On the Bulls: Blog a Bull / Bulls By The Horns
The city of Chicago will likely still be in mourning over the Bears' home loss to the Packers when the Bulls and Bucks meet on Monday night at the United Center.
Star Power. A major talking points of the Bulls' 30-15 start has been the improvement of Derrick Rose, and with good reason. The former #1 overall pick has bumped his scoring up to 24.7 ppg along with a career-high 8.0 apg, which is a major reason why there have been a bunch of "Is Derrick Rose an MVP candidate???"-type posts flying around the interwebs of lately. Playing on a good team in a major market and doing things like this also helps. But I'll defer to admitted Bulls fan and master of all things NBA Kelly Dwyer for the final word:
And Derrick Rose? The man is clutch, and as a Bulls fan, I can't tell you how many otherwise-terrible nights he's made happy for me. But while I'd love to embrace the idea of Derrick as an MVP candidate, I can't move forward knowing his True Shooting Percentage (which takes into consideration both free throws and 3-pointers) rivals that of Al Harrington's(notes) -- while also pondering his defense that (as you may have seen against Charlotte) just isn't there at times.
The Bucks defended Rose reasonably well when the teams met in Chicago on 12/28 (18 pts on 7/17 shooting, 12 ast), shading him to the baseline and shepherding him into help defense at every turn in an effort to make other guys beat them. Unfortunately, they did.
Carlos Boozer was Rose's main wingman that night, raining mid-range jumpers over Andrew Bogut for much of the evening. We've seen Bogut defend Boozer a fair bit over the years, the theory being that Boozer is usually too tough for whoever the Bucks have at PF and it's preferable to have Bogut play off him in the high post and turn him into a jump-shooter. Not the worst idea considering Boozer normally gets a ton of shots around the rim and converts at 72% from in close, but it's easier said than done. With Kurt Thomas starting at center the Bucks have some defensively flexibility in how they use Bogut, but the benefit of keeping him matched against KT is that he has more freedom as a help defender. In the end much of it comes down to whether Skiles believes Ersan Ilyasova can hang with Boozer sufficiently.
Missing Kurt. The Bucks didn't seem to make much or any effort to re-sign KT over the summer, but in hindsight that looks like a mistake. Though Bogut has "only" missed seven games thus far, the Bucks remain undersized up front and don't have a clear pecking order behind their Australian captain. Moreover, KT was known as one of the team's locker-room leaders a year ago and he's still been productive on the court this year--the Bulls are 4 pts/100 better with him on the court defensively, he's shooting 51% from the field, and grabbing a solid 15% of available rebounds. And as Bogut can attest from the teams' last meeting, few guys are as savvy defending in the post than the 38-year-old.
JS: Can Bucks repeat second-half run of last year?
A good question, especially since last season's success and the rational answer would be no--if only because there was nothing typical about what last year's Bucks pulled off down the stretch. The 09/10 Bucks started 17-24 before catching fire and finishing 29-12, including 22-8 after the John Salmons trade. But don't overlook the fact that the Bucks went 7-4 in the 11 games immediately prior to the deadline deal which sent Salmons from Chicago to Milwaukee.
Looking ahead, the Bucks only have a modest home-road advantage (22 of their final 41 at home), but just three of their road games will be against Western Conferences foes (Warriors, Suns, Clippers). But it will take more than an easier schedule for the Bucks to right their ship, and for Scott Skiles the areas of improvement remain the same as ever.
"We've got to be able to score more than 91 points a game," Skiles said. "We've got to be able to knock down shots more consistently; our chemistry has to improve. Get healthy. There's several things that would give us immediate help if we get those things done."
Bulls by the Horns: Chicago still winning with D
Tom Thibodeau was widely recognized as the architect of the Celtics' vaunted defense that won one title and was just a game away from adding a second last June, but like any assistant graduating to a full-time gig, there were questions about how he'd adapt to the first seat on the bench. Looks like he's answered them, eh?
After finishing 11th in defensive efficiency a year ago (105.3 pts/100 possessions), the Bulls under Thibodeau have rocketed to best in the league (99.4) --even with Joakim Noah missing the past month and change with a finger injury. And as you might have expected from a team with a new coach and plenty of fresh faces, they've started to turn the screws even more after a couple months of familiarity with each other and the new system. Matt McHale writes:
What's more, the Bulls - who rank first in Opponents FGP (42.3), Opponents eFG% (45.8) and Defensive Rating (99.4) - have now held 15 of their last 16 opponents below 100 points. They've held eight of those opponents below 85 points and four of them below 80.
In other words, it's probably going to take a big night from the Bucks just to crack 90.
SBNation: Mark Cuban, Wellington Mara, And The NBA's Broken Revenue Sharing System
Some more good stuff on the (broken) economics of the NBA over at SBNation.com, courtesy of Andrew Feinstein:
In Major League Baseball, a substantial percentage (perhaps as much as 35%) of each franchise's local broadcasting revenue is pooled for all teams to share. In the NBA, each team keeps every nickel of their local broadcasting revenue. Hence why the Pittsburgh Pirates are profitable despite being one of baseball's worst teams for 20 years on.
Or, as SB Nation's Tom Ziller aptly put it recently: "If you want to make money in the NBA, you're better off sucking in L.A. than being excellent in San Antonio."
I'd also recommend checking out a post over at OKC blog Welcome to Loud City addressing some of the same topics.
Consider the Indiana Pacers and the Milwaukee Bucks. According to Business Insider's data, each of these metropolises have under 2 million people, so they classify as "small market" teams. The Pacers and Bucks have spent over $69 million and 64 million on average from 2004-09, respectively. The Pacers suffered an operating loss of over $26 million, and the Bucks barely squeezed out a $1 million profit over that time period. These expenses and losses have yielded on average 38.4 and 33.6 wins per year. Clearly, these two teams would be prime candidates to benefit from revenue sharing.
Then you see the Utah Jazz. The Jazz have a smaller population than both, and a smaller TV audience than the Pacers. Never the less, the Jazz have turned an operating profit of $33 million while spending only $62.6 million on their players, and yet their average win total is 44 games per year. The Spurs are an even more drastic comparison. Yes, their metropolitan area is slightly larger, but they are still considered a "small market team." With their front office acumen, they have won an average of 58 games per year while spending less on their players than either the Pacers or the Bucks, and the combination has yielded an operating profit of $80 million.