Scottie Pippen could carry that weight

In the comment section somebody asked how the Chicago Bulls held onto so many wins the season after Michael Jordan’s famous “Baseball” retirement.  The Bulls won 55 games that season, only two less than the previous season.

The answer is luck, defense, Scottie Pippen, and Horace Grant.  Luck because by pythagorean calculation the last Jordan team should have won 58 games, whereas the first Jordanless team should have only won 50 games.  So the “true” gap was actually something like 8 games.  Thus the “two game” drop is illusory.  But that’s still impressive.  One reason for it was the Jordanless Bulls continued to defend just as hard in the absence of Jordan as they did in his presence.  But the main reason was the step-up in play of Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant.  Here I would especially like to highlight the performance of Pippen, because his contributions are often underappreciated.

When Scottie Pippen was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, an old canard reared its ugly head.  “Scottie Pippen road Michael Jordan’s coattails”.  That statement is patently false.  Should anyone ever repeat it in your presence the proper rebuttal would be, “That statement does not comport with the statistical record.”  A more curt rebuttal would be, “1993-94, bitch.”

To see this point visually, click on the Win Chart links below.  There I distribute credit for the Wins and Losses produced by Chicago’s “Last First Dynasty Team” and on its first “Jordanless Team”.

Chicago Bulls Win Chart (last Jordan season)

Chicago Bulls Win Chart (first Jordanless season)

As you can see from the two Charts (the first is not in the same format as the second because the first was done a while back), in the absence of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant’s production went back up to where it had been at the beginning of the first Bull Run (if you look at the 1991-92 Bulls Win Chart on the “Great Teams” page in the right hand column of this blog, you will see that it was the decline in the production of Pippen and Grant that accounted for the seeming slide in quality at the end of the Bulls first trifecta.  Jordan’s production was still very strong).

Some other points of interest:

1. Most believe players like Steve Kerr were just Jordan parasites, productive only because Jordan drew so much attention.  Kerr probably benefited from Jordan’s presence, but the Jordanless Win Chart shows he was a productive player on his own account.

2. Pete Myers was just as bad as he seemed to be.

3. The 93-94 Bulls proved that more centers does not equal better centers.  I think they employed a record  number and most of them sucked.

4. 93-94 marked the merciful end to the overrated Bill Cartwright’s career.

5. BJ Armstrong was actually a little worse in Jordan’s absence.

6. Will Perdue is one strange player.  He interchanged very, very productive seasons (like the one he had in the second Jordanless season) with very mediocre seasons (like the one he had in the first Jordanless season).  You don’t usually see such dramatic inconsistency.

7. Jojo White and Alex English were both productive NBA players.  The Bulls Jojo English was not.

8. Scottie Stacey King was horrible (Scottie King is a banker, not a baller).

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6 Responses to “Scottie Pippen could carry that weight”

  1. Chicago Tim Says:

    Stacey King. Not Scottie King. Stacey is now the color commentator for the local Bulls’ games. His analysis does not impress me.

    • tywill33 Says:

      Did I put Scottie on the chart, too? Scottie King is a local banker. I’m pretty sure he’s under 6’0” and I’m pretty sure he hasn’t hooped for the Bulls. Ugh. Oh well. Not atypical. If you haven’t noticed, I’m sorta lax with names. Plus I was doing the work at about 1:00 am. My ass is dragging hard this morning.

  2. Chicago Tim Says:

    Oh, and thanks for the analysis!

    Another question: what would have happened if Horace Grant had stayed with the Bulls instead of Rodman replacing him? Still six championships but no 72-10 record? Or might Rodman’s absence have cost them a championship or two?

    By the way, Cartwright was bad, but I think Longley was worse. I’m always doubly impressed that they got to 72-10 with Longley at center.

    • tywill33 Says:

      What if Grant had stayed and Rodman never came? That’s an interesting — what do you call that — counterfactual historical question (is that the right term?).

      Of course it calls for speculation. Well, I guess it doesn’t. We could just punch in Grant’s numbers and remove Rodman’s.

      My sense, without doing that, is that Rodman was the better player. Taking nothing away from Grant, but Rodman was the great rebounder of his generation.

      I can’t agree with your assessment of Cartwright and Longley. Cartwright seemed more polished offensively, but that translated into too much confidence in his offensive game, which led to many wasted possessions.

      In my opinion, Cartwright tricked coaches into thinking he was far more valuable than he was simply because it looked like he could “hit a shot”. But his shotmaking was not enough to make up for his pitiful rebounding and thus I rate him a well below average center. (Please note: this is by no means a unanimous opinion. Win Shares, a metric I generally like, has Cartwright as an above average player for his career, primarily because he was a high percentage shooter. WShares and WScore diverge on the point of “possession creation”. Thus WShares would favor Cartwright and disfavor players like Dennis Rodman or Paul Silas, and WScore the opposite.)

  3. Xavier Q Says:

    Looking at the win charts the 4 players I tagged as responsible for keeping the Bulls afloat were pretty much the same 4 that they analysis showed. Go me.

    • tywill33 Says:

      That’s right. I was going to credit you, but I did it at 2 in the morning so I was just trying to finish and get it up.

      Of course, that kind of haste leads to my normal amount of sloppy errors (Scottie King instead of Stacey). Its a trade-off.

      Good analysis, though. You know your Jordan history or Bulls history.

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