The good vibes Bulls

A couple of notes from back-to-back blowout wins over the weekend

It was another game on Saturday and another blowout win for the Bulls. Is this the first time that KC Johnson has tweeted 30-point lead alerts on consecutive days? 

The Bulls won by a final score of 97-82. It wasn’t even that close after they overcame a 9-0 run by the Detroit Pistons to start the game. They’ve come roaring out to a 3-0 start for the first time since the 1996-97 Championship run (They also went 3-0 in 2016-17, but I’ve blocked that Three Alphas team from my memory). 

Here’s what I saw over the weekend.

New guys, new team

I’ve said this before, but 80 percent of this roster wasn’t here at the same time last year. This is a new team, and some of the stuff that we’ve seen never would have happened before. You can see pretty clearly how all of the new pieces worked together in Arturas Karnisovas’ mind, and his vision is manifesting on the court. 

DeMar doing DeMar things

DeRozan is one of the best players in the league at taking advantage of switches. He usually has the best wing defender on him, which makes his life tough. But if he gets a guard switched onto him, he uses his size to shoot post fadeaways right over them. If he gets a big, he uses his footwork to create space for that same shot. 

The Bulls had some trouble getting the ball to DeRozan on those switches the first time these teams played. They are getting better at it, and DeRozan is just punishing teams when it happens. 

The Ayo Experience

I definitely didn’t expect Ayo Dosunmo to be playing in the rotation. I didn’t think he was ready as an off-ball defender. 

Johnson had a pretty good observation on the sideline during this game’s broadcast about Ayo’s screen navigation. Johnson noted that it had improved dramatically, which I agree with, and that Ayo had been working specifically with coaches on it. 

That playing time has led to some wildly entertaining stints. There have been highs and lows, but one thing that you can say about him is that he is going to make some sort of impact in one direction. He’s like the anti Tony Snell, who was infamous for playing long stints and not recording a single box score statistic. 

Ayo is a frenetic ball of energy on the court. There he was, running from the free throw line to halfcourt like a cornerback to pick off a pass and start a fast break, or blocking a shot to lead to another highlight block from Lonzo Ball and a strip by Alex Caruso. Or dribbling in from a wide open corner 3 and getting stuffed at the rim. It’s more good than bad so far, but he’s definitely not the wallflower on this roster that I thought he would be.

Don’t play drop coverage against Zach LaVine

LaVine has done his part offensively this year. When he’s been single-covered or played against conservative defenses, he has torn teams apart. The Pistons got demolished on the few times that they played drop coverage against him. It was just as bad against the Pelicans. 

The Bulls may have a somewhat egalitarian offense, but LaVine is still the biggest advantage creator they have. Teams have to send two guys at him, or else.

Getting Patrick Williams going

It was yet another quiet night for Williams, going 4-of-7 for nine points. He’s averaging just eight poins and three rebounds as a starter. 

Billy Donovan tried to get him going by using him as a screener in pick-and-roll. This forced the ball into Williams’ hands and made him make decisions on the short roll. We haven’t seen much of that from him, and he looked pretty good doing it. 

Williams makes sense in that role, catching the ball around the free throw line to score or set up teammates. His floater and midrange game are solid, he’s a pretty good screen setter, and he can make decent passes. 

Is the defense for real?

The Bulls have a stellar 93.7 defensive rating through three games. That is an impossibly low number (remember, the lower the number the better for defensive rating). As a frame of reference, the Lakers led the league last year with a 106.8 defensive rating.

A lot of that low number is due to opponent shooting luck and poor opponents. But there is stuff that is sustainable. The Bulls clearly have a ton of event generators on their team. Ball and Caruso are going to continue to rack up steals. The team’s help rotations have also been superb, noticeably better than in years past. 

There’s a lot of focus on the three guys that supposedly can’t defend in LaVine, DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic. But there are 10 guys in this rotation and most of them are average to well above-average defensively. We are getting more and more evidence that the Bulls are going to be a lot better defensively than the national experts predicted.

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