Rebounding Key To New-Look Bulls Identity

Rebounding Key To New-Look Bulls Identity
Taj Gibson grabs a rebound, during the first half against the Suns. (Nuccio DiNuzzo / Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Bulls finished last year as the 9th seed in the Eastern Conference. Their 42-40 record was accomplished through a confusing brand of hero-ball blended with a middling defense, middling offense, and over-matched coaching. But Chicago was able to hang their hat on one of the few statistics they’ve consistently held their own: rebounding.

Last season, only the Oklahoma City Thunder and Detroit Pistons pulled down more rebounds per game than the Bulls. While strong in rebounds per game, pulling down 46.3 per game, it didn’t necessarily assist Chicago in building a quality defense.

The Bulls could only hold opponents to 103.1 points per game, good for 16th in the league. Per 100 possessions, the Bulls would give up 103.9 points, again finding themselves stuck in mediocrity, ranking 15th league-wide.

Generally speaking, a correlation exists between being a strong rebounding team and building a defensive identity. However, that wasn’t the case for the Bulls. The reason for their seemingly paradoxical numbers was the team attempted the 2nd-most shots per game in the league, shooting just over 87 shots a game. When you put up that many shots per game, and do so without having an efficient offense, more possessions will exist in a game, which allows for ample rebounding opportunities.

That being so, a ‘per game’ metric may not beneficial in measuring a team’s ability to effectively rebound the ball. Instead, ‘rebounding percentage’ should be used, which endeavors to measure the percentage of rebounds grabbed per team in comparison to their opposition.

Focusing on this, the Bulls collected 74.9 percent of their defensive rebounds this past season, good for 22nd in the league. That’s, uh, not great.

While casual fans may be drawn to basketball by dunks, 3-point bombs and acrobatic finishes at the rim, general managers view the game from a different perspective.

One of the most overlooked skills in basketball is finishing a possession with a strong defensive rebound. A team that lost Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol in the off-season -- its two most prolific rebounders -- will need to find different contributors willing to pull down a stack of rebounds. One man won’t be able to change the Bulls’ rebounding numbers from last season, it will need to a committee of players who gang-rebound every possession possible.

So far through preseason, Robin Lopez has looked like a serviceable center. Though not a prolific rebounder himself – he averaged a modest 7.3 rebounds per game last season as a Knick – Lopez excel at using his large frame to gain position and box out his counterpart, leaving rebounds to be collected by his teammates. Fortunately for him, he will have considerable help on the glass from his guards.

Last season with the Sacramento Kings, Rajon Rondo averaged a career-high six rebounds per game. Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, two big body perimeter players, combined for 9.4 rebounds per game last year. The ‘Three Alphas’, plus newcomer Michael Carter-Williams, will need to replicate past rebounding efforts if the Bulls are to improve their rebounding rate.

Fortunately, Chicago can also count on the immense talents of Cristiano Felicio and Bobby Portis, both of whom are strong rebounders. The second-year big men are below the age of 25, and enjoy seeking out opportunities to crash the boards.

In their brief run last year, both Portis and Felicio showed a propensity to hustle down offensive rebounds, finishing 3rd and 4th on the team in offensive rebound percentage, respectively. Should this young duo continue to improve, they will be key to the Bulls recapturing their rebounding dominance from the Thibodeau era.

While questions and concerns exist about the Bulls’ outside shooting, perimeter defense and bench scoring, rebounding cannot be a weakness if the franchise expects to improve on their defensive (and offensive) efforts from last season. If the  goal is to make it back to the postseason, rebounding may be the key metric that determines the likelihood of the upcoming season being a success.

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  • Bulls actually won last night! I figure this season will be a disaster of epic proportions, but they got off to a good start.

    Note to the moderators: Nice job pumping out content, but now that the games have started, you need a post per game for fans to comment. Either pre-game or preferably, post-game, but post-game needs to be up early in the morning.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Yeah Wade and Jimmy were on fire from deep. I am highly skeptical that Wade has transformed into a dangerous three point threat after what like 14 years of sucking at it. But last night he made nearly as many threes (4) as he did last season (7)

    Even with the Bulls being hot from the three they still couldn't really put this one away and nearly let the Celtics steal it at the end before Wade iced the game with a impressive step back three.

