Grading the Chicago Bulls through the first 10 games

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 10: Victor Oladipo
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 10: Victor Oladipo /

After every 10 games for the Bulls this season, I will be providing my team grades for how things have gone so far. My team grades will consist of two grades: an overall team grade and a tanking grade (tanking is an important skill too, right?)

What goes into the overall team grade? 

The typical stuff you would expect: team record, individual player performance, player development, energy, general ability to look like an NBA team… you know, the usual.

What goes into the tanking grade? 

This is the one that we can have some fun with this year. We all know this isn’t going to be a successful season for the Bulls as far as the win/loss record goes, so how do you measure success on a team like this?

Well, losing as many games as they can should be the goal if they have hopes of acquiring a top prospect in the 2018 Draft – so the more losses, the better the tanking grade!

I, along with a lot of you, am going to assume that the overall team grade will never be as high as the tanking grade is at it’s lowest point. But, hey, it’s early!

Without further ado, here are the Bulls team grades after the first 10 games of the 2017-2018 season.

Overall Team Grade: C- 

The Bulls record after the first 10 games of the season is 2-8. That’s not good (for this section of the grades, anyway) and it’s not looking like it’s going to get much better.

The Bulls are dead last in points per game (93.6). There are only 4 teams not averaging at least 100 points per game, and only one of them has playoff hopes. To put it simply, the Bulls offense is bad. Really bad.

But wait! What about the defense? The defense actually has been pretty good. The Bulls are allowing opposing teams to score 101.0 points per game, the 7th best in the league. Plus, the 6 teams that are allowing fewer ppg, all have their goals set on the playoffs. Essentially, this means that out of all the bad teams in the league, the Bulls are the best on defense. Congrats Bulls!

This lines up quite nicely with what Demarcus Cousins said following the Pelicans win over the Bulls: “They’re probably top-three hardest-playing teams in the league at this point.” 

It’s pretty easy for teams that know they are looking at minimal level of success, to just mail it in for the season and coast through the schedule. For the Bulls to be playing with the energy they have been, especially on the defensive end, it says a lot about the young guys the Bulls have on their roster and how they are able to work for their young, scrutinized head coach.

Of course, because of the small sample size, all of this should be taken with a grain of salt. But contrary to popular belief, the first 10 games of the season matter! They set the precedent for the next 72.

Speaking of those young guys the Bulls have on their roster, how have they been doing?

“Lights out Lauri” (one of the best nicknames around, in my opinion) has been just that – lights out. He even set an NBA record as the first player to ever make 10 threes in the first three games of his career.

During his first seven games, Lauri was shooting the three at an impressive 41.6%. He has struggled a little more in the last three games, which has brought his three point percentage on the season down to 36.1%. That is still a very fine start to the season, especially for a rookie, given the deeper three-point line and the faster pace of the game.

Lauri Markkanen hasn’t been the only young guy to look good for the Bulls. Bobby Portis has looked stellar in his return. I know – another small sample size – but in Bobby’s first 2 games back, he averaged 20.5 ppg and 12 rpg on 50% shooting from the field (and also 50% shooting from beyond the three-point arc) in only 25 mpg. It will be dang-near impossible for him to keep up that level of production, but he has looked sharp thus far.

One of the biggest questions going forward for the young core is the current point guard battle between Jerian Grant and Kris Dunn. Grant has struggled mightily shooting the ball (32.5% from the field and 16% from three), but has a much more impressive A/TO ratio (Grant’s A/TO ratio is 4.4 compared to Dunn’s 1.0). 

Kris Dunn’s defense has been what’s stood out to me most, however. He is averaging 2.2 spg and has been absolutely hounding opposing ball handlers.

I think if Dunn transitions into a starting role, it might help his efficiency tremendously. Running with the first team can be a whole lot different than running with the bench. That’s what I will be looking for most during the next 10 game stretch.

Tanking Grade: A-

2-8 is bad – or is it good? For this area in my grade book, 2-8 is very good.

In my opinion, the Bulls must get a top-three draft pick in order to consider this Jimmy Butler trade mildly successful.

Right now, the Bulls have the 3rd worst record in the league – hovering right around where I would like them.

So why is 2-8 not an A, or even an A+, this early in the season? It all comes down to one win that left me a little disappointed. I know it was only the fourth game of the season, but beating the Hawks may come back to haunt us come lottery time.

The Hawks are currently tied for the worst record in the league and I’m expecting them to have a very similar season as the Bulls. If the Hawks and Bulls end the season right around the same mark, the Bulls might actually wish they came away with a loss instead. Let’s just hope the Hawks start winning some games then, right?

But this has still been a very successful start to a tanking season. The Bulls have shown great energy in most games – not all games – but how much can I ask for? Chicago has worked extremely hard and has seen some quality production from young building blocks. All we can really do now is sit back, watch them struggle to win games, and hopefully see some more growth in the process.