All posts by Drew Hackman

Drew Hackman graduated from Bucknell University in 2011. When the disappointment of the Cubs proved to be too much in 2008, he turned his attention to the Bulls. He lived in Pennsylvania for the better part of 7 years, and yearned for Chicago sports, finally returning to the homeland in the spring of 2015.

Russell Westbrook: the man, the myth, the triple-double machine

Famously, Oscar Robertson is the only player to average a triple-double – it happened in 1962. The closest anybody has come to such a feat since then is just eight games in (Magic Johnson). Russell Westbrook, at a whopping 41 games into the season, is averaging a triple-double. It’s insane. Check these numbers out: 30.8 PPG, 10.7 RPG, and 10.4 APG in 34.7 MPG. When the Big O accomplished the feat 55 years ago, he also posted 30.8 PPG, but amassed 12.5 RPG and 11.4 APG, a couple figures ahead of Westbrook.

His shooting, although posting higher numbers, isn’t notably higher than in past seasons. Historically, he shoots at a 43.4% clip, and is actually a bit worse this year, at 42.4%. The difference is how many more shots he’s getting up: he’s on pace to hoist nearly 2,000 shots, compared to his career average of 1,430 (normalized over an 82 game season) – an increase of 36.6%.

A greater percentage of these shots are also from beyond the arc. Of his 977 attempted field goals, 257 have been three point shots (26%). For his career, he’s typically only looking for a three ball one out of every six times he puts up a shot, at 17%, and for a normalized season of 82 games, just 245 total, a number he’s already passed, on pace for 514 at the end of the 2016-2017 season, nearly 110% more than his career. Considering that recent history is a better indication of his shot distribution and volume, he’s still on pace for 42% more three point attempts than the past three seasons’ average.

Where his shooting has simply been an exercise in altering his shot distribution and increasing his volume, his work under the basket is more of a function of involvement: he’s demonstrated a significant increase in activity, averaging almost twice as many boards as a typical year, which is a testament to his own work and engagement.

Russ’s stats have always been impressive – for his career, his splits have been 22.1/5.9/7.8, which is a stellar line. But with Kevin Durant’s departure to Golden State, Westbrook has had more than his fair share of possessions, as offensive sets run right through him. Westbrook blows away the competition in usage rate, at 42%. The runners up: James Harden, Joel Embiid, DeMarcus Cousins, and DeMar DeRozan, ranging from 32.8%-35.2%. It’s really not even close.

What may be the coolest part about his offensive performance this year is his Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which is a measure of a player’s offensive performance compared to the rest of the league. For his career, he’s averaged a PER of 23.3, which is definite perennial all-star material. This year, his PER has skyrocketed to 29.7, which is almost as ridiculous as averaging a triple-double through 41 games. To put this in perspective, only 20 times has a player ended a season with a PER over 30.0 – the highest score ever was 31.84, which was Wilt Chamberlain. Michael Jordan and LeBron James lead the way with four 30+ seasons, with Shaquille O’Neal and Wilt Chamberlain having accomplished three each. The only other players to end a season with a PER over 30, and just once each: David Robinson, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Tracy McGrady, Anthony Davis, and Steph Curry. If he finishes the season with a PER over 30 to match his triple-double stat, he’ll join the ranks in all-time history in more ways than one.

He’s showing no indication that he’ll be slowing down any time soon, and if he doesn’t win the MVP award this year, it might be a travesty.

We’re witnessing greatness. History is happening right before our eyes. Don’t blink.

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Note-A-Bulls: Deplete-A-Bulls drop a tough one to John Wall and the Wiz

In a game missing Jimmy Butler (illness), Dwyane Wade (DND-rest), Nikola Mirotic (ill), and with Rajon Rondo’s recent drama, this was expected to be a blow out win for the Washington Wizards at home. It was anything but. The Bulls once had an 18-point lead, outscoring the Wizards bench 48-16, but the Wizards cast a lethargy spell on the Bulls in the third quarter and closed the gap, got back in the game, and handed the ball to John Wall to hit the game winner with 5 seconds to go. Doug McDermott had a chance to knock down a game-winning three, but couldn’t connect, as the Bulls drop to 19-20.