    I still have this feeling that this season is going to be a train wreck. Wade says its Jimmy's team but there was a lot of Wade in game 1 including taking the big shots at the end of the game. Isn't that the alpha dog role?

    The Rondo, MCW and Jimmy lineup is possibly the worst shooting backcourt in the NBA. that said MCW is long and solid on defense and transition. His broken shot though is going to be glaring defect on our team as is Rondo's since we don't have the guys to hide their deficiency's and playing them side by side is a terrible choice IMO.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    with the dueling mope a dopes(Rose and Gulliver) gone, and the shocking additions of Rondo and Wade, I believe that this season will be better than last and much more enjoyable to watch. Nevermind validating everything that I ever said about the KKP. I told you guys that he would slowly destroy the moral of the team and the fans, but it would take a little time for most fans to figure it out.

    So far so good, despite Niko and little dougie jarhead looking like they haven't figured out their career threatening issues yet.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    As for the topic of this post, rebounding issues last year, I regularly pointed out that despite our high ranking in gross rebound average we sucked at defensive rebounding, ranking 22-3-4 in defensive % pretty much from the time that Noah went out.

    It will be interesting to see how we rank this year by replacing the 4rth or 5th "best" rebounder(yea, right) in the league the past 2 seasons with the very average individual rebounder(Rolo). I suspect that we will at least finish in the top half of the league.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Right. Pau has so demoralized the Spurs that they are 3-0. As usual, you're so smart and Popovich is so stupid.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    Guys. It's a new year and he's not on the team anymore. Let it go. Both of you. Please.

  • Who is that guy hitting threes? D. Wade hitting 3's consistently can limit the physicality of contact on his body. Less wear and tear is a good thing and it limits his drives to the bucket and the time he used to spend being knocked around to the floor. This is just what he needs at this point of his career.
    And all his career he has a history of being able to consistently hit the open shot and to create offense for his teammates. Are we looking at the new D. Wade?
    We are also seeing shared floor leadership with both Wade and Butler taking turns which is also a good thing. Teams cannot focus their defense on just one guy. We may have also seen an another emerging floor leader in MCW. I hope Hoiberg can recognize and take full advantage of those moments!

  • At this stage in Wades career given his age and injury history, it should come as no surprise that he's looking to take more threes to prologue his career. You don't see Vince Carter taking it to the hole anymore and even Kobe in his last years settle for more jump shots. Not sure how accurate Wade is gonna be from deep, but if he could knock them down this season at a decent percentage then this new look Bulls might work out after all.

  • "Immense talents?"

  • The Bulls looked decent last night. The defense needs work but Lopez was generally good anchoring the middle. Niko and McD together has to stop. The D was a trainwreck with them together. Boston just put those two in PNR and they got killed.

    As teams go smaller, I'm interested to see how Taj does at the 5. They did it a bit last night with him and Niko.

    There's no way that shooting is sustainable. Wade and Butler both had good nights from beyond the arc. If it holds, great, but I think most teams know this. They packed the paint and left little room for any of them to drive. Wade and Butler are both slashers so this is a problem. It'll be interesting to see as the season plays out.

    Noticed the Rondo/MCW backcourt pairing. Thought it was interesting/something to monitor.

  • Amazing no game post by author, thanks CBC new writers...?
    On B/R, 18-20 tweets on DWade getting fined...even a double from one tweeter apologizing that he got amount wrong. Talk about trying to bury lead story a Bulls WIN. Guess it's still true today...'never let the facts of a Game 1 victory stand in the way of a good sycophants story line'.
    So many were wrong about Bulls shooting woes/doubts -even me-...
    Have no fear "Debbie Downer lives" alive and well in the Chicago Bulls blogosphere.

