• The Bulls' "Gestalt" Vibe

    Early in this strike-shortened NBA season, the Chicago Bulls currently own the league's best record at 12-2. That's an 86% winning percentage which is really kinda crazy...the best regular season record of all time is owned by the 1995-96 Bulls who went 72-10 (87.8%). They've outscored opponents by 10.3 points per game...3 points more than when they posted the best regular season record last season at 62-10.

    How are the Bulls doing it? The "usual suspects" of reasons for an extraordinarily quick start to a season just don't fly.

    The home court advantage is huge in the NBA. Lots of home games? Well no, in fact the Bulls have played 9 of their 14 games on the road...no team has had to play more games away from home.

    Easy schedule? Not hardly. The Bulls spoiled the home openers for the LA Lakers and the LA Clippers who are a combined 15-8 and have beaten the Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics...all projected playoff teams.

    An absence of injuries to key players? Nope. The team's key offseason acquisition, shooting guard Richard "Rip" Hamilton and backup point guard C.J. Watson have each missed 9 games and counting. The team's lone superstar Derrick Rose also missed a game due to a toe injury.

    So it must be that most of their players are having fast starts. Sorry, but statistically that doesn't work at all. When measured by Player Efficiency Rating (PER), the best available statistic to measure individual performance, this Bulls team is having a decidedly off season. Point Guard Derrick Rose is putting up similar numbers that helped win him the league MVP award last season, but all of the other starters are down:

    Rip Hamilton is down from 15.8 PER last season to 13.1 this season.
    Luol Deng is down from 15.5 PER to last season to 14.0 this season.
    Carlos Boozer is down from 18.8 PER last season to 17.9 this season.
    Joakim Noah is down from 18.8 PER last season to 13.9 this season.

    The Gestalt (and Defense) Factor

    Even if you didn't study psychology, you probably remember this much about gestalt...sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This is truly the only reasonable way to explain the Bulls' early season success. Despite a greatly-compressed training camp and preseason, the Bulls have meshed quickly and hit the ground running...as a team.

    A lot of credit should go to last season's Coach-of-the-Year, Tom Thibodeau. "Thibs" installed his defensive system last season and with a season under their belts, the team is executing it to near perfection. The Bulls have given up only 83.8 points per game this season...the best in the league by more than 3 1/2 points. Bulls' opponents have a shooting percentage of 41.3% versus a league average of 44.2%.

    Rebounding is another reason for the Bulls early season dominance. Their 46.6 rebounds per game is far and away the league's best.

    To this point in the season, the Bulls are clearly the best team in the NBA. As many expected, the second best team is the Oklahoma City Thunder at 11-2 (7 home games). The next best are both "surprise teams"...the Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers, both 9-3, both thought by the experts to be "bubble teams" come playoff time.The "superteam" Miami Heat is 8-4. The defending champion Dallas Mavericks, after a slow start, are 8-5.

    Despite the fact that the Bulls had the league's best regular season record last season, only Derrick Rose was selected for the All Star Game. This figures to be the case again this season. Other than Rose, no one on the Bulls has put up any "All Star worthy" (read: scoring) numbers. In fact, it's not even close. This is because defense doesn't matter much when it comes to All Star selection. I mean, the Bulls second leading scorer (behind Rose) is Deng at a completely pedestrian 14.9 points per game. Who cares that Deng is possibly the best small forward defender in the league?

    Other than Rose, the Bulls completely lack "star power." I guess they'll just have to settle for being the best damn team in the NBA.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: The Bulls' "Gestalt" Vibe started by transplant View original post
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. Denny Crane's Avatar
      The schedule has been soft. The Clippers were two missing key players (Butler and Billups), and the Lakers played Josh McRoberts because Bynum wasn't ready.

      Minnesota is 4-8, Detroit (twice) is 3-9, Sacramento is 4-9, Washington is 1-11, Boston is 4-7, Toronto is 4-9. Memphis is 5-6. We lost to the Warriors who are 3-8.

      That's quite a few cream puffs.

      The Hawks realistically should have beaten us twice. They coughed up a 19 point lead against us at home and looked more gassed than our defense stopping them. And that was the only quality team we played at home so far.

      We haven't played teams with winning records other than Atlanta, two times yet.

      The Bulls had a remarkable record in games last year where Bogans (4.4PPG) scored at least 6 points. He's gone, yeeeeehaaaaa! In his place, we have an 8PPG guy and eventually Rip. That alone may be the difference. We also have Boozer and Noah able to play at the same time early in the season.
    1. Good Hope's Avatar
      So, Transplant, the moral of the story is that things are only going to get worse, sucker!

      :-)

      You thought you were having your cake and eating it, too, but it's all just a gestaltish mirage.

