A shocking statistic came out about the Chicago Bulls following 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 is surprising they have had such little success.
Record vs top 3 teams from each conference:
1. Raptors (10-5)
2. Celtics (9-5)
3. Timberwolves (9-7)
4. Bucks (6-5)
5. Nuggets (8-7)
26. Kings (2-12)
27. Pistons (2-13)
28. Magic (1-15)
29. Rockets (1-16)
30. Bulls (0-16)
(Submitted by @stuarticulacion) pic.twitter.com/dphEJRzPKI
— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 23, 2022
DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine have been a dominant duo, but maybe Chicago is not built to truly contend with the league’s best.
Bulls Record Breakdown
Taking a wide view of the 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 scoring differential.
They have a top-10 scoring offense and middle-of-the-pack defense.
DeRozan is receiving legitimate consideration for MVP thanks to his historically shooting season.
But zoom in a bit and the picture does not look as bright.
Chicago is a tremendous 24-7 against teams below .500 – exactly what a good team is supposed to do against lesser competition.
But they are a paltry 18-23 against teams above .500.
We already mentioned their 0-16 record against the top three teams in each conference, but here is 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 by double digits and only four contests were within five points.
Chicago has dealt with injuries and COVID absences all year.
DeRozan has 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 the Chicago defense, the Bulls have had both DeRozan and LaVine on the court for all but four of the 16 games against the top three teams in each conference.
All teams must deal with injuries and absences throughout the season.
If the Bulls truly want to compete, they need to be able to beat other contenders.
Why Does Chicago Struggle?
Absences of key players have played a role in the Bulls struggling against top competition this season.
The Bulls’ starting lineup on opening night (Ball, LaVine, DeRozan, Patrick Williams, Vucevic) has only had 135 possessions together.
A far cry from the ~500 possessions most starting lineups have this season.
Williams went down the fifth game of the season after tearing ligaments in his wrist.
He just made his return two days ago against Toronto.
Caruso missed six weeks due to a broken wrist suffered against Milwaukee in late January.
Alex Caruso strips Brooke Lopez FROM THE FLOOR 😳 pic.twitter.com/kBaclXxOtj
— Bulls Talk (@NBCSBulls) March 23, 2022
And Ball has been out since January 14 after tearing his meniscus.
Between those three and sporadic missed games from others on the team, Chicago has had few opportunities to grow their on-court chemistry.
Chicago also struggles in some advanced statistics.
They are a terrific three-point shooting team – their 37.2% mark from three as a team is second-best in the NBA.
But their 33.5% Three-Point Attempt Rate ranks dead last.
The Bulls also do not get to the line frequently, as evidenced by their 24.2% Free Throw Rate.
Both numbers are taken as a percentage per FG attempt.
This is not to say Chicago does not have an efficient offense.
They have a top-10 ranking 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 their shot profile more towards the perimeter and the rim, Chicago should become even more lethal.
And their winless record against the NBA’s elite will not continue.