A shocking stat came out about the Chicago Bulls after their Tuesday night loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Chicago is 0-16 against the top three teams in each conference.
Those teams would be the Miami Heat, Milwaukee and Philadelphia 76ers in the East.
And the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors out west.
For a Bulls team that is 42-30 on the year, it’s surprising they’ve had so little success.
Record against top 3 teams in each conference:
1. Raptors (10-5)
2. Celtics (9-5)
3. Timber Wolves (9-7)
4. Bucks (6-5)
5. Nuggets (8-7)
26. Kings (2-12)
27. Plungers (2-13)
28. Magic (1-15)
29. Rockets (1-16)
30. Bulls (0-16)
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 23, 2022
DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine have been a dominating duo, but maybe Chicago isn’t built to really take on the best in the league.
Record distribution of bulls
A broad view of NBA standings would paint the Bulls as a good basketball team.
42-30 overall, 9-5 in their division, 27-18 in the conference and have a positive score differential.
They have a top-10 offense and a mid-pack defense.
DeRozan is receiving legitimate MVP consideration thanks to his landmark shooting season.
But zoom in a bit and the picture doesn’t look as bright.
Chicago is a formidable 24-7 against teams below .500 – exactly what a good team is supposed to do against lesser competition.
But they’re a measly 18-23 against teams above .500.
We’ve already mentioned their 0-16 record against the top three teams in each conference, but here’s the full team-by-team breakdown.
- Miami Heat: 0-3 (one game remaining)
- Milwaukee Bucks: 0-3 (one game remaining)
- Philadelphia 76ers: 0-4
- Phoenix Suns: 0-2
- Memphis Grizzlies: 0-2
- Golden State Warriors: 0-2
Nine of those losses were in double digits and only four contests were under five points.
Chicago has dealt with COVID injuries and absences all year.
DeRozan missed four games; LaVine 13; Nikola Vucevic eight; Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso 30+ each.
And while Ball and Caruso are a big part of Chicago’s defense, the Bulls have had DeRozan and LaVine on the court in all but four of 16 games against each conference’s top three teams.
All teams struggle with injuries and absences throughout the season.
If the Bulls really want to compete, they have to be able to beat other contenders.
Why is Chicago struggling?
Absences of key players have played a part in the Bulls’ struggle against top competition this season.
The Bulls’ starting lineup on opening night (Ball, LaVine, DeRozan, Patrick Williams, Vucevic) had just 135 possessions together.
A far cry from the ~500 possessions most starting rosters have this season.
Williams lost the fifth game of the season after tearing wrist ligaments.
He just made his comeback two days ago against Toronto.
Caruso missed six weeks with a broken wrist suffered against Milwaukee in late January.
Alex Caruso Strips Brooke Lopez OFF THE FLOOR 😳 pic.twitter.com/kBaclXxOtj
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) March 23, 2022
And Ball has been out since Jan. 14 after tearing his meniscus.
Between those three games sporadically missed by other team members, Chicago had little opportunity to develop their chemistry on the court.
Chicago also struggles in some advanced stats.
They’re a terrific three-point shooting team — their 37.2 percent on three-point team rating is second-best in the NBA.
But their three-point attempt rate of 33.5% ranks dead last.
The Bulls also don’t hit the line frequently, as evidenced by their 24.2% free throw rate.
Both numbers are taken as a percentage per FG attempt.
That’s not to say Chicago doesn’t have an effective offense.
They rank in the top 10 in both offensive rating and effective field goal percentage.
But in the modern NBA, threes and free throws carry more weight.
If Coach Billy Donovan can shift his shooting profile more to the perimeter and the edge, Chicago should become even deadlier.
And their winless record against the NBA’s elite won’t last.