -1.5 WP (roster changes)
  • ⏲ -1.6 WP (age/experience)

There is a significant difference between our expectations for this team, around 46 wins, and Vegas', 55.5 wins. Let's review the changes in this roster so that we can make some sense as to why that is.

We already talked at length about Rose. My expectation is IF he can stay on the court, Rose will be a slight upgrade over Augustin. Remember, the data says the players do not come back at anywhere close to 100%. 2012 Rose is way better than DJ, but 2015 Rose might be about the same. 

Boozer for Pau sounds better on paper than it actually is. Boozer was terrible in Chicago as his career went into freefall. Pau might not be far behind though. His last two years in LA have all the earmarks of a big man in decline.

Deng wasn't really replaced. His value was all about the defense. McDermott might be a good player in time but rookies are not really known as defensive stalwarts.

Let's take a visual look:

We don't love the newly added free agent pieces, Gasol, Aaron Brooks and E'Twaun Moore. We like the rookies, particularly Mirotic and to a lesser degree McDermott, more. Mirotic has a fantastic record in Europe and might be the second best player on this roster behind Noah. He also might not see 1000 minutes behind Pau and Taj. McDermott is not someone I expect to be a difference maker.

I also really would feel nervous were I a Bulls fan about the odds of Noah, Pau, Rose actually all playing more than 2000 minutes in a season.

With all that in mind, it's very hard for me to see this team getting 8 wins better this season under any but the most extreme scenarios.

The Wrap

I believe there is world where the Bulls have the best record in the NBA. I also believe there is a world where they win the NBA title. Everything depends on the health of their roster. Given their track record and the fragility of their roster, I'll guesstimate the first probability at 10% and the second one at 2%.

History and the data tell me that this might be the best under bet on the board. 48 wins, nagging injuries for Rose, Noah and Pau and a protective court order limiting Jimmy Butler's minutes seem a much more likely scenario.

I wish I could prop bet the over/under how many Bulls are in walking boots at some point this year (i'd have it at 2.5).

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