A mission from God (The Bulls 2011 Team Preview)

Elwood: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.
Jake
: Hit it.

The Blues Brothers

The Plot

One of the great things about how the NBA off-season has played out this year is that the 2010-11 NBA Season comes fully formed with polarizing villians, appealing heroes, and engaging storylines. The pundits all seem to have their storylines ready for the coming season. The Heat (and the Lakers) wear the black hats proudly for each conference with the Suns and Magic cast as the in-season foils/rivals. OKC and the darling Durant is the cinderella story waiting to happen.  The Spurs and Blazers seem to be the dark horses out west. The Celtics represent the last stand of the old guard out east. But lost in the shuffle is the other team that killed it in the off-season, the boys from the southside, your chicago bulls.

One of the great and most popular franchises of the modern NBA that plays in the third largest media market makes a splash in the free agent market after making some notable steals in the draft.  They bring in a bonafide star power forward to bolster a playoff team.

If this were any other year, the Bulls  would be the darling of the off-season. But as we know there were some distractions.

Some sort of decision went down in South Beach

As I wrote in the free agent guide, the Bulls did not get exactly what they wanted but they still massively upgraded.  But the burning question in the second city seems was that upgrade enough to hang with the big boys from south beach and return to championship form or are the bulls the latest in a long tradition of chicago teams doomed to futility? Let’s take a deeper look at their roster to find out why I think these boys just might have it in them to make it difficult for america’s new villains.

The Recent Past

Mrs. Tarantino: Are you the police?
Elwood
: No, ma’am. We’re musicians.

The Bulls currently have twelve players on the roster according to ESPN.com. Eleven veterans and one rookie and (a surprising number of ex-jazz players). If we look at their numbers from 2010 and do some simple calculations we come up with the following.

This is an extremely talented roster which my simple projections put at somewhere between 57 and 62 wins.  They field two borderline superstars (>.300 WP48) in Boozer and Noah at the PF and Center positions. In Rose, they have a decent PG who might be a star (maybe). They have an underrated SF in Luol Deng and a promising young PF in Taj Gibson to back up Boozer and Noah. Brewer and Korver will both be helped by switching to SG.  By my count they could easily field 8 players at or above starter level (>.100 WP48).  At this point Chicago fans should be jumping up and down with joy. Let see if they need to temper that joy.

Spoiler Alert

Elwood: [Police have surrounded the Blues Brothers concert] … And we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois’s law enforcement community that have chosen to join us here in the Palace Hotel Ballroom at this time…

For a full on projection for the Bulls I’ve got to take age, minute allocation, injuries and the rookie.  Boozer and Noah are great players but they have shown a tendency to miss time so Thomas and the Turk will see some time on the court which is not ideal but this also means more time for promising PF Taj Gibson to continue to develop and grow. Rose and Noah also  should continue to grow while Boozer could and Thomas will most likely  see a dropoff.  So let’s take a conservative approach. I’m:

  • Locking everyone in place in terms of performance (which is a reasonable assumption).
  • Adjust the minutes assuming Boozer and Noah both miss some time.
  • And throwing in zero win production from the turkish rookie (. 000 Wp48).

If I do just that,  the numbers look like :

So close to 59 wins as a conservative scenario and if I go crazy and :

  • Adjust the minutes assuming Boozer and Noah play 35 minutes a game .
  • And change the win production from the turkish rookie to average (. 050 Wp48)
  • Assume the big rotation is Boozer and Noah as starters then Gibson and then Thomas and Omer splitting time

The result looks like:

And a result of 67 Wins if everything breaks right. At the end of the day I think the answer for this team is somewhere in the middle. I see the Bulls at around 63 wins (plus or minus 4) and as the slight favorites in a dogfight with Boston and Orlando for the second seed in the East. What’s most interesting to me is that if healthy, this team projects to have a top 6 for the playoffs (Rose, Korver, Deng, Boozer, Noah and Gibson) with all above average players and two players close to .300 WP48. In a typical year this almost certainly would make them a surefire championship contender and guarantee a finals appearance. This year, by my count, it makes them one of three teams with the Heat and the Lakers (and sadly the least impressive right now). Normally I would be saying that Bulls are almost certain to reach the finals in the next few years but the Heat, Celtics and Magic stand in their way.

