Chicago Bulls: First Numbers that Count of the 2020-21 Season

Chicago Bulls. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Chicago Bulls. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

In their first three games, the Chicago Bulls gave fans plenty of cause for pause. What, if anything, should be taken away from the rough start?

The 2021 NBA season got off to a whimper for the Chicago Bulls. The team sits at 0-3 and has a date with the Washington Wizards on tap for Tuesday night. We’re already seeing many of the same poor habits we saw last season. This despite another preseason where it looked like they were figuring some things out.

We set some (supposedly) reasonable expectations to start the year but so far they look like they won’t be met for the most part.

So let’s take a look at some of the early trends and why they’re so disturbing.


That’s how many turnovers the Bulls are averaging going into Tuesday’s game. It’s nearly five more than they averaged last season. Should they remain so careless with the ball, they will be the first team since the San Antonio Spurs in 1989 (and first Bulls team since 1983) to average 20-plus giveaways over an entire season.

Leading the way is Zach LaVine, averaging 5.0 turnovers per contest.

Miraculously, Chicago isn’t allowing the most points off of turnovers. That distinction belongs to the Toronto Raptors, but only by a .2 margin.

What’s more, the Bulls have not taken the ball away like they did last year. Chicago averaged 10 steals per game in 2019  when it was one of the few things they did well. This year, they’re down to 7.0 per and rank 16th.

They find themselves in that 13-17 range in a lot of categories. But in this one, they’re bringing up the rear.


The Bulls have been getting abused down low allowing the fourth-most points in the paint to start the year. That would be not only their worst ranking ever but also in NBA history. Or at least since has been recording the data. The highest for an entire campaign was last season when the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers both allowed 53.6 per game.

Chicago was a modest 21st in opponent points in the paint last year, so it’s not as though this was a strength they’ve lost.

But it is a concern considering the makeup of their current starting frontcourt. Wendell Carter hasn’t averaged over a block per game since his rookie season and has season his per-game numbers in that area drop year-over-year. And Lauri Markkanen might as well be a wing.

We wanted both guys to find themselves this season but it would appear neither player’s “true self” is a rim protector.

The  Bulls can’t count on Daniel Gafford just yet so figuring this out is paramount.


That’s right, a negative number. That’s the point differential for the Bulls lineup of Carter. Markkanen, Otto Porter, LaVine, and Tomas Satoransky. The combination is Chicago’s second-most used grouping on the young season. But there is something far more significant and, in retrospect, telling about this lineup.

This is the Bulls starting lineup from last season! Chicago rolled this lineup out the second-most of any in 2019 too. It finished with a positive differential, but a small one of 1.2 points.

Seeing this group get outscored as they have isn’t as surprising as management thinking that lineup was going to threaten any defense. The veteran presence of both Porter and Satoransky couldn’t overcome Markkanen and Carter’s inconsistency or LaVine’s hero ball.

The hope is that moving Coby White and Patrick Williams to the starting lineup  (and Porter and Sato to the bench) would open things up a bit.

But it’s fair to wonder if the Bulls lack of a veteran decision-maker will cause them more problems than it’s worth. White came in as a scoring, combo-guard and, while he has made strides in his facilitating, he is still far from a floor general. That is what this team seems to need more often than not.


One more for the road, this is how many games it took Billy Donovan to publicly call out his team. Specifically, he questioned the mental toughness of the Bulls, an issue that has been a problem since Tom Thibodeau was fired. Going from the overly-subdued Fred Hoiberg to the unnecessarily-intense Jim Boylen has, understandably, left this team mired in an identity crisis.

Boylen famously ruffled feathers from day one, calling a practice immediately after a game. The installation of the punch clock just validated who you thought of him after he would say things like “growth plate”.

Hoiberg was so loose as a coach he didn’t even wear a tie. Okay, that was for medical reasons, but you wouldn’t get the current Nebraska coach and his successor confused if you read a transcription of their pressers. Hoiberg, a part of the Bulls championship teams in the 90’s, quickly became just another Iowa State product to flameout in Chicago (shouts to Marcus Fizer).

Donovan came in with more clout than either guy. But, as we outlined before, it’s unclear if he is capable of correcting the issues this roster has.

That’s not even a knock on him as much as it is the players.

dark. Next. 4 best Bulls players during the 2020 calendar year

On their third head coach and seemingly headed for a similar year as the last two, there needs to be some serious introspection going on in the Bulls locker room. Unfortunately, they haven’t shown the ability to internalize those types of things and grow from them.