Analytics serve as a guide for coach Billy Donovan, not a bible.
There are numbers he deems important, and there are numbers that stat nerds pay way too much attention to that he disregards.
And some numbers become irrelevant in the postseason.
In some instances, “analytics are out the window’’ during the playoffs, Donovan said.
Before the Bulls were shut down for the week after 10 players entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, Donovan was concerned about two areas: the minutes Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball had accumulated because the team was so short-handed and the amount of fouls the Bulls had committed.
This pause should fix one of those issues.
“Once we get whole physically, we’ll be able to manage minutes better,’’ Donovan said.
Donovan is by no means a member of the “minutes police,’’ and he has three players in the top 20 in minutes per game, led by Ball, who was averaging 35.5 minutes, 14th in the NBA. DeMar DeRozan was 17th (35.3 minutes per game), and LaVine was 19th (35.1). To put that in perspective, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, whom the old Bulls regime and Bulls fans used to accuse of overusing players — has only one player in the top 20: Julius Randle at 35.4 (15th overall).
Getting Coby White back for the scheduled game Sunday against the Lakers will help ease the backcourt burden on LaVine and Ball, and rookie Ayo Dosunmu also is expected back shortly after that. DeRozan and Javonte Green also should be out of the protocols.
So help is coming.
The solution to the fouling situation will be a bit tougher to come by. The team’s defense is predicated on aggression. The Bulls have been great with deflections, steals and just simply harassing ballhandlers. At the same time, they’re an undersized team.
Combine that aggressiveness with undersized players, and fouls are going to happen with this group. The problem is the Bulls are at their best in transition. Taking the ball out of the basket nullifies the athletic advantage they have over most teams.
Donovan would like to see a better understanding of when to foul and, at playoff time especially, whom to foul.
“Those superstar players in the playoffs that seem to flip a switch, and then the idea that baskets are harder to come by, well, if we’re going to keep fouling at the rate we’re fouling — we’ve been better lately — but you can’t be in a situation where baskets are hard to come by, and you’re fouling so much,’’ Donovan said. “Free throw here, free throw there, that’s why I say analytics go out the window.’’
The Bulls have 55 regular-season games left to fix the fouling issue, as well as other problem areas, and they get to do it against lesser opponents. Along with the Grizzlies, the Bulls have the fifth-easiest schedule left. Their opponents had a .487 winning percentage.
The Cavaliers had the easiest at .469, followed by the Heat at .479.