Chicago now has a young team that with some luck has a punchers chance to steal  a title in the next five years. If their young players, put in the work and grow to match the opportunity (I’m looking at you Derrick Rose) they could be the david knocking off the goliaths of the modern  NBA.  For a blue collar town, that’s all you need. After all, they’re on a mission from God.

Note#1: For a look back at the Bulls 2010 campaign go here.

Note#2: A Bulls fan might ask: But what about Carmelo? Surely he can save us form the Evil Heat? Umm, I covered this a few weeks ago. The answer:


Written by:

60 Comments

  1. Evanz
    9/28/2010
    Reply

    these results seem a bit higher than your recent NBA Now v.1.0 rankings. Is that right? If so, what changed?

    • 9/28/2010
      Reply

      The roster and the minute adjustment. Before I had 15 players on the roster. Ronald Murray, Devin Brown and Joe Alexander who were not very good are all gone and their minutes went to better players (Chicago definitely has a clue). I also used a brute force equation for minutes. Here I’m looking at the individual cases as well as adding the rookies in. Chicago is simple in that they only have the one rookie.

      Chicago only has four veteran players that were below .100 WP48 on the roster. Bogans and Brewer (.019 and .094 WP48 but they get a boost from switching from SF to SG), Thomas (.075) and James Johnson (-.067) a young second year guy who will most probably get better.

      This team is almost the poster child/test case for what I’m proposing with build me a winner.

  2. 9/28/2010
    Reply

    Hmmm. The Bulls seem better than I thought. I’ll have to make sure I check over them carefully if I’m going to make any noise in this stat geek challenge we have going on around here.

    • 9/29/2010
      Reply

      Surprised me too. I just could find a plausible scenario where their numbers crashed with the guys on their roster as of today.

  3. 9/28/2010
    Reply

    Hmmm. The Bulls seem better than I thought. I’ll have to make sure I check over them carefully if I’m going to make any noise in this stat geek challenge we have going on around here.

  4. Chicago Tim
    9/29/2010
    Reply

    I, of course, love this projection. I can’t believe that the Bulls did so many things right this off season. I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Surely they will do something to screw this up, right?

    Of course, the other daunting possibility is that they will become a historically-great team which will lose to the Heat every year for the next six years.

    • 9/29/2010
      Reply

      So the Bulls become the Jazz. And you wonder why I chose a Blues Brothers theme :-)

      • Chicago Tim
        9/29/2010
        Reply

        This will also be a great test of your predicting skills, as you have them winning 10-15 more games than other predictions I’ve seen.

  5. Chicago Tim
    9/29/2010
    Reply

    I, of course, love this projection. I can’t believe that the Bulls did so many things right this off season. I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Surely they will do something to screw this up, right?

    Of course, the other daunting possibility is that they will become a historically-great team which will lose to the Heat every year for the next six years.

  6. some dude
    9/29/2010
    Reply

    Funny, I always believed Boozer was overrated like crazy. He’s paper soft. I agree Noah is underrated.

    I think your projection is a bit high. I can see the first one happening, but not over 60 wins. I think that’s a bit much. Rose and Boozer play pretty terrible D, but then again Noah and Deng do not. And Noah is a good big man to have behind Boozer.

    But I see a glaring problem for the Bulls. Shooting. Who is going to spread the floor? I think teams will eventually pack the paint unless Rose becomes a great 3 point shooter since Deng hasn’t proven to be that guy ever.

    Now, they did get Korver who can stroke it with the best of em, but a Rose-Korver backcourt is scary bad defensively and could override that. Maybe Rose turns the corner defensively in his 3rd year. If he does, then your projection might hold true. Still, I have them closer to 55 wins than 60.

  7. 9/29/2010
    Reply

    I think Boozer will be helped tremendously by playing next to a defensive center like Noah.

    The point of this is to be methodical with the model as a predictive tool . Practical use is always the best way to see flaws in any model. At first glance, I was surprised by how high the number came out (even when I tried to knock it down). They don’t have any bad players to drag the numbers down.

    The shooting thing is an issue but I think they managed it. The break-even point is .333 3pt%. Deng’s 3PT% was up to .386 (32-89) last season, Bogans and Watson are both career .350 3pt% , and Korver hit an ungodly .536 3pt% last season. Add in the fact that Rose and Boozer have to be covered and as long as their coaching staff schemes appropriately they’ll get some good open looks.