  • The one big positive for the Bulls after was a breakout game by Denzel Valentine. With the short rotation, he was given substantial minutes (30), second to only Robin Lopez. He made the most of his minutes, connecting on five threes (11 FGA) for 19 points on 7/15 overall. It’s great to see him getting some significant minutes and performing well, since he might be a part of this Bulls team in years to come.
  • Disappointingly, Doug McDermott struggled mightily Tuesday night, hitting only two field goals in 11 attempts. He also whiffed on all five of his shots from behind the arc. Despite all that, the last play of the game was drawn up for him and, unsurprisingly, he stayed cold. McBuckets had the worst +/- of the team at -12 with only four points, one rebound, and one assist. Rough night for Sneaky Hops. Without Butler and Wade drawing attention, his recently patented back-cuts were a non-factor.
  • Isiah Canaan was on the court, but the only stat line that would prove it is his 10 minutes of play. Okay, he did have one rebound. And he did turn it over once. Not a good look. He didn’t hoist a shot tonight and gave up just about a point a minute while he was out there.
  • The Bulls average about 20 three point shots a game, but tonight put up 27, connecting on 10 of them – Valentine accounting for half. The Bulls don’t connect on a good enough clip to justify taking this many threes, but tonight they were well above their average of 31.6%.
  • Rajon Rondo actually had a positive +/- after his -20 in the first half of the Pacers game in which he was benched. He put forth a decent performance on 6/13 from the field, four rebounds, and six assists. He did have two turnovers, but he had three steals, and finished with a huuuuuuge +4 (!) – whoa. We’ll see what comes from him next, but probably a regression back to where he was.
  • A 16 point third quarter saw the remainder of the Bulls’ 18 point lead diminish. By the end of the third, the Wizards had retaken the lead. Despite a Bulls bounce back to take a seven point lead with seven minutes to go, the Wizards athleticism proved to be too much against a depleted Bulls team.
  • What can you say about John Wall. The guy had 26 points on 11/21 shooting, with a whopping 14 assists and a +24 for the day.
  • Up Next: The Bulls go to New York on Thursday to play the Knicks, and Rondo/Rose will argue over who has more off-court drama. The Wizards travel to Boston on Wednesday.

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls Bench Bests James and the Cavaliers

Bulls. Cavs. In Cleveland. LeBron. Wade. Kyrie (okay, no Kyrie). Love (okay, no Love). Rondo (okay…. no Rondo). But LeBron! And Wade! Okay, they were both a bit under the weather. It wasn’t quite the blockbuster that was hyped – the first time these two cities have faced off since the World Series – but the Bulls have a history of beating LeBron James’ teams during the regular season and tonight was no different, as the Bulls improved to 18-18 with a 106-94 victory, giving the Cavs their 8th loss of the season, and only their 3rd at home. This is the fifth time the Bulls have bested the Cavs in two years.

