Stat: The Chicago Bulls’ most effective five man unit this season has been the bench heavy and Derrick Rose-less quintet of John Lucas, Kyle Korver, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and Omer Asik. The group’s adjusted +/- of 36.64 outpaces the top starter-based unit’s number by 2.33 points.
Take: Disclaimer: this in no way diminishes the impact the 2011 NBA MVP has on the Bulls’ success. Obviously, Rose is the engine that makes Chicago go as one of the league’s truly elite teams, whether this advanced statistic suggests it or not. Such is a perfect example of the need to combine analytics and what we see with our eyes when analyzing the modern NBA, not putting too much emphasis on one or the other.
Having said all that, what’s gone extremely underrated among the public in Tom Thibodeau’s tenure as Bulls coach is that he boasts arguably the league’s top bench, and this statistic supports that theory. Because names like Gibson, Asik, Korver, and the like don’t carry the weight of those like Ginobili, Terry, and Harden, it’s easy for the laymen to overlook Chicago’s litany of awesome reserves.
What they lack in individual offensive skill and polish, this group makes up for with elite defensive ability (especially on the interior), relentless energy, and great ball movement on offense. The result is a fast-paced, hyper-active game played at Chicago’s pace, where Gibson and Asik use their length and quickness to wreak havoc on switches and down low to spark opportunities on the secondary break.
Taking all this into account, it’s hardly surprising the Bulls were able to control the game in last night’s win over Miami without Rose at the United Center. While the popular adage is that rotations shorten and the influence of a great bench is limited come postseason play, Chicago will no doubt continue to utilize their awesome reserve options come Spring time, and the effectiveness of this quintet and their play in the win over the Heat is great justification as to why.