Through three preseason games, I gave an update on Thibodeau's five preseason keys. Another week and three more preseason games have passed, and it's time to look back and see how the team is progressing on it's goals entering the regular season.
Five things we're going to emphasize right away: Defensive team,
rebounding team, low turnover team, inside out team, and unselfish
1: Defensive team
The Bulls defense has struggled over this three game stretch. The Raptors ended the night with decent shooting percentages and relatively few turnovers, but the Bulls defense was hot early, and they made up their percentages when the game was out of reach.
Their defense on the Mavericks was statistically good if you ignore the 51 free throw attempts, and as a complete homer, I feel the Bulls did get screwed there. However, in the end, they allowed too much dribble penetration and that's what allowed Dallas to get to the line so much. The FG% was fairly misleading in terms of our defensive effort here.
The Bulls were simply lambasted on defense by the Magic, so utter fail in terms of defense.
They absence of Taj Gibson certainly hurt the front court defense for the two games he sat out, but the overall level of play was lacking. After a hot start defensively, the Bulls showed many of the wholes they had last year where they struggled to defend the interior.
The Bulls look similar to last season defensively right now where they can make athletic plays, but they're prone to be overpowered and don't have enough help inside.e
2: Rebounding team
The Bulls dominated Toronto on the glass which is no surprise given their complete lack of rebounders. I suspect Toronto spends a lot of time getting dominated on the glass this season. They held serve against the Mavericks which is a significant improvement over their first preseason contest against them, and they got crushed by Orlando on the glass.
Again, the Bulls were missing two of their top three rebounders (Boozer/Gibson) against Orlando and Dallas, so the numbers were perhaps misleadingly low. However, it was a relatively pedestrian set of result on the glass, and the Bulls will have to hope to improve.
3: Low turnover team
I don't feel too bad about the turnovers at this point. The Bulls averaged around 17 over the three games which is a shade high, but the turnovers were worst in the Toronto game which they blew up the Raptors and clearly got a bit cocky trying to thread the needle on some passes.
I think given the motion offense relies on a lot of passing and some difficult cross court passes are integral to the offense, I feel the turnovers are at an acceptable level.
4: Inside out team
Joakim Noah has been a centerpiece of the offense, so I suppose they've gone inside out as much as they can, but without Boozer and Gibson, there hasn't been all that much to work with inside. I'm calling this a mulligan until the Bulls play with more personnel.
I don't think they could really go to Noah any more than they have on the preseason as a play maker there, so I think it's been as committed as could reasonably expected thus far, but the team will look much different with Boozer in on offense.
5: Unselfish team
The assist rate dropped to around 61% for the past three games which is a notable decline from their astounding rate earlier in the preseason. However, it's still about 5% above the league average, so they're still definitely an unselfish team statistically.
On top of that, they still pass the eye test in terms of passing the ball. There's relatively few possessions where someone is going one on one or pounding the ball with their dribble. They're typically moving the ball around fairly efficiently across the floor looking for a quality shot.
I give them high marks for unselfish play thus far.
Well, in the end, they blew up the team that stunk. They played basically to a draw against a similar caliber team at the UC, then they got lambasted by an elite team on an early road back to back travel day after an overtime game the night before (these games are particularly hard when the time zone change gives you an early start and you have to travel).
I'm not pleased with the effort against Orlando, but I certainly understand it, and in preseason I'm not going to get too concerned over it. Otherwise, I'm happy with the way they dominated Toronto and generally okay with how they played the Mavericks. Despite going 1-2 in both stretches, I was a little more pleased with the first three game stretch where our starters seemed to outplay the competition or at least play to a draw.
This three game stretch featured the first time our starters really got blown up by the opposition in Orlando, even if circumstances conspired to make that one understandable.
At least they didn't lose to the Seahawks this weekend.