As the 2011-12 NBA season rapidly approaches and the Chicago Bulls prepare for their Christmas day game against the Los Angeles Lakers, I want to provide fans with a different type of Chicago Bulls team preview. The hope is that it might give you tools to go far beyond the "Derrick Rose is really good, Carlos Boozer needs to stop being bad and Richard Hamilton still has something left in the tank" narrative that is easy to fall back on in the early going. The idea is to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the roster through a visual representation of salient statistics, and to create a snapshot of how players performed relative to positional league averages in 2010-11.
The analysis flows from grappling with the complete picture of the team, and culminates with some observations on the expected and unexpected facts that emerged from the process. Due to the absence of a proper sample size, I decided to leave a couple players off the list. Sorry Brian Scalabrine and Jimmy Butler fans, there just wasn't enough to go on.
Here's what I did: I researched and indexed player stats relative to the relevant positional league average, meaning that a score of 100 is average for each player at his respective position. Anything less than 100 is lower than the average (in red), and anything greater than 100 is higher than the average (in green). The only exception is turnover rate (TOR), where a the inverse is true because less turnovers are a good thing. Usage and %Ast do not have assigned colors since they are both more value-neutral concepts, or perhaps more accurately, they require a case-by-case assessment.
An example: Richard Hamilton shot 47.1% from the 3-9 foot range in 2010-11, and the average for all SGs in 2010-11 from 3-9 feet was only 39.5%... (47.1 / 39.5)*100 = an index score of 119. This means Hamilton's 3-9 shooting numbers were 19% better than the average SG in 2010-11. Easy enough, right? Let's take a look at the 2011-12 Chicago Bulls roster...
|Advanced Stats Glossary|
|True Shooting Percentage (TS%)- A player's shooting percentage weighted to account for free throws and 3-pointers. An accurate expression of shooting efficiency.||Usage Rate (USG) - the number of possessions a player uses during his time on the floor.|
|Percentage of FGs Assisted (% AST) - The percentage of a player's total made field goals that are assisted by a teammate.||Free Throw Attempts per Field Goal Attempts (FTA/FGA): Measures how well a player draws shooting fouls and gets to the free throw line relative to the shots they take.|
|Total Rebound Rate (TRR): The percentage of total available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor.||Assist Rate (AR): the percentage of a player's possessions that ends in an assist.|
|Offensive Rebound Rate (ORR): The percentage of total available offensive rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor.||Turnover Rate (TOR) - the percentage of a player's possessions that end in a turnover.|
|Defensive Rebound Rate (DRR): The percentage of total available defensive rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor.|
Reactions and Observations: Derrick Rose is really good. Okay Okay, I promised it wouldn't devolve into a Rose lovefest at the expense of good analysis, but Rose truly is impressive. You might look at his TS% and numbers from different shooting ranges without initially being blown away by how above-average he has performed, but when you factor weight placed on him to produce offense -- meaning his absurdly high usage rate and his extremely low percentage of made shots assisted -- his ability to avoid turnovers and produce efficient scoring is something that makes him a special player. Some players can post these types of numbers as a role players with less defensive attention focused on them, but very few can stay so effective with so much expected of them. Rose can indeed do it well in high volume and under intense pressure, so make no mistake that he is an elite player.
It's not a huge secret in Chicago, but C.J. Watson isn't exactly the ideal backup point guard. Aside from being a pretty poor shooter from everywhere inside the arc, Watson isn't exactly a master facilitator either. The one good thing to say about Watson, perhaps aside from his occasional hot shooting, is that he does a good job at protecting the ball. It's a minor gripe, but the team could certainly stand to upgrade the backup point guard position heading into the trade deadline.
Shiny new toy Richard Hamilton and his shiny new facemask will slide into the starting shooting guard position, and by all indications he will be a nice fit to help take the load off Rose. However, the numbers show that Hamilton will still be heavily reliant on Rose to create his open opportunities, as most of his made baskets came off an assist and were not self-created. In fact, that is still a glaring problem on the roster in general: nobody else can really create their own shot, so it's all up to Derrick to either score or create good opportunities for others. In a compressed season, will the load be too much for Rose to bear? Adding a player with some semblance of isolation ability would be ideal to protect D Rose from wearing down.
Anyways, back to Hamilton. One thing that stuck out me was the fact that Hamilton's mid-range game -- shooting from 10-15ft -- actually graded out as well below average in comparison to the shooting guard average in 2010-11. It's not a systemic problem that signals any serious deterioration of shooting ability, as he posted above-average marks for every other range, but just a factoid that cuts against the common point thrown out to describe the strengths of Rip's game. An added bonus that comes with Hamilton is that he brings experience and feel for the game, which manifests in his above-average assist numbers. Rip will keep the ball moving and find opportunities for others when the defense over-commits to a hedge or makes an improper switch. If anything, this snapshot gives credence to the fact that he has some meaningful basketball left in the tank.