  • Out: Kyrie Irving (hamstring), Kevin Love (illness), Rajon Rondo (sucking)
  • In: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James (“flu-like symptoms”)
  • The Bulls started the game down 15-2 and it looked like they were just going to get steamrolled. But the bench had other ideas. They helped them climb back in it for a six point halftime lead. In the first half, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott combined for 26 points on 10/14. Dougie McBuckets on his own was a perfect six for six in that first half, three for three from deep, with 15 points in the second quarter alone. Meanwhile, the starters had just 22 points on 10/28.
  • Part of what got the Bulls back in this game and helped them build the lead (as large as 17) was ball sharing. They rarely had possessions that were owned by one player, save for a couple of Wade/Butler instances. The Bulls assisted on 23 of 41 field goals, which is about their average for the season, but that 36 point second quarter saw the ball hopping around and finding good shots.
  • The offense did a great job working through their 4’s and 5’s, and Taj Gibson was the main beneficiary of it, having himself quite a nice game with 18 points on 9/10 shooting and seven boards to boot. But should the Bulls trade him? Great piece by our former colleague Jake Weiner.
  • The Bulls three point shooting was in full gear tonight. They’ve been atrocious this year, last in the league in both points scored per game and three point field goal percentage by a long shot. However, they didn’t seem to care tonight, like, really at all. They shot 30 three pointers and made 13 of them. If Jerian Grant wasn’t chucking, and the Butler waste-three at the end of the game didn’t count (okay, I know they do, but still), it would improve to 12/25 – three from Jimmy Butler, three from Wade, three from Dougie and three from Threekola. That’s fun stuff right there. I don’t care who you are. Now, if they can just get MCW to stop shooting threes…

  • Although Butler had an off night, he came through in a big way in the fourth quarter with ten straight points. One particular sequence with about six and a half minutes to go in the game was especially crucial. With Cleveland closing to within one point, Butler took a charge on LeBron, hit a three, altered a shot at the rim on defense, nailed a jumper, and then got to the line the following offensive possession, all in the span of about a minute and a half. Momentum, Bulls.
  • Fortunately for the Bulls, James would not have his own “flu game.” He did have a typical LeBron game though, at 57% from the field with 31 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, but he also had five turnovers and couldn’t make up for the production loss from missing Irving and Love. He also had the worst +/- on the team (-13) but probably more of a function of being on the court for the most amount of time than anything else (36 minutes).
  • UP NEXT: The Bulls host Toronto on Saturday. The Cavaliers begin a road trip in Brooklyn on Friday.

Note-A-BULLs: Bulls blast Pistons to break out of funk

The Bulls sputtered and hobbled and stumbled as of late, losing six of their last eight, falling to 0.500, but the slump came to a halt Monday night at home against division adversary, the Detroit Pistons. The Bulls meant business, coming out of the gate strong and leading this one wire to wire, quickly amassing a 16 point lead after the first quarter and a 35-point halftime lead.

  • The Bulls scored 69 points in the first half, their most of the season. This matches their entire point total from Friday night’s embarrassing 26-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. To achieve this feat, the Bulls shot an impressive 72.9% from the field. This is no small task for the Bulls, whose field goal percentage was fourth worst in the NBA coming into the game, at 43.6%.
  • Monday’s performance also landed the Bulls among the daily leaders in the NBA: 34 assists (1st), 59.8% field goal percentage (1st), 100% from the line (1st), 50% field goal percentage (1st), 46 rebounds (2nd), nine steals (2nd), and 113 points (3rd).
  • The ball was hopping in the first quarter, posting 15 assists. This is tied with Golden State for the most assists in any quarter this season – saying this is good company to be in would be just a slight understatement.
  • Rajon Rondo had a near triple double, with 10 points, 14 assists, and eight rebounds, helping the Bulls maintain meaningful possessions and execute fast breaks for easy points.
  • The 34 point lead after three quarters allowed the starters some rest – not one of them logged a minute in the fourth quarter; Jimmy Butler led with 30 minutes, Rondo had 28, Robin Lopez with 25, Dwyane Wade with 22, and Taj Gibson with just 19 although not for lack of production – he was 8/8 from the field with 16 points, four rebounds, a block, a steal, and a +19.
  • Astonishingly, the Bulls didn’t need many trips to the free throw line since their shooting was so good – Butler was 6/6 and Wade made the one attempt he was afforded.
  • I could rattle off individual stats up and down the roster on a night like tonight, but what’s more telling about their performance is that they had seven players in double digit point figures, with no player posting over 20; to boot, 34 assists on 49 field goals is an extraordinary sign that the Bulls hope to continue.
  • The team was reported to have a lowlights film session of Friday’s loss to the Bucks, which was said to have impacted the team in a positive way by helping them maintain an open mind to their respective criticisms and identify areas for improvement. It came through in flying colors.
  • As embarrassing as the Bulls were on Friday against the Bucks, the Pistons found a way to equal it. Head coach Jeff Van Gundy said, “We got crushed. It was a disgusting performance by all of us, me included. I mean, it was unprofessional, embarrassing, humiliating. It looks to me like a lack of effort and a lack of heart. And if you don’t play hard, you’re not going to have any confidence. We looked like we were hoping the game would be easy tonight, and it wasn’t. And we just caved.”
  • Up Next: On Wednesday, the Bulls host the Washington Wizards, while the Pistons host the Memphis Grizzlies.

