The 2012-13 Chicago Bulls offense can be summed up in one word: Anemic.
Whether it was from inside or outside, the team struggled to put the ball into the net. More often than not, the Bulls' poor shooting cost them games.
It’s funny how much can change in just one season.
After finishing the regular season with a 45-37 record, Chicago had a lot to be proud of. Especially given the fact that the team played the entire year without its leader Derrick Rose.
However, the optimism only masked an issue that plagued the Bulls throughout the season.
Points proved difficult to come by, as the team averaged just 93.2 points per game—tied for the worst mark in the NBA with the Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers. Not exactly the best company to be keeping.
Chicago also shot just 43.7 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from three-point range. The team ranked 25th and 21st in those categories, respectively.
Fortunately, the Bulls had a stout defense to keep them in games.
The Bulls ranked third in the league, limiting opponents to just 92.9 points per game. But that could only get Chicago so far. The team still dropped a total of 14 games where the final margin was five points or less.
Luckily, next season offers the Bulls a chance to change all that.
No One Man Should Have All this Power
Fans have been eagerly awaiting the return of Rose.
Not only because the 24-year-old’s style of play can draw entire stadiums to their feet. But because Rose has the potential to completely turn around Chicago’s offense.
Just look at last season for an example.
Over the 1,813 minutes that Rose was on the bench, the Bulls averaged just 92.2 points per game on 43.9-percent shooting. They also posted an offensive rating of 102.1 and a pace of 90.7.
On the other hand, over the 1,375 minutes that he was on the court, Chicago’s average jumped to 100.4 points per game on 46.8-percent shooting. The team also posted an offensive rating of 107.6 and a pace of 93.2.
So it’s really no surprise that the Bulls have struggled to find their groove offensively this year.
In 82 games this season, the team topped the 100-point mark only 18 times. In comparison, Chicago eclipsed 100 points 17 times in 39 contests Rose played in during 2011-12. Furthermore, this year the team failed to score at least 90 points in 31 games (37.8 percent of the season), while only missing the mark five times with Rose on the court the previous year (12.8 percent).
Over four seasons in the league, Rose has averaged 21 points, 6.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game on 46.4-percent shooting.
Those kinds of numbers would boost any offense.
Run It Back
After Rose, the Bulls’ biggest hope in fixing their offensive deficiency requires preventing two of their own from walking during the summer.
Both Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli are set to be free agents. Both are players Chicago can’t afford to lose.
In 82 games, Robinson averaged 13.1 points, 4.4 assists and 2.2 rebounds over 25.4 minutes per game. He also shot 43.4 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from beyond the arc.
While he put together a solid regular-season campaign, Robinson excelled during the postseason.
During 12 playoff contests, he averaged 16.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 rebounds over 33.7 minutes per game. Robinson also shot 43.6 percent from the floor.
But what people will remember the most is his Game 4 performance against the Brooklyn Nets.
Robinson netted 34 points on 14-of-23 shooting to help lead the Bulls to a 142-134 triple-overtime victory. He added 23 points in the fourth quarter to help bring the team back from a late 14-point deficit.
Next to Rose, Robinson would surely be even more dangerous.
Then there’s Belinelli, who provided a tremendous boost to the team when he was in the starting lineup.
Over 26 games as a starter, the 27-year-old averaged 13.2 points in 34.9 minutes per game. He also shot 41 percent from the field and 40.2 percent from deep.
Originally brought in simply for his outside shooting, Belinelli proved to be a lot more than that.
His ability to create his own shot made him stand out among the roster. So it was no surprise that the ball was usually in Belinelli’s hands during late-game situations. He has game-winners against the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets on his resume this year.
Paired with Rose, Belinelli could thrive.
Summing It All Up
There’s no doubt Chicago’s offense was an area of concern last season. However, what else do you expect from a team missing its most proficient scorer?
Rose will be back in the lineup next season, and he’s already proved that his presence alone is enough to boost the Bulls' scoring production.
So before the team considers splurging in free agency for a big-name scorer, it should first focus on bringing back the players who produced for them this season. That should be the first step.
Chicago exceeded expectations this season.
There’s no reason to believe that the team can’t do it again next year.