‘Got That One Wrong’: Analyst Eats Crow on Poor Bulls Forecast

Zach LaVine and the Bulls have been exceeding expectations.

Getty Zach LaVine and the Bulls have been exceeding expectations.

Heading into the season, there were not many top-line analysts who were prepared to put the Bulls at the top of the Eastern Conference. Mostly, the questions concerned how the high-profile new pieces—Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan—would mesh with the two star players the Bulls had in place already, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.

ESPN predicted the Bulls would be in the “play-in” group, finishing with a 40-42 record, tied with the Hornets and Pacers. NBA.com held the Bulls in similarly low esteem, at 40-42 ,and questioned whether the Bulls could defend well enough to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2017. At Bleacher Report, there was more generosity: Chicago was projected to go 44-38, seventh in the East.

The Bulls, of course, are off to an 11-5 start, on pace to 56 games. Another preseason doubter, Bill Simmons of the Ringer, admitted his mistake this week on his podcast, also acknowledging that he underrated the signing of guard Alex Caruso, who has been filling in for the injured Patrick Williams.

“That team can score,” Simmons said. “I got that one wrong.”

NBA Stats Show Bulls in Top 10 in Defense, Offense

He can take comfort in knowing he was not alone, at least. The Bulls have changed a lot of minds around the NBA already, though we are only in mid-November. What was seen by many observers as an awkward collection of players has, instead, fit together seamlessly.

“I thought they were going to be a fantasy team,” Simmons explained. “Sometimes rosters just make sense—they did a really nice job of just, can Lonzo, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Vuc all make sense together and who would be the perfect fifth guy? Pat Williams gets hurt, Caruso is like the perfect fifth guy, literally perfect. Now they have this five-man rotation, I like their five guys as much as anybody I’m watching.”

Yes, the Bulls can score. DeRozan and LaVine have been the most productive 1-2 punch in the NBA, with LaVIne averaging 26.8 points and DeRozan right behind at 26.6 points. They’ve been efficient, too: DeRozan is shooting 48.8% from the field, while LaVine is at 49.8%. DeRozan has also been among the best players in the NBA at drawing trips to the free-throw line, taking 8.1 foul shots per game, and making 88.5% of them.

According to NBA.com/Stats, the Bulls have the No. 7 ranked offense in the NBA, averaging 109.5 points per 100 possessions. The defense is eighth in the league, allowing 104.1 points per 100 possessions. Those who did not think the Bulls could defend were as wrong as Simmons, who worried that Chicago would not be able to score.

Bulls Have Skillset That ‘Intersect’

Joining Simmons on his podcast was longtime NBA writer Jonathan Tjarks, who admires the way the Bulls managed to take a group of second-tier stars and make them better because of the way their skills fit. Said Tjarks:

When skillsets intersect like that, it allows guys to play bigger than what they are. It’s a sum is greater than the parts. I think that’s the biggest thing. All their Top 5 players all have roles where they can all be good without taking away from anybody else. Of the Top 5 guys, the only guy who has really taken a step back is Vuc, basically. Everyone else is the best version of themselves with this team, and all their skillsets align and that’s where you can kinda get magic happening, and that’s what’s happening in Chicago right now.



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