Why the Chicago Bulls have declined

About three days before the season started, I was trying to guess how many wins the Chicago Bulls would end up with based upon the Marginal Win Score per 48 averages of their roster over the last two seasons.  I think I came up with around 38 wins.  Not even close.

But what’s gone wrong?  Who is underperforming?  I did a Win Chart of this season’s team to find out who was creating the team’s wins and losses.  The results were somewhat surprising.  You can see the 2009-10 Chicago Bulls Win Chart if you click here.

Derrick Rose playing brutal basketball

I would say the most surprising result I came up with concerned sophomore point guard Derrick Rose.  If you go to the above Win Chart and then click on the link in that Chart to last season’s Bulls Win Chart you will see that last season Rose was basically a .500 player.  Not bad at all for a rookie.  And since players normally progress substantially in their second seasons, I expected Rose to step up to the near elite level this season.  So far this season he has actually gone the other way, and he’s done so in dramatic fashion.  He is playing awful basketball.

But why?  Where has his game declined?  If you look at his “Production Page” on 82games.com and compare it to the same from last season, its obvious.  Everything about Rose’s marginal production is basically the same except his marginal scoring efficiency.  That has really declined.

Last season Rose outscored his opponents by +3.0 points per 48, and he only needed 3.0 more scoring possessions per 48 to do so.  So his “scoring impact” was basically a wash for the Bulls.  This season, though, he is outscoring his opponent point guards by +4.4, but he now he requires 7.4 more scoring possessions per 48 to do so.  In Marginal Win Score terms that’s -3.0 divided by two which comes out to -1.50 per 48.  That’s damaging.  Unless he’s making up for it in other areas, which he isn’t, those kind of numbers from a significant minutes guy will lead to a lot of losses.

There are plenty of others who share some of the blame.  Noah’s production is down, Brad Miller’s production is down, and so is Kirk Hinrich’s.  Hinrich’s decline has been the steepest and the most surprising.  He’s usually pretty reliable.  Then you throw in the two rookies, and there you have a recipe for a bad team.

Luol Deng not at fault

The one player who cannot be blamed is Luol Deng.  He’s “progressed to the mean” if that’s a valid phrase.  Meaning, after a down season or two, he’s producing wins for the Bulls this season at almost exactly his career Player Win Average.

If you remember last summer I did a “Win Resume” for Deng and found that his career Player Win Average was .684%.  The last two seasons it had declined a bit to around the .500% level, but this season he’s got it back at .695%, and since he’s been able to stay healthy, he’s making one of his better Win Contributions (+0.181).

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