Last year's exciting playoff series against the Boston Celtics fueled hope and optimism for this year's Bulls squad, but that hope and optimism have not provided the only real thing that matters to NBA teams: wins.
At 11-17, the Bulls are remarkably the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, and would play the Celtics if the playoffs started today. Even though there's over 50 games yet to play, the thought of that match-up makes me shiver.
Here's what we know about the Bulls.
They can't score
At 91 points per game, the Bulls rank 29th in the NBA in team scoring. That just won't get it done.
To put that in perspective, the Phoenix Suns are averaging 109 points per game. Granted, their style of play is more conducive to high scoring totals, but it is still shocking how one group of NBA players can score that much, while another group can score so few.
The Nets (2-28) are the only team with less points per game. Ouch.
Why can't they score? It's anyone's guess really.
Some will blame the lack of scoring on the departure of Ben Gordon and his 20 points per game.
Others will blame John Salmons as his scoring average has dropped about four points from last season's totals.
Still more people will blame Derrick Rose for "not taking the next step forward" in his young NBA career (some were predicting an All-Star appearance for the Bulls point guard).
Whoever gets the blame, one thing is certain: the Bulls won't get far without consistent scoring.
When you only manage 81 points against the Knicks, as the Bulls did a week ago, there's something seriously wrong.
The Bulls must fix their scoring in a hurry, too, because next season's crop of All-Star free agents won't want to spend their time on a team that can't score.
The lack of scoring can be attributed to...
An inability to make three-pointers
Dead last. That's where the Bulls are in three-point field goals per game. The powerhouse Nets and Timberwolves are ahead of them.
The Orlando Magic get more than 10 a game. Eighteen teams get six or more a game.
The Bulls get just above three per game. Again, Ben Gordon's departure really hurts in this category.
When you can earn three points per shot instead of two, wouldn't you strive for that more? With the Bulls, however, it's just not a reasonable option.
There's no one on this team that is a threat from downtown. Derrick Rose has only attempted 10 shots from long-range this season—and he's the Bulls best player. Yikes.
John Salmons is the leading three-point shooter on the Bulls with 38 made, but no one is within 15 of that total.
Something has to change in the Bulls' offensive strategy. If you don't have the shooters, that's one thing, but you better make up for it in other ways (second chance points, free throws, points in the paint, etc.).
Can we pull Steve Kerr out of retirement?
They can play defense —sort of
At 97 points per game, the Bulls defense is holding their own. That total puts them in the top half of the league, so it's hard to fault their performance on the other side of the court.
But still, is this defense going to win you key games down the stretch when your offense is non-existent? Probably not.
With a good mixture of size, speed, and depth, there's reason to believe the Bulls could be even better defensively. But walking the walk is harder than talking the talk.
All you need to know about the Bulls defense is it can be very, very inconsistent.
The monumental collapse against the Sacramento Kings two weeks ago is evidence enough that the Bulls will be absent-minded at times and act like they have better things to do.
Scoring, of course, is not one of them.
They are terrified of life away from the United Center
If the Bulls played 82 games at home on the United Center floor, they'd be looking at a top four or five seed. How dare the NBA executives schedule them for 41 games on the road.
As fans grow more and more accustomed to the Bulls' struggles on the road, one really has to wonder why they consistently fail away from home.
This year's 2-11 mark is atrocious and it could only get worse from this point forward.
But then it gets really bad. Another west-coast trip awaits the Bulls as they close out the month of January.
Happy New Year? Not likely for the Bulls.
Their New Year's resolution should be to show up for road games, not just go through the motions.
This is not a playoff team
As stated earlier, technically the Bulls would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
But everyone who takes the game of basketball seriously knows that this is not a true playoff team.
There would be literally no chance of the Bulls winning a playoff series against a team like the Celtics or Cavs at this point. Even winning a game would be a stretch.
Last year's playoff series would be talked about and hyped up, but this year's version would result in the following: loss, loss, loss, loss, cue the offseason.
For the Bulls to be serious contenders (pause for laughter) they will need better production on offense, and a more focused effort on defense. They won't get either with this roster, so all eyes are seemingly pointed towards next year's free agent class.
Two months in have told us a lot about the Bulls.
The problem is, none of it is good.
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