Breaking down the numbers behind the Chicago Bulls’ slow start

For Chicago Bulls fans excited for the 2022-23 season after last season’s success, the start of the new campaign has been a bit of a letdown. Last season, the Bulls jumped out to an impressive 10-4 start. This season hasn’t been as fruitful, however, as Chicago sits at 6-8, 4.5 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Central Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. It’s still early in the season, but the Bulls will need more consistent performances the rest of the way.

The Bulls definitely miss the play-making ability of Lonzo Ball, and Zach LaVine sitting out some games to manage his left knee health is lending to the Bulls’ slow start. Without the consistent offense that LaVine can produce on his own, the Bulls have had to rely heavily on DeMar DeRozan and his excellent mid-range game.

Moving forward, the Bulls will need Lavine in games more consistently and help take some of the offensive load off DeRozan.

The Chicago Bulls sit at 8th in the Eastern Conference. What do the numbers say about their slow start and where they could go from here?

The graph in the tweet below charts all the Eastern Conference teams’ offensive and defensive ratings through November 9, gathered from the advanced box score portion of A team’s offensive and defensive rating is the number of points a team scores or allows per 100 possessions. Teams want a high offensive rating and a low defensive rating.

As you can see, the Chicago Bulls have the best defensive rating in the Eastern Conference but are right in the middle of the pack when it comes to their offensive rating. Milwaukee and Boston, first and second in the Eastern Conference respectively, seem to simultaneously be scoring and giving up points at will. Once LaVine starts playing more consistent minutes, and if Ball comes back at some point this season, we could start to see the Bulls’ offensive rating creep up to join the other conference juggernauts.

Looking at the effective field goal percentages (both offensive and defensive) for the Eastern Conference shows the Bulls once again right in the middle of the pack. They have the best defensive effective field goal percentage in the conference but their offensive effective field goal percentage isn’t anywhere near the top teams of the East. While those teams may be allowing teams to score, they’re also scoring enough to bail out their defense.

About an eighth of the way through the season, the Bulls have been remarkably average. Average is simply not going to be good enough against the Bucks or the newly resurgent Cavaliers. If Zach LaVine can start playing more consistently and Lonzo Ball returns to the court (hopefully) in the new year, we could see the Chicago Bulls improve across the board and make a run into the playoffs.