Ryan’s Bulls Notebook (2/28/22)

chicago bulls, demar derozan

The Bulls are back from the All-Star break, ready to tackle the last 20-something games of the season.

You’ve probably heard the common tidbits with the Bulls back in action, but I’ll rattle a few off to make sure you’ve got them for your next Bulls-related conversation. 

  • The Bulls have the second-hardest strength of schedule for the last remaining games
  • DeMar DeRozan is fourth in the MVP race
  • Likely order of return: Caruso, Ball, Williams
  • The Bulls are second in the Eastern Conference and would play the winner of Toronto vs. Atlanta if playoffs started today

Let’s talk about some lurking thoughts on the Bulls. 

Alex Caruso Revenge Game? (Happy Birthday AC!)

It seems the media took Caruso’s wrist surgery too far, or he’s defeating his projected timeline with ease. His original timeline for his injury back in late January was six-to-eight weeks, which would put him at reassessment in the middle of March. 

Nonetheless, it seems like Caruso might return soon. 

While unlikely, it would be perfect if Caruso returned for Friday’s matchup versus the Milwaukee Bucks, the last team Caruso played when Grayson Allen gruesomely sent him to the ground, causing the fracture in his wrist. 

The game should be a great matchup, nonetheless. Two MVP candidates, Antetokoumnpo and DeRozan, will face off against each other for the second time this season. The Bucks have the lead (1-0) for the season matchup going into Friday. 

Bulls = White Sox

Segwaying perfectly into my next thought, the Bulls fit the model of their friends just South of them on I-90/94, the White Sox. 

What do I mean by that?

Well, Chicago fans will hype up the fact that both are championship contenders, which is true, yet both teams love to lose against top dog teams. 

Here is a table for the Bulls’ records against the top-eight teams in each conference. 

Eastern Conference StandingsBulls Record AgainstWestern Conference StandingsBulls Record Against

The Bulls only have a winning record against two teams in the Eastern Conference, which happen to be the seventh and eighth seed in the conference. On the Westside, they have impressive wins over Denver, Utah, and one in Dallas, but are 0-5 against the top three seeds. 

How are the Bulls supposed to make a run in the playoffs with this type of play? If you pile on the top three seeds in the East (including Cavaliers, not Bulls) their overall record between the East and West’s top three seeds is 1-11. 

We saw what happened on the South Side when you can’t compete with the big dogs. The Sox lost 3-1 against the Houston Astros in the first round of the playoffs last season and previously to the Oakland A’s the season prior. 

While I’m glad the Bulls will get playoff experience for the first time since the 2016-17 season, I wouldn’t get my hopes up for them going past the second round of the playoffs. 

DeMar DeRozan is not likely to win MVP

This post is getting bleaker, but this one’s the truth. 

While DeMar DeRozan is having an MVP-caliber season, he likely won’t win the award. 

His competitors are having extremely strong seasons. The MVP race truly is a neck-and-neck tie between Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic. 

Jokic is having another phenomenal season averaging two assists shy of a triple-double per night, with 25.5 points per game headlining his stat line. He’s kept the Nuggets at the six seed without his partner, Jamal Murray, which is hard to fathom. 

Embiid, similar to Jokic, has kept the 76ers relevant throughout the Ben Simmons drama. He leads the league in scoring while maintaining efficiency on the floor. His quickness to adapt with James Harden, who has forced his way out of Houston and Brooklyn, showcases his versatility and chemistry on the floor. 

The 76ers are also 3-0 against the Bulls, with the last matchup between the two teams highlighted by Embiid’s 40-point outing on Bulls’ turf at the United Center. 

Further, DeRozan’s kryptonite toward the MVP case lies within his defensive ability. Jokic, Embiid and third-place MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, are categorized along with the best defenders in the league. 

DeRozan, on the other hand, is not. 

Looking at defensive box plus/minus (DBPM), Jokic leads the NBA, Antetokounmpo second, Embiid in sixth and DeRozan – 136th place. DeRozan is one of three players who rank in the top-25 for the overall box plus/minus while holding a negative DBPM score. 

DeRozan has never been a turnkey defender, which isn’t a knock against his game, yet a negative towards his case as an MVP. The top-three MVP candidates are league leaders on both ends of the floor and DeRozan does not fall under that characteristic. 

Another argument against DeRozan lies within the fact that he’s played with his fellow superstar, Zach LaVine, all season while the other candidates have been without theirs. Embiid has played the majority of the season without Simmons and Jokic without Murray. 

LaVine, at one point this season, was ranked in the top-10 for MVP candidates. He fairs similar numbers to DeRozan on offense, averaging 24.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game on just two shots less per game. Even LaVine’s shooting splits 48/40.1/87.5 aren’t far off of DeRozan’s. 

DeRozan’s season should not go underlooked because he’s been playing lights out all season. But, it’s naive to think DeRozan could win the MVP award over Jokic, Embiid or Antetokounmpo.