The Chicago Bulls are in a slump. They have lost 7-of-10 and are 6-9 in their last 15. Their already weak offense has slipped a little but it is the defense that has taken the bigger step back. They have slid down the ranks in the Eastern conference to the sixth seed, making their road through the playoffs that much harder.
What is going on in the Windy City?
Yes, they still are without Derrick Rose, and that is a blow. But the team that was 24-16 after 40 games didn’t have Rose either. Yes, injuries to guys like Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are part of it. And sure, the Bulls have shown a lack of focus at times, particularly on the offensive end (where they will struggle regardless with this lineup), but that’s not it either.
No, if you want to know why the Bulls are struggling now you need to look at what they did in July.
The Bulls shipped out veterans to put them on a track for a lot of cap space in 2014 (to go get another star to play next to Rose). Gone are Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and John Lucas. In their place are Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammed, Kirk Hinrich, Daequan Cook and Nate Robinson. Those guys simply aren’t as good.
Really, the numbers most worth comparing between last season’s team and this season’s are these: 37-14 in 2011-12 and 15-17 in 2012-13. Those are the different won-loss records when at least one starter was out for the Bulls. Don’t forget: Rose missed almost a lot of time last season, as he has this one. Still, depth and defense, not to mention the occasional John Lucas III’s heroics, often prevailed.
That difference in winning percentage is .725 and .469, or roughly the disparity of contribution between Omer Asik and Nazr Mohammed. For another comparison, this season’s winning percentage of .561 trails last season’s of .667 from the 27 games Rose missed with injury.
The Bulls were going to take a step back without Rose this season, but the size of the step is dictated in part by the depth of the team. That’s why Reggie Rose’s frustration at the deadline was not out of line with what a lot of Bulls fans were thinking (even if he shouldn’t have opened his mouth).
Tom Thibodeau is keeping up the “we have enough to win” mantra but the fact is he doesn’t, not at the same pace. And that’s coming home to roost as the season wears on.