After missing 11 games with an elbow injury, Dwyane Wade is set to return to the Bulls for their matchup against theagainst the Nets on Saturday.
Bulls fans should not be happy about this.
To understand why, just take a look at the numbers.The Bulls were 32-36 when Wade was injured on March 15, having lost six of their last seven games. It had been a season of listless play and dysfunction,with stars hurling insults through the media.
Since Wade went down, however, Chicago has won seven of 11, including five of its last six. During that span, you’ll find victories over the Cavs, Jazz, Hawks and the red-hot Bucks.
But that is all obvious on the surface. Go deeper and you’ll see the Bulls are scoring more points while allowing fewer, going from a minus-1.5 average scoring margin before Wade's injury to a plus-4.3 after.
Dig even further and you can see significant improvement in offensive efficiency (3.6 points better per 100 possessions), defensive efficiency (2.4 points better), offensive field goal percentage (.439 before the injury versus .469 after), and defensive field goal percentage (.461 versus .447). They’ve also picked up the pace, slightly, going from 21stin the league in possessions per 48 minutes to 15th.
The Bulls were a straight-up awful shooting team before Wade got hurt, sitting dead last in the NBA with a 32.4 3-point percentage. Since the future Hall of Famer went down, they have taken more 3-point attempts — overfour per game more — and have shot a red-hot 38.7 percent, good for sixth in the league.
This is partially due to increased sharing of the ball. Chicago ranked 18th with 21.8 assists per game prior to Wade’s injury; over the last 11 games, they’ve upped that total roughly five assists per contest, sitting at third in the NBA over that span.
A more startling example of increased ball movement:Pre-Wade injury, the Bulls ranked 27th in what NBA.com Player Tracking deems “wide open” shots (closest defender is at least six feet away), with under 14 of those attempts per game. Post-Wade, Chicago's number of wide open shots haverisen 45 percent to roughly 20 attempts per game, also good for third in the league.
Summed up simply, Chicago is moving the much ball better, shooting it better and even defending better without Wade. They’ve trended more towardthe fast and loose approach of the Rockets than then methodical, Tom Thibodeau-led Timberwolves. And maybe this is the style coach Fred Hoiberg envisioned all along when he first took the job over from Thibodeau.
Hoibergprobably also envisioned this current version of Nikola Mirotic. The third-year power forward had struggled to the point of a benching in several games leading up to March 15th, scoring just over nine points per game on 39 percent shooting.
But Wade’s departure has freed up Mirotic to emerge asthe quintessential stretch-four weapon he’s capable of becoming: He's averaged17 points on 53 percent shooting from the field and a sizzling 49 percent clip from deep.
And then there’s the mercurial Rajon Rondo, who has transformed back into an adeptplaymaker without his veteran backcourt mate. The rejuvenated 31-year-old is averaging 11 points, eight assists and six rebounds post-Wade (compared to seven, six and five before, respectively), while making more than a 3 per game at a 40.7 percent clip.
With that shooting, you can’t even call this vintage Rondo:It’s more like a 2010 Jason Kidd-version of Rondo, when Kidd was in his second tour with the Mavs. And that is a pretty solid piece to have.
But all this may soon vanish with the return of the 35-year-old superstar, as Chicago clings by just a game to one of the last two playoff spots in the East.Can Hoiberg, Rondo and Jimmy Butler seamlessly integrate Wade –who ranks 18th league-wide in isolation shots per game –into their successful new style where the ball doesn't stick?
Or will they revert back to,as Wade put it in January, a group of guys who just “have an NBA jersey and make some money”?