    As for defense, the coach is Tom Thibodeau and his defenses in New York, Houston and Boston were pretty good.

    • Chicago Tim
      9/29/2010
      Reply

      Man, now I can’t wait for the season to start. The Bulls have a killer schedule the first month and a half, so we should know right away whether they project to 48 wins or 67:

      September
      Wed 27 @ Oklahoma City
      Sat 30 vs Detroit
      November
      Mon 01 vs Portland
      Thu 04 vs New York
      Fri 05 @ Boston
      Mon 08 vs Denver
      Thu 11 vs Golden State
      Sat 13 vs Washington
      Tue 16 @ Houston
      Wed 17 @ San Antonio
      Fri 19 @ Dallas
      Tue 23 @ LA Lakers
      Wed 24 @ Phoenix
      Fri 26 @ Denver
      Sat 27 @ Sacramento
      December
      Wed 01 vs Orlando
      Fri 03 @ Boston
      Sat 04 vs Houston
      Mon 06 vs Oklahoma City
      Wed 08 @ Cleveland
      Fri 10 vs LA Lakers

      I see seven games they could easily lose even if they are a very good team: @ Oklahoma City, @ Boston, @ San Antonio after playing the night before in Houston, @ LA Lakers, @ Phoenix after playing the night before against the LA Lakers and after four games on the road, @ Sacramento after playing the night before in Denver and after five games on the road, and @ Boston again. That assumes they win home games against Portland, Orlando, Oklahoma City, and the Lakers. If they get through that 21-game schedule with seven or less losses, look out the rest of the season!

      • Evanz
        9/29/2010
        Reply

        @Chicago Tim,
        Looks like you skipped October in your list. (Or mislabeled November?)

        • Chicago Tim
          9/29/2010
          Reply

          I mislabeled September. The season starts October 27, not September 27. Sorry about that.

    • some dude
      9/29/2010
      Reply

      Deng’s 3pt% doesn’t tell us much when he’s only taking 1 3 per game. Not shooting them makes the % not matter. We’ll see how it works. We also don’t know how many minutes Korver or Watson will play, either.

      As for Thibbadeu’s defense, look at the personnel he had. Rondo and KG are the 2 best at their position, for example. Do I think Chicago will improve on D? Sure. But I’m also not convinced they improved in all areas that much. Plus Rose, Boozer, and Noah seem to be a bit injury prone.

      I think this is a good team, but an elite contender I do not. You’ll probably see the WP48 of guys like Boozer drop this season.

      • 9/29/2010
        Reply

        Actually (and I mean to do a study on this), the evidence points to WP48 going up when guys got to a more talented team and or talent improves on a team (see the Celtics after the Garnett trade and the Lakers post Gasol). Keep in mind I’m projecting baseline 2010 performance for everyone.

        • Evanz
          9/29/2010
          Reply

          It makes sense that players should be more productive on a better team. That would also be an interesting counterpoint to the argument that a guy like David Lee gets “hollow” numbers on a bad team. You would expect his WP48 to go up this year on the Warriors according to this hypothesis.

          • Evanz
            9/29/2010
            Reply

            …and Amare’s WP48 would decrease.

  8. 9/29/2010
    Reply

    This has to be karma. A 55-60 win Chicago Bulls team that probably won’t be a contender because of a bigger more unfair powerhouse? The Pacers, Jazz and Magic from the 90s all point and laugh.

  9. 9/29/2010
    Reply

    This has to be karma. A 55-60 win Chicago Bulls team that probably won’t be a contender because of a bigger more unfair powerhouse? The Pacers, Jazz and Magic from the 90s all point and laugh.

  10. some dude
    9/29/2010
    Reply

    You’re saying Chicago is more talented than Utah has been? I’m not so sure (at least not until Rose develops).

    I expect Boozer’s WP48 to go down mostly due to age and system changes. At best I think the talent is a wash between the 2 clubs.

