Category Archives: Analysis

Deeper dives into recent happenings.

B1G Ten Midseason Breakdown

Well we have officially reached the halfway point in the Big Ten (B1G) conference season and there is a lot to discuss. The conference crown is still very up for grabs and there’s also a clear divide between the top and bottom half of the conference. So without further ado, let’s take stock of where each team is at in the B1G power rankings after nine conference games. We’ll also dive into what teams have to look forward to the rest of the season.

  1. Iowa: The clear winner of the first 50% of the conference slate is one of the surprise teams in the nation (feels very familiar to football season doesn’t it, Hawkeye fans?). Iowa is tied at the top of the conference with an 8-1 conference record (17-4 overall) and has their hardest part of the schedule behind them. With two wins apiece over Purdue and Michigan State, their toughest test left on the schedule a visit to Bloomington to face the Hoosiers. These Hawkeyes have to be the favorites to win the league. Iowa is a lock for the tourney and could set up as a possible one-seed, sitting at #5 in the country currently.
  2. Maryland: Just a half-game behind the Hawkeyes, the Terps are sitting at 8-2 in conference play (19-3 overall). Melo Trimble has found a solid front court duo in Robert Carter and Diamond Stone who combine for 26 points and 12 rebounds a game. The Terps still have to face Purdue twice and travel to Bloomington, so they have their work cut out for them if they want to chase down Iowa for the B1G crown. Beyond that, Maryland should be another lock for the B1G to make it to March Madness, with their seed the only thing left up in the air.
  3. Purdue: The Boilers are a solid 7-3 in the B1G so far, and outside of a baffling loss at Illinois have looked very solid throughout. They still need more out of their backcourt with a forward (Vince Edwards) leading the team in assists at a paltry 2.9 average. The Boilers have a solid resume and should be a lock if they can avoid a catastrophic collapse, but a B1G title will be tough to attain given a more difficult second half of conference play, including two against Maryland.
  4. Indiana: No one knows what to make of this team quite yet. That’s because they easily had the softest schedule to start the year which could be why they are tied for first at 9-1 in conference (19-4 overall). Their best win came last night in Ann Arbor against the Wolverines and they have a brutal stretch run featuring games against Iowa (twice), Maryland, Purdue, and Michigan State. The Hoosiers are averaging a robust 85 points per game (tops in the B1G), but their remaining schedule should spell doom for a team competing for the crown. The Hoosiers should make the tourney, but a poor Strength of Schedule and a mediocre RPI (50) means this Hoosier team needs quality wins to beef up their resume for March.
  5. Michigan State: The Spartans got off to a disappointing start in B1G play at 3-4 but have recovered to win their last three (19-4 overall), including a win over Maryland. Tom Izzo’s squad posts the best defense in the B1G, holding opponents to 62.4 points per game. Meanwhile Denzel Valentine picked up where he left off before his injury, averaging 19 PPG, 8 RPG, and 7 APG. The Spartans will make the tourney in all likelihood, but their poor start ends their B1G title hopes, being down three games to Iowa and losing the tiebreaker to the Hawkeyes.
  6. Michigan: John Beilein’s team is the dividing line in the B1G between the top and bottom half of the conference. Michigan sits at 7-3 in conference play (17-6 overall) losing their only tough games of the first half against Iowa, Indiana and Purdue. The Wolverine’s boast a very balanced squad with four players averaging in double figures. They have work left to do to make it to March due to their lack of quality wins. Getting leading scorer Caris Levert back from injury should be a big boost for Michigan as their schedule intensifies in the second half of B1G play.
  7. Wisconsin: After a brutal start to the B1G season at 1-4, the Badgers have done a complete 180 in winning their last four (13-9 overall), including huge wins over Michigan State and Indiana. Wisconsin isn’t blowing anyone away, with their average margin of victory at 4.5 points per game in those wins, and they’ll need to pick up their offense if they want to continue their hot run. The Badgers are one of only four B1G teams averaging less than 70 points per game (69.2) with the other three making up the bottom of the B1G. Wisconsin has some good wins, but their record needs some work in order to make a real case for getting in to the tourney.