      But I have to agree that it's too early to tell what is really happening. Nothing is quite as it seems. I'll feel better once Rip is on board and truly healthy, thank you. CJ too. But thanks, JLIII!
    1. Denny Crane's Avatar
      I didn't mean to quibble. I am thoroughly enjoying the success. The really big deal is all the road victories. Those are a big change from last year, early on. And from previous circus trips.

      The big concerns are Rip's health, our ability to defeat a zone without hang (literally) all our scorers on the court, and relying on Rose to be (just about) our only Q4 offense.
    1. FatJerry's Avatar
      Well the G Vibe would be positively orgasmic if Derrick Rose could run a better pick and roll.

      The boy won't pass to / run his bigs properly.

      We're giving up at least 6 to 8 assisted points a night

      Fix this and maintain the rage in our defense and we'll win the championship

      There is no reason for Derrick to be our only 4th qtr offense . We have enough offense on this team , although , I still would like a secondary ball handler and a pop shooting big just to make us more properly balanced / complete.

      Ultimately I see Noah as a roll 5/4 ( 2 years from now ) and Mirotic as a pop 4 - but a guy who can also put in on the floor and take it inside. Asik will back them .

      If we can bring in a guy like a Mayo and have he with Deng , backed by Brewer, Butler and a shooter like Korver this team can compete for titles for the next 8 to 10 years.
    1. Denny Crane's Avatar
      FJ,

      It looked to me like Rose was working on it last game, but it's hard to do against the zone. Also, Boozer in the post does a great give and go, but Deng has trouble finishing on those plays.
    1. transplant's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Denny Crane View Post
      The schedule has been soft. The Clippers were two missing key players (Butler and Billups), and the Lakers played Josh McRoberts because Bynum wasn't ready.

      Minnesota is 4-8, Detroit (twice) is 3-9, Sacramento is 4-9, Washington is 1-11, Boston is 4-7, Toronto is 4-9. Memphis is 5-6. We lost to the Warriors who are 3-8.

      That's quite a few cream puffs.

      The Hawks realistically should have beaten us twice. They coughed up a 19 point lead against us at home and looked more gassed than our defense stopping them. And that was the only quality team we played at home so far.

      We haven't played teams with winning records other than Atlanta, two times yet.
      I wouldn't have thought it possible to make a 12-2 record sound like underachieving...Brilliant!

      Not sure how you missed Butler in the Clips game...he played 39 minutes.
    1. Denny Crane's Avatar
      I don't say they underachieved nor overachieved. They had the best record in the league last season and have improved by dumping Bogans and starting Rip/Brewer, and by having a healthy Boozer and Noah from the start.

      I wouldn't say they're dominating the NBA, but I would say they are beating the teams they should in a convincing manner. It's a good thing!
    1. Good Hope's Avatar
      In general, I have to agree that it's still too soon to say what the Bulls have this year. There are some real positives, but some flaws, and everyone else in the league is in flux.

      I'm hopeful that Derrick's ability to facilitate is going to take the leap this year that will make the difference and get us the championship in this asterisked season.
    1. such sweet thunder's Avatar
      I like the tone of your article, Transplant. There's a lot to be excited about, especially if you believe in Rap Hamilton, and I do. The only thing I would mention is that the Bulls have to make it to the playoffs somewhat healthy if they expect to compete. Noah and Rose look like they're both struggling with injuries similar to the ones they sustained last year, and Rip hasn't been able to make it onto the court. There is going to be a lot of luck involved in who ultimately wins the championship.
    1. Denny Crane's Avatar
      OKC now has the best record at 12-2. Philly has the 2nd best record in the East at 10-3.
    1. transplant's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by such sweet thunder View Post
      I like the tone of your article, Transplant. There's a lot to be excited about, especially if you believe in Rap Hamilton, and I do. The only thing I would mention is that the Bulls have to make it to the playoffs somewhat healthy if they expect to compete. Noah and Rose look like they're both struggling with injuries similar to the ones they sustained last year, and Rip hasn't been able to make it onto the court. There is going to be a lot of luck involved in who ultimately wins the championship.
      Completely agree. And the Bulls aren't and shouldn't be favored to win it all...they aren't the best team on paper. Still, they're 13-3 with Rose missing 3 games, Hamilton 10 and Watson 9. They've had the busiest schedule so far and have handled it pretty well.
    1. Good Hope's Avatar
      Who do you put above the Bulls?

      OKC, Miami, ?

      CJ and Rip got me excited.
    1. Denny Crane's Avatar
      Ya know, it really isn't about who's "above" the Bulls as much as it is who creates the kind of match ups that beat us. On paper, Orlando looks like a better team to me, but we own them. Golden State beats us with their midget guards, we don't match up well. I think we're better on paper than Atlanta, but they are built to beat us.

      Miami looks better in all ways, though we beat them in the regular season.
    1. TomBoerwinkle#1's Avatar
      Transplant is engaged in Gestalt. Denny is engaged in Schadenfreude. The more things change the more they remain the same. Carry on.