DeRozan and LaVine lead Bulls back to the top of the Eastern Conference
The Chicago Bulls are 12-5 at the top of the Eastern Conference.
The hot start is the franchise’s best since the 2011-12 season, when they ended the shortened season with a 50-16 record, tied with the San Antonio Spurs.
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Everyone knows what happened next. Derrick Rose suffered a devastating knee injury and the Bulls were ricocheted off the Philadelphia 76ers in six games.
The fact that the Bulls rose to the forefront of the East with beating Rose, former head coach Tom Thibodeau, and the New York Knicks felt pretty apt, as Chicago fans are constantly reminding everyone in earshot that the BULLS RETURN!
Prior to the Knicks game, the Bulls finished seventh on both offense and defense while holding the league’s fourth best net rating, beating the teams by 5.4 points per 100 possessions.
According to StatMuse, the Bulls have just completed a 12-game run on schedule against over 0.500 teams and drove through the track with an 8-4 record.
The Bulls have just gone through a hell of a schedule of 12 consecutive teams of 500:
They went 8-4 and are now the first in the east. pic.twitter.com/EwxDCl91E0
– StatMuse (@statmuse) November 22, 2021
Today’s Chicago defense is surprisingly annoying as many predict this would be a team stuck near the bottom of the league at the end of the league. Unlike the 2012 roster, which was shaped by the defensive brilliance of Joakim Noah, the modern version is shaped by the relentless perimeter pairing of Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball.
However, the offense is as advertised, with Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan leading the charge.
DeRozan lost another 31 points to the Knicks, his sixth 30-point game in 16 games. He had 11 such performances in 61 games with San Antonio last season.
The 32-year-old simply scorches teams near the basket, with his 68 percent on the edge in combination with his 57 percentage point mark from the short central area according to Cleaning the Glass.
For the first time in a long time, the Cops have a scoring pair that can do the same damage in isolation, giving them multiple opportunities to attack late in the games.
Both DeRozan and LaVine generate 1.11 points per insulation possession, which equals Kevin Durant and only behind James Harden (1.14 PPIP) of the 16 players has at least 45 insulation possessions in the season.
The good news for Bulls fans is that these numbers feel extremely sustainable, with DeRozan scoring 1.20 points per isolation possession last season while LaVine came in at 1.14.
The Chicago couple look set for All-Star selections this season, and in one of the most unlikely early-season storylines, it’s entirely possible that they’ll cancel each other out when it comes to the MVP talk.
DeRozan or LaVine in conversation with MVP? Absolutely wild, but just as fair through the first quarter of the campaign.
Behind the star duo, the Bulls improve their offensive efficiency in the fourth quarter, with their offensive rating increasing from 109.5 in the closing stages to 113.6, which is good for the fourth-best in the league.
We should also mention the fact that the most recent run also got off the line with tall men Nikola Vucevic (health and safety protocol) and Patrick Williams (wrist surgery).
In a wide-open conference with a slow start to some of the expected competitors, the Bulls have a legitimate chance to take home advantage to kick off the playoffs.
It’s hard not to be impressed with the Bulls yet, and it all starts with DeRozan and LaVine.