Have copycat Bulls closed the gap with Golden State?
Golden State is clearly the gold standard in the NBA. Using a star-studded lineup and high-scoring style that has revolutionized the league, the Warriors are heavy favorites to win their third championship in the past four years.
On their annual visit to the United Center on Wednesday, the Warriors will try to match a franchise record with their 14th consecutive road victory.
As GSW's coach, former Bulls player Steve Kerr has posted a .835 winning percentage in four seasons with this team. In comparison, Phil Jackson was at .738 during his nine seasons leading the Bulls.
"Steve's done a great job, getting those guys to believe and trust and know where they're going to be," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said Tuesday. "It's a fun team to watch, not a fun team to play."
Hoiberg sought to emulate the Warriors' style of play when he was hired by the Bulls in 2015. Considering the entire NBA is playing catch up right now, the Bulls have done a decent job trying to play like Golden State.
Since the Bulls' turnaround began on Dec. 8, they rank sixth in the league in points per game at 110.5, about 3 fewer points than the Warriors. The Bulls, however, rank higher than Golden State in 3-point percentage and pace.
Since Dec. 8, the Bulls are shooting 39 percent from 3-point range, a close second to Detroit. They've also made more 3s per game (11.3) than the Warriors.
Pace is measured by the number of possessions a team has per 48 minutes. The Bulls rank fifth in the league since Dec. 8, slightly ahead of Golden State, which ranks eighth.
"The thing you look at is their movement and their pace and their unselfishness, and that's what you try to emulate," Hoiberg said. "The thing our guys have gotten so much better at is getting the ball up the floor quickly, playing more out of transition. The ball is moving much better than it was earlier in the season. Hopefully we can continue on that path."
The Warriors are in a category of their own when it comes to assists. Over the full season, Golden State is averaging 30.6 assists per game, with New Orleans in second place at 26.2.
The Bulls rank fourth in assists, though, and have averaged 25.6 during the turnaround, so they're making progress.
An area where the Bulls are well behind is defense. What has made Golden State historically dominant is it can play a high-scoring style while having as many as four excellent defenders on the floor in Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala. Steph Curry may never make an all-defensive team, but he holds his own.
Since Dec. 8, the Bulls rank 16th in defensive rating, which is points allowed per 100 possessions. Most playoff contenders rank higher than the Bulls, although Cleveland is last. For the next step in their rebuilding process, the Bulls could use more defense, either a shot-blocker or strong wing defender.
Some contenders such as Boston and San Antonio are trying to counter Golden State by using a defensive-oriented style. Houston tries to outscore every opponent. In their past 21 games, the Bulls are having decent success while copying the Warriors' style.
It's too soon to guess how much better the Bulls will get. Zach LaVine has played only two games and Kris Dunn started playing well in early December. Lauri Markkanen achieved an impressive milestone Monday by reaching 100 made 3-pointers faster than any player in NBA history, getting there in his 41st game. It took Curry 58 games to reach 100 made 3-pointers.
"What they do is just different than what any other team has done before, especially with the type of players they have and the system they use," LaVine said of the Warriors. "It's definitely a team you look up to. But you can't look up to them too much because you're competing with them and trying to beat them as well."
The Golden State dynasty won't last forever. Curry and Durant turn 30 this year. Many of the Warriors' role players are experienced veterans, such as Iguodala and Zaza Pachulia, who both turn 34 this year. David West is 37.
The Bulls launched their rebuild hoping to be one of the teams ready to step forward when the Warriors eventually slow down. For starters, the Bulls' full lineup must improve on their 49-point loss to the Warriors in Oakland on Nov. 24.
Golden comparisonHere's how the Bulls compare to Golden State in several key categories since Chicago's turnaround began on Dec. 8:
Record 14-7 16-3
Points per game 110.5 113.2
Field-goal % .469 .505
3-point % .390 .368
Assists 25.6 30.2
Pace 101.1 100.6
Opponents' FG% .465 .442
Note: Pace is measured by number of possessions per 48 minutes.