  8. Ohio State: At 6-4 in the B1G (14-9 overall), Ohio St. finds themselves squarely on the bubble for March Madness, and probably on the outside looking in at this point. The Buckeye’s best B1G game came this past weekend in a loss to Maryland 66-61. With their best win against an underachieving Kentucky squad, Thad Matta and his group will have to take advantage of concluding three games in the B1G that read: vs. Michigan State, vs. Iowa, and finally @ Michigan State. Marc Loving will have to pick it up to score a couple victories in that stretch as he’s shooting just over 40% on the season.
  9. Northwestern: Getting off to a 3-2 start in conference play had the students in Evanston dreaming of their first NCAA tourney. But losing five straight against tough competition has dropped NU to the bottom half of the B1G. Bryant McIntosh continues to impress with 15 points and seven assists per game but needs more support from the rest of the team. The Wildcats are squarely out of the tourney at this point, but a favorable remaining schedule gives them a slight glimmer of hope the rest of the way.
  10. Nebraska: Tim Miles can’t quite put a finger on the quality of his Cornhusker (12-10, 4-5 Big Ten) squad. Nebraska started off the B1G campaign by promptly losing their first three games. They followed that up with a winning streak of four games, before dropping their past two contests. Kansas transfer Andrew White is having a breakout year with the Huskers averaging 17 points and six boards per game. Unfortunately, unless Nebraska goes on a major run, they’ll need to win the B1G tourney to sniff March Madness.
  11. Illinois: The injury bug continues to bite the Illini. Already missing projected starters Tracy Abrams, Leron Black, and Michael Thorne, John Groce could add Michael Finke and Kendrick Nuun to that list after both got banged up against Wisconsin. Illinois is a disastrous 2-7 in the B1G (10-12 overall) after having expectations of at least being on the bubble before the season started. With the scoring duo of Malcolm Hill and Nunn combining for 36 points per game, this Illini team really ought to have more than two conference wins at this point. The lack of production around those two tells the story, with the point guard duo of Khalid Lewis and Jaylon Tate averaging a minuscule five points per game combined. Illinois’ tourney dreams are non-existent with their NIT hopes going down the drain with games still left against Iowa and Maryland.
  12. Penn State: Another 2-7 squad in the B1G (11-11 overall), the Nittany Lions have showed a lot of heart, losing nail-biters to Maryland, Michigan and Wisconsin. Brandon Taylor is having a memorable season for coach Pat Chambers, averaging 16 points and six boards a game. Penn St. won’t make the tourney, but look for this squad to play spoilers for a few of the bubble teams in the conference.
  13. Minnesota: We now get to the cellar-dwellers of the league. The Golden Gophers are winless in 10 attempts but they are getting as close as a team can get without scratching out a W. They’ve lost their last five games by seven points or less, meaning a win should be on the horizon. Upcoming games against Northwestern and Rutgers provide their best chances for the foreseeable future.
  14. Rutgers: The other winless team in the B1G is the not-so-mighty Scarlet Knights from New Brunswick, NJ. Rutgers is 0-9 in the B1G (6-16 overall) with every loss coming by at least seven points. In fact, the Scarlet Knights haven’t played a single-digit game since their B1G opener against Indiana, a game they lost by seven. Rutgers has winnable games against Illinois (twice), Penn St., and Minnesota coming up so the opportunities are there. For our sake, I’d like to see both Minnesota and Rutgers go in winless to their game in what might have the most intensity of any game left on the B1G schedule since both will be looking for their first W’s in conference play.

So there you go, we’re now 50% done with 50% ahead of us in a scintillating B1G Ten race with plenty of twists and turns still left to go. Be on the lookout for a B1G Ten Bubble Watch as March Madness creeps up around the corner.

