With a lot of hype surrounding the team, the Chicago Bulls have primarily lived up to expectations to start the season, hoisting an 8-3 record to place them 3rd in the Eastern Conference. Contributions have come from anywhere and everywhere the Bulls could find them. 6 of their 8 victories have been by a single-digit point difference as the Bulls have hung tough in the 4th quarter of most of their games. Early trends have taken center stage, leading people to have some early season takeaways. There is no better time to buy or sell some of these trends than after 11 games. After all, these are early season trends we are talking about.
Buying: Jimmy Butler Playing At An All-Star Level
A couple days ago, I wrote this article that said Jimmy Butler should be an All-Star this season if he keeps up the level he is playing at. After his game against the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night, my stance was further hardened and solidified. Even after a 6-17 shooting performance (that included going 1-4 from the three-point line), Butler is still having an efficient season. Among the top-10 shooting guards in points per game in the NBA thus far, Butler is the only shooting guard to be shooting over 50% from the field. He is also the only Eastern Conference shooting guard to be in the top-5 (among shooting guards) in points per game (21.3) and player efficiency rating (22.60). Among Eastern Conference shooting guards, he is 1st in points per game, player efficiency rating and minutes per game (40.3), 2nd in rebounds per game (6.2) and free throw attempts per game (8.0), 3rd in assists per game (3.9), and 4th in steals per game (1.44). Needless to say, he's playing at an All-Star caliber level.
Selling: Tony Snell's Spot In The Rotation
After an impressive Summer League, Tony Snell became an afterthought in the minds of many during the preseason. During the regular season, Snell, at times, becomes an afterthought in the mind of coach Thibodeau (okay, that's probably not true, but you get the point). There's no denying that the Bulls have a deep team. They can run a 10-man rotation and not suffer on most nights. Rookies Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott are getting a chance to show what they can bring to the table (they are averaging 12.1 and 12.5 minutes per game respectively, each having played 11 games). Aaron Brooks is the latest point guard to be resurrected by Thibodeau. Taj Gibson is doing Gibson-esque things off the bench. Finally, when healthy, the Bulls starting-five unit of Rose-Butler-Dunleavy-Gasol-Noah is hard to beat. So where does Snell find his time when there is only 240 minutes to go around? Apparently, he doesn't. In the game against the Clippers in which stars Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol did not play, Snell didn't even receive any playing time. There were times when he probably should have been inserted into the game (McDermott was struggling a bit), but alas, he stayed on the bench. Thibodeau stuck with an 8-man rotation (not counting a short appearance by E'Twaun Moore). Where can Snell find his playing time?
The Bulls are in the process of achieving something that they have been attempting to do for the past couple years. In terms of efficiency, they are one of the best two-way threats in the NBA. They are 1 of only 2 teams in the NBA that are in top-5 in efficiency (own field goal percentage and opponent field goal percentage). They are 5th in the NBA in field goal percentage, shooting an efficient 46.9% from the field. They are also 5th in opponent field goal percentage, only allowing opponents to shoot 42.9% from the field (they also give up the second most shot attempts per game). The Bulls are also 7th in the NBA in three-point percentage, shooting 37.6% from beyond the arc. They are 9th in the NBA in opponent three-point percentage, forcing opponents to shoot 33.2% from deep. Overall, the Bulls are 6th in the NBA in adjusted field goal percentage (51.8%) and 4th in opponent adjusted field goal percentage (46.5%). This team is a legitimate two-way threat that can attack you from anywhere and everywhere on the floor.
Buying: Pau Gasol's Resurgence
Don't you love it when a plan comes together? When the Bulls signed Gasol in the offseason, people referred to it as "Plan-B" or "just a backup plan." If that's the case, then I hope that all of the Plan-B's in my life work out as well as Gasol has for the Bulls so far. Gasol's statistics speak for themselves. He's averaging his most points per game since the 2010-11 season (18.6), most blocks per game of his career (2.5), most shots per game of his career (15.0) and highest field goal percentage since the 2011-12 season (48.6%), most rebounds per game since the 2009-10 season (10.6), his least personal fouls per game of his careers (1.6), and least turnovers per game since the 2010-11 season. For the Bulls currently, Gasol is 1st in rebounds per game and blocks per game, 2nd in points per game and minutes per game (which surprised me). Among power forwards in the Eastern Conference alone, Gasol is 1st in points per game, rebounds per game, and blocks per game. Gasol is playing at an All-Star level, and it should come as no surprise.