How much can we believe in this Bulls team?

Checking some indicators to see if the Bulls are indeed back

When teams defy expectations as the Bulls are doing, the smart move is to couch your enthusiasm and still retain a dose of healthy skepticism about what is going on. Or maybe it’s not. 

There is a decent amount of evidence that we should be going the other way. I’d argue that most people are not drinking enough of the kool-aid with this team. Instead of moving expectations from a borderline playoff team to solidly in the mid- to upper 40’s in wins, perhaps we should be thinking of them as even better than that. There is a solid statistical argument for it. 

In an observation that I am completely ripping off from the most recent episode of the Dunc’d On Podcast, basketball analytics guru Krishna Narsu crunched the numbers a few years ago on how many games it takes for certain statistics to become meaningful. According to Narsu’s research, we can be somewhat confident after the eight-game mark in statistics like win percentage and net rating. 

The Bulls currently sport a 8-3 record which, extrapolated over a full 82-game season, would correlate to 60 wins. Net rating is a better way to predict wins, and the Bulls’ +7.2 net rating translates roughly to a 60-win team as well. 

I’m not saying that the Bulls will get to 60 wins, but maybe we should start wondering if they will be closer to 60 than 40. 

Some other things that we can be fairly confident in, as they stabilize very early: The Bulls will be hovering around the top 10 in free throw attempts and among the league leaders in taking care of the ball, which are complete reversals from last year. They’re also going to go from one of the worst teams at generating turnovers to one of the best. 

We are still about a week away from getting stable numbers on offense (13 games) and defense (16 games). But as of today, the NBA’s stats website has the Bulls ranking sixth in both categories. 

The revolution is also starting to foment in the court of public opinion. The national analysts that were so low on the Bulls are hitching their wagon to the Bulls. 

Nate Duncan (39 win prediction) and John Hollinger (38 win prediction) are both issuing mea culpas of sorts in their season predictions mulligans podcast.

The models are liking the Bulls more and more too. FiveThirtyEight’s model now has the Bulls winning 47 games after pegging them for 38 at the start of the year.

I would argue that these sources are still too low on the Bulls. Another thing to consider is that this team hasn’t even come close to hitting its full potential. Nikola Vucevic has been a shell of himself and the Bulls have been missing one of last year’s key rotation players in Coby White. 

They also have options at their disposal to upgrade their talent level in the trade market with a first round pick, some promising young players, Derrick Jones Jr.’s $10 million expiring contract, and a $5 million trade exception. As good as these guys have been through 11 games, they are probably going to get better. 

Putting aside all of this nerd shit, these 10 seconds of basketball are about all you need to see to know that the Bulls are most definitely back. 

It’s tempting to remain cautious to avoid looking bad if this ends up being a mirage. Why live your life that way though? Basketball is entertainment, and it’s supposed to be fun. This team is good, and I’d advise you all to soak it in. 

I’ll let the prophet of Bulls twitter, the omniscient See Red Fred, have the last word:

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