Do you want to know one key reason advanced statistics have found a foothold in the NBA front offices? Because they give you evidence to challenge your beliefs and understanding of the game. It can confirm or make you re-evaluate what you think you know. And a good GM is always questioning everything.
For example, when Joakim Noah left the Bulls to have thumb surgery, they were going to keep on scoring just fine with Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer. Where Noah would be missed is on defense. Right?
Zach Lowe at Sports Illustrated’s Point Forward blog looked at the numbers since Noah went down and found just the opposite.
Using Hoopdata.com’s points per possession metric (which differs slightly from the one I usually use — on Basketball-Reference), we see Chicago has scored just over 103 points per 100 possessions this season. That’s just about league average.
Since Noah was sidelined, Chicago has hit that mark just six times in 14 games despite an incredibly easy schedule, and they’ve come in at 102 points per 100 possessions or worse — the equivalent of a bottom-10 offense — in seven of those 14 games. Toss out one huge outlier — their 121-76 destruction of the Sixers last month — and the Bulls’ offensive numbers without Noah look even worse. Their defense, meanwhile, has shot to the top of the league in points allowed per 100 possessions.
Why? Well, one reason is what you’d expect — the Bulls are not as good an offensive rebounding team with Noah. The fall off is not dramatic, but it is felt.
The other reason Lowe found is less obvious — the Bulls three-point shooting has gone missing. They are taking two fewer threes a game and are shooting just 30.5 percent since Noah went down. That could be just random coincidence (14 games is a small sample size so you can see big streaks like that) or it could be that having a big man who can roll to the rim opens up some better looks on the perimeter. Either way, it has hurt the Bulls scoring.
The Bulls will be without Noah for another month, maybe more. They need to find a way to get the offense working again.
The defense by the way? Never better.