The Chicago Bulls have bullied their way through their opponents on the first week of the new NBA season. No problems on the Butler-Rondo-Wade front. Very good big-man combination between Gibson and Lopez. Excellent shooting all around. Mirotic and McDermott sizzling off the bench. The Bulls are undefeated, and off to a much better, drama-free start than expected.
Obviously, it’s not just size. There’s plenty of skill on this team. Rajon Rondo might not be his All-Star self from before the knee injuries, but on a team with plenty of others to do the scoring, he seems to be the right fit early on. Jimmy Butler is one of the best small forwards in the league, Dwyane Wade is, well, Dwyane Wade, and there’s more. Nikola Mirotic seems to have started off the season on the right foot, Taj Gibson is playing well next to Robin Lopez, and Doug McDermott is slowly establishing himself as trustworthy scoring option off the bench.
But in the Bulls three wins so far (Celtics, Pacers, Nets), their rebounding and ability to crash the glass, combined with their size advantage on the perimeter (Wade and Butler are two small-forward sized players who can both take over shooting guard), has been difficult for their opponents to handle. The Bulls are out rebounding teams by over 15 per game. They’re leading the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage, which has surprisingly led to the best offensive rating in the NBA after three games, although they’ll regress in that aspect at some point.
Things might become more difficult now that Michael Carter-Williams is injured. The Bulls don’t seem thrilled to give Denzel Valentine too many minutes, but they might be forced too. He fits in the “bigger” narrative they have going on, being a 6’6 guard who can play both positions, but whether or not he can contribute to running the team for 15-20 minutes per game out of the backcourt remains to be seen. McDermott might also miss the Celtics game due to a concussion.
From a small glimpse at their season unfolding, the Bulls look like a team that isn’t as predictable and one-dimensional as previously thought. No, we’re not going to see them playing like the Warriors, Spurs, or even Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State. But the Bulls have shooters who can take advantage of the team’s strong inside presence, and so far one ball on offense seems to be enough. Tougher competition could bring out the inherent problems with this squad, but for now, undefeated, the Bulls seem to be hiding them well.