With a 111 to 108 win over the Raptors on Tuesday night, the Bulls are now 4-0 for the first time since 1996-97. You read that correctly, the first 4-0 start since Jordan, Pippen, and the gang was running the league in the 90s. What have been the keys to this hot start though?
Defense Outperforming Expectations
Most people thought the Bulls were going to be one of the worst defensive teams in the league coming into 2021-22. This has not been the case so far and in fact, has been quite the opposite. The Bull’s defense has played a huge part in their hot start. So far Chicago ranks fifth in the league in defensive efficiency and has two players (Nikola Vucevic and Alex Caruso) who individually rank in the top 10 of the league in defensive rating respectfully.
Vucevic, who has been the only true “big” that’s seen significant minutes in Chicago’s rotation so far, has been an anchor down low playing heavy minutes at 33.5 a game.
Averaging 11.5 rebounds over the first four games he’s helped this small ball lineup keep the rebound numbers close and has done a very good job sliding over and helping when needed. The only real complaint I have is that he still struggles to move his feet and keep up when he gets pulled out of the paint. If Vuc can continue to be solid like he has to this point he’s going to be just fine.
Caruso has been absolutely everywhere for the Bulls and has been an anchor in the second unit on the defensive end providing a type of energy that Chicago hasn’t seen in half a decade. His willingness to guard anyone and sacrifice his body to help the team win has made him a fan favorite just like he was in Los Angeles. Currently, Caruso leads the league with 13 total steals on the year and is 2nd in SPG averaging 3.3.
Outside of Vucevic and Caruso, the whole team has simply been solid across the board though. The Bulls haven’t played the greatest competition but nobody has looked like they can simply be taken advantage of. The entire team has played really solid and just does their job. This proves you don’t need anything special to get stops you just need guys that are willing to work and be solid as a unit and you can find success on the defensive end.
Two-Headed Closing Monster
For the last few seasons, the Bulls have only had Zach LaVine to look to in crunch time to get a bucket. You could say Coby White maybe every once in a blue moon, 98% of the time though you knew what was coming and competent defenses were able to stop it.
LaVine, as we all know, is coming off the best season of his career and has come out the gates hot once again. Some have said it’s been a slow start but if you look at the numbers it’s really not. LaVine is shooting at a 50/44/95 clip and if that’s a slow start I’ll absolutely take it. The Bulls star guard is still averaging 25.5 a game and when you look at the additions from this offseason the fact that his PPG average is down is nothing to freak out about.
DeRozan is a huge reason why LaVine’s scoring is down. The pickup from San Antonio this offseason gives the Bulls another option in the crunch time that lifts the focus off LaVine.
If you look at the game against Toronto, he took over when Zach was a little cold and became the ultimate reason Chicago won from most fans’ perspective. Shooting at a 42/38/83 clip isn’t too shabby either, especially for a player whose ability to shoot the deep ball has always been in question. Averaging 22.5 points on the year so far, having another guy who can average 20 plus and simply just go get a bucket has been huge.
Lonzo Ball Shining
The 24-year-old currently has averages of 14.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5 assists. This doesn’t really tell the whole tale though. Ball does so much that doesn’t come up on the stat sheet. He’s solid on defense and doesn’t take too many risky plays. He still comes through with big plays though, as I like to say he’s really good at picking and choosing his moments.
He’s the guy that makes that extra pass to turn good a shot into a great shot. His gritty, high IQ style is something this franchise hasn’t seen since prime Kirk Hinrich and besides DeRozan, I think he’s the biggest offseason addition for the Bulls and I’m excited to see him running the point these next few seasons.
Obviously, four games is an extremely small sample size in an 82 game season. When you look at the Bull’s competition in those said four games you also have to take it for what it is. Despite this, the Bulls have looked really impressive to this point and are first in the eastern conference.
Chicago has an extremely tough November coming up against what looks to be all playoff teams so they’re going to be put to the test. If they keep doing the little things though, this team is going to continue to surprise more and more people.
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