Divvying Up the Credit for the Chicago Bulls' Stingy Defense This Season
Even with Rose in the lineup, this team is a defensively-minded squad who frustrates opponents with tight guarding, contested shots and creating turnovers. Chicago has proven that they can hang around in the standings without their superstar point guard, but they have especially showcased their fortitude on defense during this season.
As a team, the Bulls are allowing just 91.8 points per contest (third in the NBA) and opponents are shooting only 43.7 percent against them (tied for fourth in the league).
Though Rose leaves a pretty giant void for scoring, this team has managed to win ball games through gritty defense and a collective effort on offense.
Who's to thank for the defensive efforts of Chicago? You could go with the easy answer of saying the whole team has worked well together to play strong D. Alternatively, we could break things down a bit and give a few guys a percentage correlating to just how much work they've put in to make the Bulls defense function at such a high level.
Kirk Hinrich: 5 Percent
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Since his return to Chicago this season, Captain Kirk has been doing a serviceable job of filling in the gaping hole that is the point guard position.
Offensively, Hinrich is contributing a lot. He's averaging 5.4 assists per game, which is his highest average in that department since the 2007-2008 season in Chicago.
On defense, Hinrich has been even better. According to Hoopdata.com, Hinrich averages 1.78 recordable defensive plays per game which combines steals, blocks and charges drawn.
All things considered, that's a pretty good average for an older point guard like Hinrich, who has been known to put up respectable stats in the steals category earlier in his career.
What sticks out the most isn't statistical, but Hinrich has done well stepping into a sort of leadership role on defense. That type of contribution alongside his hustle plays won't show up in the box score, but they've made an impact on this season's Bulls team.
Taj Gibson: 12.5 Percent
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Taj Gibson has developed a reputation as a tough team player in his four seasons as a Chicago Bull and that's been reinforced this year.
Gibson fits the description of a blue-collar player who does the dirty work on both ends of the ball, especially on defense.
This season, Gibson's posting a career high in blocks per game (1.4) and is averaging 1.91 defensive plays per game.
In a league with so many dominant big men, having an asset like Gibson that can body up on a power forward or center with a lot of offensive ability can make or break your team in important stretches of a game. His knowledgeable grasp on the team's mentality and defensive structure has shown itself during the games and has allowed him to make a strong impact.
Luol Deng: 12.5 Percent
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Not only is Luol Deng known as one of the best defenders on the Chicago Bulls roster, but he's known league-wide as an elite stopper on the wing.
Deng's defensive prowess has become a specialty of his and he's managed to make the sport of basketball look really difficult when he's guarding opponents. While his 1.84 defensive plays per game isn't a staggering statistic, Deng makes up for it with that classic outside-of-the-numbers defense.
That means contesting shots, helping out on drives, cutting off passing lanes and denying his man the ball. This type of play makes Deng a hefty contributor to the Bulls and their overall defense-first mindset and he's definitely fulfilling his reputation as a lockdown perimeter defender.
Tom Thibodeau: 20 Percent
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I couldn't possibly give the man running this operation any less credit than 20 percent, especially considering how tumultuous this season could have been without the steady coaching of Tom Thibodeau.
Thibs has impacted this organization significantly since coming over in 2010 as head coach and with him came the defensive mindset he preached as an assistant with several other NBA teams.
He's a high intensity guy who expects full effort and concentration when his team doesn't have the ball and his techniques have translated well with the team. Thibodeau is well respected and he has continued to coach this squad to playing quality defense to compensate for what they lack on offense.
This formula has worked well enough to keep Chicago relevant in the Eastern Conference. So if and when Derrick Rose returns, I'm sure the defensive energy will be heightened even more.
Joakim Noah: 50 Percent
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When a player's been playing to career highs all season and is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, giving him 50 percent of the credit may not even be enough.
Joakim Noah has been a dominant force for the Bulls this year and has truly stepped up as a leader of this team without Rose.
Statistically, Noah's contributions include career-high averages for points (12), rebounds (11.4), assists (4.2), steals (1.3) and blocks (2.3). Those jumps are all signs of a man who's playing inspired basketball and he's second in the NBA in his defensive plays per game amongst centers (3.74).
As an emotionally charged player, Noah is a guy who's easy to support as a teammate and he's a great motivating force for the defensive unit especially. Noah impacts almost any shot attempt coming through the paint and even around the perimeter when the occasion calls for it.
If you were ever to build a team from the ground up on defensive ability alone, Noah would be a guy at the top of the list for big men and he's certainly contributed more than his fair share of help on defense for his team this year.