Note-A-Bulls: Chicago routs 76ers to finish Circus Trip on a high note

On a six game road trip, you would typically consider it a success if you can go 3-3; but, when final game of the trip is in Philadelphia against a glorified D-League team and you’re already in good shape at 3-2, you want to come out of it 4-2. The Bulls did just that Friday night, taking care of business in the way they’re supposed to, topping the struggling 76ers 105-89 to improve to 10-6 in a game that was never truly in question. They led wire to wire, which afforded Jimmy Butler the chance to sit out the entire fourth quarter and gain some much needed rest.

  • The first quarter was a seesawing of scoring runs – the Bulls came out of the gate 8-0 with good focus, great energy, and a sense of urgency that was hard to find last year, but has been (dare I say?) fairly consistent in their first 16 games so far. The Sixers responded with their own 6-0 run, the Bulls back with another 8-0 run, and the Sixers closed on an 11-3 run of their own.
  • The first quarter was the Bulls only real hiccup to speak of, hanging on to just a four point lead, 23-19, as they committed seven turnovers, perhaps a little too giddy. But, the Bulls were able to settle in, with only five turnovers for the remainder of the game and really put the game away in the third quarter with a 33-17 period.
  • Butler and Dwyane Wade led the way with 26 points apiece, in 30 and 28 minutes, respectively, and both shooting over 60% for the game; Butler with his tenth straight 20+ point game.
  • Jimmy continues to be the minutes leader for this team, even in a blowout, and is seen in all sorts of five-man combinations. Aside from the starting five, Butler was out there with Isaiah Canaan, Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis, and Denzel Valentine, which is only the third time this season we’ve seen such a lineup. This lineup also produced some unselfish, but sloppy, play late in the third quarter that resulted in a pair of threes from Valentine and Mirotic, snuffing any Sixers hopes by expanding the lead to 90-64.
  • It was the Dwyane Wade show early in the fourth quarter, scoring the Bulls’ first 11 points, including a step-back three. His three point shooting is really remarkable – it’s something I never thought would be a reasonable part of his game (especially not a step-back three), but he has demonstrated an ability to make that shot this year, at just about a 39% clip.
  • Rajon Rondo had quite the performance – it’s true that his numbers were steady and consistent with a classic Rondo game with six points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists, but what was perhaps more impressive was his defense and agitation. He took a charge, was pesky and meddling, and fought through screens, in addition to being a court captain, championing the best court vision on either team.
  • Note-A-Bull: This team is still without Doug McDermott and Michael Carter-Williams, but fortunately their presence wasn’t needed.
  • The Sixers are still in rebuild mode, as their most recognizable names are Joel Embiid (who sat this game out), Jahlil Okafor, Ersan Ilyasova, Jerryd Bayless, and Gerald Henderson. Buzz, your girlfriend, woof. They’re still having a hard time progressing, now 4-12 on the season, but are hopeful that all of this will do their players some good and will develop into valuable learning experiences down the road.
  • Up Next: The Bulls get a few days off and come home to face the Lakers, while the 76ers host the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.