  • In reply to Bullski:

    Dead on! This was a big beef of mine last season! We should an artilcle to post under AFTER EACH GAME!! Even if it just says, Nice win or Crummy loss.

    No one, including me, has any idea what this team might do this season. There are too many variables. Too much potential all over, but ... who will develop? Will they make a big trade?

  • In reply to rustyw:

    this blog is dead

  • In reply to handushk:

    Sure feels like it. Would of thought at 3-0 and leading the league in scoring would of excited the faithful. #BringBackDoug

  • Moderators, I'll post it again: We need a post for every game, either before or after. Bulls are 3-0 now.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I agree. I miss Doug.

  • In reply to Jmax:

    Doug was missing a lot of posts too. Commentors were posting under old articles, just like now. Nuts!

  • In reply to rustyw:

    OK, I miss the old Doug. Once he got engaged, he had less time to contribute.

  • Does anybody know of another blog that I can subscribe to? Preferrably one like how this one was a few years back with Doug. Its crazy how with Doug it was mostly just him doing this and he would post pregame and postgame posts plus in between pieces to fill the void and podcasts. Now we have 3 or 4 moderators who treat this site like a forgotten child.

  • http://blogs.bulls.com

  • http://www.blogabull.com/

  • In reply to Sluggers:

    Thanks Sluggers, good ol blogabull has always been reliable.

  • www.pippenainteasy. com is another site. I guess these guys are trying to figure out how to make money from this blog and that's when they'll be back.

  • Yes I'm not sure why the mods dont post even just the final score so that there can be some visitor commentary. Maybe because they put forth typically such well formulated analysis and articles that just a cheap blurb is not their style? Or maybe it's difficult for Mark to keep up with doing so due to his Australian time zone? It's too bad, as I appreciate reading the commentators opinions as well. Especially this year when I dont have to sift through all the dueling insults regarding Pau Gasol's value or not. Thank goodness the Hatfield and McCoy misery is over.

  • Blogabull at the very least is active, and I am kind of enjoying watching everyone eat crow with the start the Bulls have had after almost everyone complaining all the off-season.

  • Folks,

    Let's get a few things straight.

    1. You're welcome to follow or read other Bulls based blogs whenever you choose. This site, for many reasons, will not have the volume of posts it once did, so venture out if you must. In fact, I would suggest doing that regardless of the activity level of this blog so you can get a range of views to formulate your own.

    2. No one is paid on this blog. Not for a single word they write. It's all done for free. So to the person suggesting we've been absent because we've been trying to come up with ways to make money out of this blog, you couldn't be more wrong, and frankly, it's an offensive statement given the hours that are poured into this blog for nothing more than the catharsis of discussing sports.

    3. There are not multiple moderators on this site. There are multiple writers now, but only one moderator / editor / admin - me.

    4. The reason for limited posts over the last few days has been because I've been away on annual leave on holiday with no access to a computer to edit and post threads. I can't access this site's WordPress features from my phone. As the only person with publishing rights for the blog, who wasn't available to post topics, the blog remained stranded for several days. That's unfortunate, and I apologise, but that is the reason for the blogs inactivity.

    5. We'll be resuming regular programming shortly now that I've returned from my break. More game-based topics will start to appear, be it pre or post game. That will be dependent on the writers' availability as to when it it occurs (pre or post).

  • All the best, Mark. You have no need to explain yourself. Keep doing what you do, and I hope you had a great vacation.

  • In reply to Sluggers:

    Thanks, though I felt it was necessary given the angst in the comments above, which some were justifiable.

    For those wondering, at a minimum, we will do everything we can to have at least one pre or post game thread for each game this season, among other pieces.

    For tonight's game against the Celtics, here is a game thread which can be used by users to discuss the game: http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-bulls-confidential/2016/11/game-thread-bulls-celtics-11-03-2016/

    Not sure if a post game thread will be possible for this game given G7 of the World Series will likely have our writers either too inebriated or depressed to coherently post anything of substance!

  • I apologize, we are all working together here, ànd we appreciate what you guys do!

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