    • 9/29/2010
      Reply

      By position
      _________Utah 2010_______Chicago 2011
      PG___________X
      SG___________X______________X
      SF___________X______________X
      PF___________X______________X
      C___________________________XX
      They’re about even except the difference between Deron and Rose is much less than that between Okur and Noah. This Bulls team is a younger version of the Jazz with a downgrade at PG (but not a huge one and even less if Rose continues to improve) and a big upgrade at the 5. I’m extremely comfortable with predicting them winning more than Utah did last year (53 wins).

  11. […] If we look at every team’s current roster and tally their projected wins and the number of star points we can divide the league into those teams that have a shot at the title and those who don’t. For this version , I will remind you that I’m using the Build 0.1 projections and not the updated final projection (see the Bulls example). […]

  12. […] If we look at every team’s current roster and tally their projected wins and the number of star points we can divide the league into those teams that have a shot at the title and those who don’t. For this version , I will remind you that I’m using the Build 0.1 projections and not the updated final projection (see the Bulls example). […]

  13. some dude
    9/29/2010
    Reply

    But utah had a much deeper bench, which matters during the season. And the Jazz played better without Boozer than the Bulls without Boozer, no (I mean when Booz missed time).

    Don’t forget Paul Milsap came off the bench as did AK47. And the Motion offense really suited Boozer’s offensive skills well. I don’t know what Tom’s offensive system will be so I can’t postulate on that specifically.

    I’m fine with them winning more than the Jazz. The bottom of the East is weaker and Utah was hurt a bunch during the season so with good health that goes the Bulls way. But the Jazz were a 56-58 win team when healthy.

    • 9/29/2010
      Reply

      The difference really comes in that the Jazz were atrocious at the 5.

      • some dude
        9/29/2010
        Reply

        but they were still a better team without Boozer the last few years than Chicago has been this past season.

        Also, Boozer made up 30% of Utah’s center minutes, so Utah’s 5 couldn’t have been all that bad.

        • 9/29/2010
          Reply

          Chicago did add half the Jazz team, a good backup PG and shed a lot of bad players. And Boozer will benefit from playing more at the 4.

  14. Edmond
    9/30/2010
    Reply

    Great stuff. It’s funny, in the back of my mind, I always assumed Ronnie Brewer was a rather productive player. (I was absolutely shocked to see that Korver posted a higher adj. P48 last year.) It looks like he peaked a couple of seasons ago. Have there been injury issues over the last couple of seasons?

  15. Edmond
    9/30/2010
    Reply

    Great stuff. It’s funny, in the back of my mind, I always assumed Ronnie Brewer was a rather productive player. (I was absolutely shocked to see that Korver posted a higher adj. P48 last year.) It looks like he peaked a couple of seasons ago. Have there been injury issues over the last couple of seasons?

  16. John The Bulls Fan
    10/1/2010
    Reply

    I like the breakdown. the Bulls should be a good team this year but I am a little skeptical of a 63 win campaign, my largest concern is your estimate for Deng’s minutes. You have him averaging 33.57 min/gm playing an 82 game schedule. Luol has only played a complete 82 game schedule once in his career and has an history of injuries. It just seems to me you should have been more conservative with Deng’s numbers as you did with Noah and Boozer.

    Taking out his first season, Deng has played on average 2423.46 minutes/season which is over 300 minutes less than you having playing next season (11% of your total). Considering you note that Deng is the second most productive player on the Bulls shouldn’t a vast overestimation like you have greatly effect the Bulls win total?

    Based off this, shouldn’t us Bulls fans really expect more around 53 wins? About where most pundits predict. Or am I really off base, please let me know.

    • evanz
      10/1/2010
      Reply

      John, your math doesn’t make sense. How do you get that an overestimation of 300 minutes would drop the win count by 10? At most, that might account for about 1 win.

    • 10/1/2010
      Reply

      John,
      3rd most productive (Boozer, Noah then Deng).
      Just moving 300 minutes from Deng to Johnson (who’s the least productive player on the team) cost them about .8 of a win. If Deng regresses to his worst performance as well (2009) the net effect is -2.5 wins.
      You can breathe. This is an excellent team.

  17. John The Bulls Fan
    10/1/2010
    Reply

    I like the breakdown. the Bulls should be a good team this year but I am a little skeptical of a 63 win campaign, my largest concern is your estimate for Deng’s minutes. You have him averaging 33.57 min/gm playing an 82 game schedule. Luol has only played a complete 82 game schedule once in his career and has an history of injuries. It just seems to me you should have been more conservative with Deng’s numbers as you did with Noah and Boozer.

