Nine days into the 2013-14 NBA season, the Chicago Bulls are 4-1. This isn’t unexpected; the league gave them an easy early slate. None of the Bulls first eight opponents made the playoffs last season (though that is highly likely to change this year for the Cleveland Cavaliers).
Most of the attention has been focused on the Bulls injury situation which is understandable since they have yet to have their starting five available for any of these games, but there’s an interesting statistical trend. The team is in the top 10 in Offensive Efficiency. No, they didn’t fire Tom Thibodeau; the Bulls are also a top ten Defense too. The newfound offensive prowess comes from their marksmanship and their ability to get to the line. The latter is partially the impact of Derrick Rose’s return after missing most of two seasons with knee injuries. I’d love to argue that the former is a reflection of the team’s offseason acquisitions, Pau Gasol, Niko Mirotic, and Doug McDermott making an impact, but Gasol’s productivity aside, it’s just as likely due to the schedule. Only one of the Bulls first five opponents is in the top ten of Defensive Efficiency (and oddly enough that team is Milwaukee). The other four range from Minnesota (13th) to Cleveland (28th). There are only a smattering of defensive stalwarts among the Bulls upcoming opponents, so they may enjoy an extended stay among the league’s top offenses.
If they sustain this then the Bulls and not the Cavaliers should be the favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the finals, but I’m going to think it’s a fluke for a while longer.