Taking Advantage of a Bullish Trade Market

One of the hardest things to do in life is self-assessment. We all see ourselves in a positive light. We all have fond, vivid memories of our successes and brush off our shortcomings as blips on the radar that don’t truly represent who we are. Many people live their whole lives in a bubble of false self-perception.

This trait is not just true of individuals. Often times, large groups of people are even more likely to buy into a false sense of success. This truth extends beyond your group of friends and coworkers. It also has some validity in professional sports.

The NBA landscape right now is very interesting on many levels. The traditionally strong Western Conference is in a down year and boasts only seven teams with a winning record. The uncommon weakness in the back half of the playoff race has emboldened several slow-starting teams to continue their playoff push. The Eastern Conference field is stronger than it’s been in memory. 12 of the 15 teams have had successful beginnings to their seasons. Many of them have not enjoyed a playoff run in many, many moons.

Optimism in the NBA is at an all-time high.

Despite all the teams dead set on making a playoff push, any serious NBA fan would tell you that only three have a real chance at winning the championship. The Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and Cleveland Cavaliers are in a tier of their own, able to reach heights far beyond the reach of the rest of the potential playoff field, save perhaps Oklahoma City.

The ultimate goal in the NBA is to win a championship. Just making the playoffs is nice, but in a league where more than half of the teams qualify for postseason play, it ultimately is not a memorable achievement.  If any team knows that, it should be the Bulls. Chicago is a city that has been spoiled by ultimate basketball glory and does not look fondly upon second round exits.

tom-thibodeau-frown-face
Thibs was done in by playoff failures.

While only three teams can be considered serious contenders, there are an inordinate number that are enjoying some of their first success in a long time and/or experiencing ownership pressure to win. What all this means is that the rapidly approaching trade deadline will be much quieter than most years. There will be very few teams next month willing to throw in the towel on the season and sell off any valuable trade pieces to acquire future assets. The rising salary cap and diminished value of expiring contracts will also play a part in what I predict will be a quiet trade season.

And the teams that really stink, the obvious sellers, each have unique quirks that make them unlikely trade partners. Philadelphia, Portland, the Lakers and Timberwolves are each built around young cores without much veteran talent of value on the roster. Brooklyn is convinced they can field a quality team as soon as next season. Milwaukee probably still thinks they’re closer to last year’s surprise success story than the mess they’ve been this season

Sacramento and New Orleans are under pressure to win now and are unlikely to transition to selling mode. The Pelicans should try and move the expiring contracts of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, but with GM Dell Demps unsure of his employment beyond this season, it’s unlikely he makes any trades with an eye towards the future.

Phoenix has some potential trade chips, but their hands are tied until they sort out the messy Markieff Morris situation. Denver’s decision to extend Danillo Gallinari seems brilliant, and is probably the most valuable trade chip should they decide to make moves. But beyond the Suns and Nuggets, no team jumps out as an obvious deadline seller.

Which is exactly why the Bulls need to make a trade.

Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher is reporting that the notoriously quiet Bulls front office is quietly shopping their big men around the league ahead of the deadline. This news greatly excites me given the circumstances of the entire league.

Look, I’ve definitely enjoyed what I’ve seen from Hoiball in year one. The offense looks alive, and the defense has maintained the characteristics that had been instilled by Tom Thibodeau. The six game win streak was a blast, and Jimmy Butler has solidified himself as a legitimate NBA star and a top three player at his position. But there is no way in hell that this team has the juice to squeeze by the Cavaliers in a seven game series.

I’m not saying the Bulls should “blow it up.” While the current roster is not quite championship caliber, there are certainly players who could be members of the next great Bulls team. Jimmy Butler, Bobby Portis, and Nikola Mirotic (I’m still a believer) are all potential cornerstones of a title contender if the team is able to retool effectively.

Jimmy and Niko are long-term keepers.
Jimmy and Niko are long-term keepers.

Sadly, the same cannot be said about Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. The trio of bigs are all past their prime and are just crowding a front court rotation that should be spending more time focusing on developing younger guys.

This is not to say that Gasol, Gibson and Noah are all worthless, washed up basketball players. Quite the opposite is true. Gasol, defensive shortcomings be damned, is still a dangerous offensive threat and above-average shot blocker. Noah’s athleticism has slipped, but his passing ability and overall creativity on offense will allow him to thrive carrying second unit offenses for years to come. Gibson is 30, but somehow managed to escape Thibodeau’s murder by minutes, and should have some good years left in his legs.

Given the state of the NBA marketplace, the Bulls would be very well served to trade at least one of these three players. With so many teams with a buyers mentality and nowhere to spend their money, the Bulls could bring back far greater returns on their veteran big men than logic would dictate. Moving one of these guys would sting in the short term, but the assets they could bring back could be crucial pieces in Chicago’s seventh championship.

Of the three, Taj Gibson likely has the most value on the trade market. Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol can both hit free agency next season while Taj is under contract for $8 million, far below market value for an average starter in the new salary cap era.

What could the Bulls pry from Toronto in exchange for Taj? The Raptors are a prime example of a team feeling great about themselves right now that also is desperate to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. Taj Gibson’s skill set is something sorely missing from the Raptors. Toronto is rich with picks and prospects. Would Toronto be willing to part with Lucas Nogueira, Luis Scola, Anthony Bennett and a pick?  What about the Clippers 2017 first round pick? What about their own 2016 pick? What about the Knicks 2016 pick?

That seems like a steep price for a big man with no shooting range clearly past his athletic peak. But in this Bull market, anything can happen. While losing Taj will certainly sting for Bulls fans, the pain will be dampened with the hope that he’s been replaced by building blocks for the future.

B1G Ten BULLets: Conference play is underway

Well, we are almost a quarter of the way through Big Ten (B1G) basketball season already, so let’s take a look back at some highlights and lowlights over the first four B1G conference games of the season with some B1G Bullet Points.

  • Iowa (3-0 in B1G play) has been by far the most impressive team of the conference slate so far. Not only have they beaten the previously undefeated Michigan State Spartans, but they also went into West Laffayette (Purdue) and came out with a win over the twin towers of Haas and Hammond. The Hawkeyes are also averaging 76.7 point per game in conference play so far thanks to Jarrod Uthoff (18.6 PPG) who still goes unnoticed despite leading the conference in scoring. Of course none of this comes as a surprise if you read my B1G conference preview. 
  • The Boilermakers (2-2) have been a roller coaster team so far in the B1G Ten. Winning in Madtown against the Badgers is never easy, and beating an up and coming Wolverine team in Mackey Arena go down as the positives for the Boilers so far. However, blowing a huge lead at home to Iowa and losing against a struggling Illinois squad has people questioning whether this version of the Boilers can find enough consistency to finally get fans off of Matt Painter’s back. Haas needs to help out his frontcourt mate Hammond as he is averaging only 6.2 PPG in conference play so far.
  • Northwestern (2-2), looking for their FIRST NCAA tourney bid ever in case you haven’t heard, has gone 2-0 on the road but an unfortunate 0-2 in Evanston to start B1G play. The Wildcats really seem to miss Alex Olah, their starting center out with a foot injury, against premier conference opponents. No center scored more than eight points for NU in either loss to Ohio State or Maryland. They will need to find more consistent low-post play if they want to get the key victories desperately needed on their March resumé.
  • Are the Illini (1-3) finally breaking out of their patented early season slump that has become so infamous under John Groce? The Illini looked mediocre at best in their first three games of the B1G season in losses to Michigan, Ohio State, and Michigan State, but looked like a completely reborn team in a dominating win over Purdue at home. The Illini put up 84 points on one of the best defensive teams in the country. Led by Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn, the Illini have two of the most dynamic scorers in the league, but they will have to improve their defense (giving up at least 70 points in every B1G game) if they want to find some consistency.
  • Here’s a scary thought for the rest of the country, the Spartans (3-1) have learned to play without Denzel Valentine. After a tough loss at a surprising Iowa team, the Spartans have rebounded to win their next three games by an average margin of 20 points per game. Izzo has also found a second scorer that has more than stepped up in Valentine’s absence. Bryn Forbes has averaged 19 PPG in the three games following the defeat in Iowa City. That should bode well for Sparty having that second scorer to rely on come tourney time.
  • The Hoosiers and Terrapins are the only 4-0 teams in the conference but neither has a huge win on its conference resumé. Melo Trimble created some magic with a buzzer-beating three to beat Wisco in Madison, while Indiana has some solid wins at home over Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Hoosiers somehow don’t play a ranked opponent until February 11th against Iowa, so expect the Hosiers to stay in the conference race for some time.
  • On the opposite side of the spectrum, Minnesota and Rutgers are both winless (0-4). Rutgers could be looking for that elusive first W for awhile as the Scarlet Knights don’t play a team in the bottom half of the conference until February 3rd against Illinois. Minnesota meanwhile gets a shot in Lincoln against the Cornhuskers for their next conference game as the two cellar-dwellers duel it out for the prestigious right to finish in last in the B1G.

Well that’s all I got for you from the first 22.22% of conference games. May more buzzer-beaters and upsets be in our future.

Jimmy Butler is evolving, and not just his personality

After two quality wins against the Raptors and Pacers, the 18-12 Bulls find themselves in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, just three back of the first place Cavaliers. After a rocky stretch last week, the Bulls still find themselves in good playoff position. This is especially impressive in the much improved East.

The biggest contributor to this Bulls success through the first 30 games of this season has been Jimmy Butler. Butler, an All-Star last season, is averaging a career high 21 points and 3.6 assists per game along with 4.9 rebounds. He’s stepped up his counting stats on the defensive end by snagging 1.9 steals per game, the eighth most in the NBA, and blocking 0.9 shots per game.

Despite the incredibly strong play from Butler this season, the fifth-year guard has not been able to evade the criticism of the media. The grumblings all began after Butler foolishly called out his coach to reporters in the locker room following a dispiriting loss to the New York Knicks. After dropping a quadruple overtime game to Detroit the night before, Butler was extremely frustrated by the lackadaisical play of his teammates and bluntly stated “we have to be coached a lot harder at times.” This statement by Butler kicked off a flurry of reports about how Butler, the recent recipient of a 95 million dollar contract, has changed. The once humble boy from Tamball, TX has been replaced by a man eager to seize a leadership position on this veteran-laden team.

I take no issue with Jimmy seeing himself as the leader of the team. He is without question their best two-way player, and nobody on earth can question the former 30th pick in the draft’s work ethic. Butler has every right to hold his teammates accountable. Whatever feathers he ruffles in the locker room will settle down if the team continues to win games.

What interests me is how Butler’s payday, and his new self-perception as the team’s leader, has impacted his style of play on the court.

Jimmy is shouldering the biggest load of his career. His 23.6% usage rate is a career-high, as are the 15.5 field goal attempts he’s averaging each night. He’s driving to the basket 7.2 times per game, up from 5.1 a season ago. He’s working as the ball handler in pick and rolls 6.5 times per game after averaging just three possessions per game last year. Butler is taking on all this offensive responsibility while literally covering the most ground per game in the NBA for the second year in a row.

This massive burden that Butler has put on himself, admirable as it may be, is negatively impacting his offensive efficiency. Butler is shooting 44.7% from the floor after averaging 46.2% last year. And after averaging 37.8% on three attempts from beyond the arc in 2014-15, Butler is now connecting on just 32% of his 3.5 attempts per game.

Butler’s two point field goal percentage has held steady – 48.4% last year and 48.5% this season – despite the sub-optimal shift in where those shots are being taken. After taking more than a third of his shots from within three feet last season, Butler is attempting just 30% of his field goals in the restricted area. Butler is also turning more of his field goal attempts into the much maligned long two. 24.7% of his shots come from between 16 feet and the arc, up from 21% a year ago. Butler is shooting a respectable and career high 43.5% from this zone, but an increase in these shots has other adverse effects on his production.

The increase in mid range shots accompanies a decrease in some of the things that made Butler so dangerous last season. Jimmy’s .471 free throw rate is nothing to sneeze at, but it is at a three year low after he went to the line on over half of his field goal attempts last year. The increase in three point and midrange shots has left Butler further away from the hoop than ever before, and he’s seen his offensive rebound rate plummet to a career low 2.5%.

A season ago, Jimmy Butler was one of the most efficient players in the league driving to the basket and running pick and roll. But the increase in usage has been accompanied by an efficiency decline. Butler has improved his ability to score off of drives, shooting 45% compared to just 39.6% last year, but that’s the only aspect of the play he’s better at. Butler’s impressive 9.9% assist ratio has fallen to 7.4% this season, and his turnover percentage has jumped from 7.8% up to 10.6%, the ninth highest rate of any player who drives five or more times per game.

The drop in efficiency is not surprising considering the substantial jump in attempts. And the fact that Butler is actually shooting a higher percentage is very encouraging, as I would assume his decision making will continue to improve as he becomes more and more comfortable getting to the rim.

The one development in Butler’s game that has bothered me most this season has been his propensity to catch a pass, pause, dribble, dribble, call for a screen, a re-screen, and then force up a contested shot. I wrote a few weeks ago about how Derrick Rose has not embraced the Hoiball concepts I expected to see implemented in the offense, but he is not the only culprit. Jimmy Butler took just one shot per game last year after holding onto the ball six or more seconds. He’s attempting 2.7 of these shots this season.

Butler’s status as offensive alpha dog does not give him the right to halt the offense and hunt for his own looks. He needs to smarten up and realize that embracing quick ball movement and trusting the system will put him in the most advantageous positions to score.

I don’t mean to rag to hard on Jimmy; he’s the best two-way shooting guard in the NBA, and I hope he remains a Bull for his entire career. After an admittedly down year on the defensive end, Butler has played with a renewed ferocity this year. The dip in free throw and rebound rate are excusable for a player who is undoubtedly exhausted at each game’s conclusion.

But for Jimmy to really lead this team, he needs to do a better job of blending into the offense. If he doesn’t have the energy to make it to the basket, he needs to keep the ball moving and pass up long jumpers. When that begins to happen, this very deep Bulls team will begin to score at a rate that will satisfy fans and the front office.

Do the numbers support a Derrick Rose-Jimmy Butler beef?

In the aftermath of Chicago’s disappointing loss to the shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers this postseason, many wanted to point fingers. Tom Thibodeau took the brunt of the blame and was fired. Joakim Noah, who looked like a Walking Dead zombie for much of the season, has taken heat from fans and analysts alike who worry he’ll never return to his Defensive Player of the Year form. Yet from the rubble of the horrific Game Six loss to the Cavs arose a story I never saw coming.

According to Dan Bernstein of CBS Chicago, a rift had formed between Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Bernstein argued that the body language displayed during the final 24 minutes of the Bulls’ season was indicative of a growing feud between the two All-Stars.

Making such a claim based on a single evening of poorly played basketball is very silly. Chris Terzic wrote a great piece for Blog-a-Bull refuting Bernstein’s aggressive assertion that Rose checked out of Game Six for personal reasons. He used this crazy concept called “visual evidence” to show that Rose’s low number of field goal attempts was not due to indifference, but rather him taking what the defense was giving and trying to make the best play for the team.

But what if Bernstein was on to something? Derrick Rose has been the unquestioned alpha dog in Chicago ever since his arrival. He’d never played alongside anyone who deserved to dominate the ball for stretches, especially not another guard. The argument could be made that Rose was simply not accustomed or prepared to turn over as much offensive responsibility as Butler had earned last season. What I set out to do is parse through some statistics to figure out how the Butler and Rose duo fared last summer, and determine if there’s any statistical evidence to support a rift.

The Rose Effect on Butler

Jimmy Butler took huge strides on the offensive end last season. He set career highs in scoring, rebounding and assists. His improved three point shooting was a vital addition to his game and turned Jimmy into a major threat. After shooting just 28% on threes in 2014, Butler increased his average to 37.8%. There’s no doubt he put in countless hours in the gym improving his stroke from all around the perimeter, but there may have been a hidden reason for Butler’s massive one year improvement.

Jimmy played just over 2500 minutes last season. For 1216 of those minutes, roughly half of Butler’s court time, Derrick Rose was also on the court. According to NBAwowy, in the minutes that Butler played without Rose, his three point shooting fell to 31.6%. When Butler and Rose shared the floor, Butler’s three point shooting skyrocketed up to over 41%. Butler clearly seems to have benefited from the extra attention defenses pay to Rose and was able to find open threes that weren’t available when Aaron Brooks or Kirk Hinrich manned the point.

Having Rose on the court may have helped free up open shots, but it hampered other aspects of Butler’s game. Jimmy Butler was quietly one of the more effective pick and roll ball handlers in the NBA last season. His high efficiency on these plays can be attributed to his ability to barrel through the paint and draw fouls on the way to the basket. On the season, Butler posted a free throw rate (FTr) of .508. According to NBAwowy, when Butler was playing without Rose his FTr increased to .530. But with the ball dominant Rose on the court, that number fell to .410. While Rose definitely had a positive influence on Butler’s shooting, he also curbed Butler’s aggressive play by turning him into a second banana waiting for kickouts on the perimeter.

Rose Just Isn’t The Same Player Anymore

For all the excitement surrounding Derrick Rose’s first (somewhat) healthy season in two years, the truth is that he was not good enough the justify how much he dominated the ball. Rose shot just 40% from the field and 28% from three on an absurd 5.3 attempts per game. He was often reluctant to drive to the basket and draw contact. He averaged under four free throw attempts per game and a FTr of just .224, his lowest since his rookie season. Rose was ineffective shooting the ball and initiating the offense, but it never stopped him from trying. Rose posted a usage rate of 31.7% last year, the fifth highest in the NBA–a higher rate than James Harden, a guy who basically ran an entire offense on his own at times.

If there is truly any bad blood between Butler and Rose, the source of it is Rose’s inefficient play and wild overconfidence in his three point stroke. When Butler played without the former MVP on the court, he posted a healthy usage rate of 24.6%. But with both starting guards on the court, Butler’s usage dropped to 21.8%, around league average. With both guys on the court, Rose still soaked up 30.6% of offensive possessions.

I can’t blame Jimmy for being frustrated with his teammate looking at these numbers. After spending countless grueling hours to improve his game, Butler was still being treated like a complimentary piece in the Derrick Rose show. Anyone who watched the Bulls last season could tell that Butler was the best all-around player on the team. The only person who might not have realized it was Derrick Rose.

Why It Doesn’t Matter

Some of the usage imbalance will hopefully be cleared up by new coach Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system. Hoiberg’s Iowa State teams were great about whipping the ball around the court in an effort to create open looks for everybody. Far too many Bulls possessions last season resulted in the ball sticking on one side of the floor. The basic offensive scheme the Bulls used last year was too often snuffed out and forced Chicago to take bad shots as the shot clock ticked down. With a more uptempo offense in place, Rose and Butler will both be able to put themselves in better position to score without having to force the issue. A more free flowing offense with better ball distribution should keep everyone happy.

Jimmy Butler knows this better than anyone. It’s why he agreed to return to Chicago for at least four more years when he could have fought to re-enter free agency after three. He knows that this group has a championship window right now, and should he and Derrick learn to use each other more effectively that window could stay open for years to come. There may have been some tension at the close of last season, but any “beef” has certainly been squashed.