    Taking out his first season, Deng has played on average 2423.46 minutes/season which is over 300 minutes less than you having playing next season (11% of your total). Considering you note that Deng is the second most productive player on the Bulls shouldn’t a vast overestimation like you have greatly effect the Bulls win total?

    Based off this, shouldn’t us Bulls fans really expect more around 53 wins? About where most pundits predict. Or am I really off base, please let me know.

  18. cakezula1
    10/1/2010
    Reply

    “the boys from the southside *westside, your chicago bulls.”
    *fify. You do know where the UC is, right?

  19. […] The King almost gets it done but Dwight reigns supreme. Kevin Love falls by the wayside (for now, he is also 22). Rose the media MVP ends up at number 11 (one behind another 22 year old Blake Griffin making him the third best 22 year old but take heart Derrick you play for the best team). […]

  20. […] The King almost gets it done but Dwight reigns supreme. Kevin Love falls by the wayside (for now, he is also 22). Rose the media MVP ends up at number 11 (one behind another 22 year old Blake Griffin making him the third best 22 year old but take heart Derrick you play for the best team). […]

  21. […] The King almost gets it done but Dwight reigns supreme. Kevin Love falls by the wayside (for now, he is also 22). Rose the media MVP ends up at number 11 (one behind another 22 year old Blake Griffin making him the third best 22 year old but take heart Derrick you play for the best team). […]

  22. 9/28/2010
    Reply

    The roster and the minute adjustment. Before I had 15 players on the roster. Ronald Murray, Devin Brown and Joe Alexander who were not very good are all gone and their minutes went to better players (Chicago definitely has a clue). I also used a brute force equation for minutes. Here I’m looking at the individual cases as well as adding the rookies in. Chicago is simple in that they only have the one rookie.

    Chicago only has four veteran players that were below .100 WP48 on the roster. Bogans and Brewer (.019 and .094 WP48 but they get a boost from switching from SF to SG), Thomas (.075) and James Johnson (-.067) a young second year guy who will most probably get better.

    This team is almost the poster child/test case for what I’m proposing with build me a winner.

  23. Chicago Tim
    9/29/2010
    Reply

    Man, now I can’t wait for the season to start. The Bulls have a killer schedule the first month and a half, so we should know right away whether they project to 48 wins or 67:

    September
    Wed 27 @ Oklahoma City
    Sat 30 vs Detroit
    November
    Mon 01 vs Portland
    Thu 04 vs New York
    Fri 05 @ Boston
    Mon 08 vs Denver
    Thu 11 vs Golden State
    Sat 13 vs Washington
    Tue 16 @ Houston
    Wed 17 @ San Antonio
    Fri 19 @ Dallas
    Tue 23 @ LA Lakers
    Wed 24 @ Phoenix
    Fri 26 @ Denver
    Sat 27 @ Sacramento
    December
    Wed 01 vs Orlando
    Fri 03 @ Boston
    Sat 04 vs Houston
    Mon 06 vs Oklahoma City
    Wed 08 @ Cleveland
    Fri 10 vs LA Lakers

    I see seven games they could easily lose even if they are a very good team: @ Oklahoma City, @ Boston, @ San Antonio after playing the night before in Houston, @ LA Lakers, @ Phoenix after playing the night before against the LA Lakers and after four games on the road, @ Sacramento after playing the night before in Denver and after five games on the road, and @ Boston again. That assumes they win home games against Portland, Orlando, Oklahoma City, and the Lakers. If they get through that 21-game schedule with seven or less losses, look out the rest of the season!

  24. Chicago Tim
    9/29/2010
    Reply

    I mislabeled September. The season starts October 27, not September 27. Sorry about that.

  25. Evanz
    9/29/2010
    Reply

    It makes sense that players should be more productive on a better team. That would also be an interesting counterpoint to the argument that a guy like David Lee gets “hollow” numbers on a bad team. You would expect his WP48 to go up this year on the Warriors according to this hypothesis.

  26. 9/29/2010
    Reply

    The difference really comes in that the Jazz were atrocious at the 5.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *