Season Preview – Chicago Bulls

» October 11, 2008 11:30 AM | By xphoenix87

Season Preview Primer

Chicago Bulls

Coach: Vinny Del Negro
2007-08 Record: 33-49
Pythagorean Record for 07-08: 32-50
Offensive Rating: 103.9 (26th in the league)
Defensive Rating: 107.2 (14th)
Possessions per 48: 93 (11th)
Min%: 76.5 (17th)
Four Factors:

eFG%

TOV%

RB%

FT/FGA

Offensive 47 (28th) .134 (16th) .287 (8th) .223 (19th)
Defensive 49.6 (11th) .142 (5th) .731 (18th) .258 (25th)

Roster (Red indicates new acquisition, Blue indicates rookie)

The Bulls have made some dumb personnel moves over the last few years, but picking Derrick Rose over Michael Beasley really takes the cake. Instead of taking the best prospect in the draft who would give them post scoring they desperately need, they took a guard to add to their already crowded backcourt. Why? Some very minor “character issues” and the fact that everyone assumed Rose is a “leader” because he’s a PG, despite the fact that he wasn’t the leader of an upperclassman-laden Memphis team. Now, instead of having a team that would jump right back into the playoffs, they’re juggling a number one pick and three guys who will be making $28 mil in their backcourt.

If the Bulls could combine Ben Gordon and Thabo Sefolosha into one player, they’d be absolutely set at the shooting guard position. Unfortunately, they’ve got to deal with two somewhat limited players. Gordon is undersized as a shooting guard, but he’s a great scorer. In the midst of all the Bulls’ offensive struggles last year, Gordon was about the only player who performed well on that end of the court. Despite an early slump, he ended up shooting over 40% from deep and scoring over 23 points per 40 minutes very efficiently. He’s got a very quick release on his jumper and gets great elevation, making it extremely tough to contest his shot. His quickness, strength, and shooting touch really make him a tough cover for opposing guards. He’s not much of a distributor, but he also doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and his floor vision is good enough for a shooting guard. Defensively though, Gordon often struggles due to his lack of height and short arms. He’s much more suited to defend point guards, but he can’t play that position offensively. He’s quick enough to stay in front of his matchup, but most guards have little trouble shooting over top of him. His size also seems to affect him around the rim, where he finishes at a worse rate than he does from the outside. He particularly struggles with guys who can defend the rim, as he had 18% of his close shot attempts blocked.

Sefolosha, on the other hand, is an excellent defensive player but not an offensive weapon. He’s got great size for the position and he’s a good athlete. His length and quickness allow him to be a lockdown perimeter defender. Not only that, but he also creates havoc all over the floor, putting up solid block and steal numbers while also being one of the best rebounders at his position. Offensively though, Sefolosha is a work in progress. He’s very turnover-prone, and not much of a shooter. Right now, almost all his value is at the defensive end.

Is there any frontcourt in the league with less offensive talent than this one? If there’s a less coordinated offensive player than Joakim Noah, I have yet to see him. He has a jumpshot that would make Shawn Marion cringe, and he was lost in the Bulls’ offensive sets a lot of the time. Outside of shooting layups or dunking the ball, you probably don’t want Noah touching the ball. The one outstanding offensive skill he does have is that he’s a tremendous offensive rebounder. Defensively, he’s very mobile for a guy his size, which helps him collect a lot of steals and blocks. He’s not terribly strong though, so he gets pushed around a bit in the post and isn’t a great defensive rebounder. Noah has a chance to be a strong role player, but I don’t ever see him progressing past a rudimentary level offensively. Plus, well…he’s hideously ugly. That’s got to be mentioned as a negative.

If I were a betting man, I would not bet that Tyrus Thomas will ever live up to his potential. He’s an absolutely freakish athlete, but he’s not the brightest bulb on the tree. He has ridiculous length and leaping ability, and he’s very quick for a 6′9 guy, but he just doesn’t have the skill level to put it all together. He lacks strength, so despite his prodigious leaping ability he struggles to finish around the rim, shooting under 34% on inside shots that weren’t dunks. He’s not a bad face-up shooter from midrange, but his poor inside touch prevents him from scoring efficiently. More than that, he’s not a great ball-handler or decision-maker, and he makes his fair share of mental errors. What he does do extremely well right now is block shots. He blocks shots at a very high rate, although he also fouls at a pretty high rate.

One thing the Bulls post players do very well is grab offensive rebounds. Drew Gooden continues this trend. He’s a tremendous rebounder on both ends, which is the main reason he’s a starting power forward in the NBA. He was a decent midrange shooter through his career in Cleveland, though he only shot 33% on jumpers last year. He’s also not a bad finisher inside, and he draws fouls at a decent rate. He’s not a go-to scorer by any means, but he’s also not nearly as limited as a guy like Noah. Defensively, Gooden’s basically average. He’s a decent one-on-one defender, but he lacks focus, so he often misses rotation or loses his man when he’s playing off the ball. Overall, he’s the definition of “decent.” You can compete with Gooden as your 4th or 5th best player, but you don’t want to be depending on him.

I think Luol Deng is overrated. He’s the consummate “good at everything, not great at anything” player. He might make an All-Star team or two over the course of his career, but I’m not even sure about that. He’s heavily dependent on his midrange game, and that doesn’t typically work out real well unless you’re super-efficient from there, and Deng isn’t. He does a lot of good things, but I think you win a title with Deng as your third best player, not your best player.

X-Factor: Kirk Hinrich – I will never understand why Chicago selected Rose a year after committing $50 mil to Hinrich over the next 5 years. He had a terrible year last year, but the only thing that actually changed was his shooting percentage. He actually did a better job rebounding and passing the ball than he had in previous years. The difference was that he had a terrible shooting slump to begin the year and, unlike Ben Gordon, didn’t ever regain the confidence in his shot. For a guy who has been an excellent shooter throughout his college and NBA career, it’s a pretty good bet that Hinrich will bounce back this year and regain his shooting form. If that’s the case, he’s a solid starting guard who can play either guard spot. In the muck that is the Bulls’ backcourt, Hinrich will probably end up being the starting 2-guard, or being traded. If I were a team in need of a point guard, I’d be making an offer for Hinrich while his value is still low.

Overview

There was rampant speculation at the beginning of the season of a Kobe-to-Chicago trade. Kobe was unhappy, and the Bulls had the young assets to make a valid offer. Well, that obviously didn’t happen, and the fortunes of the two teams went in drastically different directions. The Lakers, predicted to be in contention for the West’s final playoff slot, instead exploded to the best record in the ridiculously strong West. Chicago, ostensibly a contender for the Eastern crown, dropped off the map and ended up 11th in the comically weak East. Whether it was the trade talk or not, Chicago’s young players sure seemed off their game for some reason. While their young core should have been improving, they instead took a monumental step backwards, finishing with the 3rd worst eFG% in the league and the 5th worst offense overall. Their usually solid defense also tanked, ending up around the league average instead of at the top of the league. All that combined to make Chicago’s season a gigantic mess, but the upside was they lucked out in the lottery and landed the number one pick.

Prediction

A year ago, Chicago was thinking “NBA Finals.” This year, goals have changed pretty significantly. With a muddled roster, no post scoring, and a rookie point guard, expectations are a good bit lower. The rebuilding process starts anew with Rose as the cornerstone, and development of the core players will be more important than the win-loss record. If things go well, the Bulls should contend for the last playoff spot, but it won’t be easy. If Rose can take over the starting job with reasonable success and the Bulls contend for the 8th seed, it’ll be a successful year in Chicago. If they’d taken Beasley in the draft, there’d be a chance they could be something more, but breaking in a rookie point guard isn’t typically a good recipe for success.

12th in the East – The Crapshoot

xphoenix87 is a Ballerblogger Contributing Writer. You may have noticed that he’s doing previews for all 30 NBA teams. You may also have noticed he refers to himself in the third person in these little blurbs. He likes it that way. Next up is Cleveland.


One Response to “Season Preview – Chicago Bulls”

  1. A-Train Says:

    This team has been utterly clueless since Jordan was forced out the door.

    They will be awful. Rose has knee problems. They have no interior presence whatsoever. Kirk Hinrich, while terrific defensively, is atrocious offensively.

    These people have zero clue as to what they’re doing. This team will be bad.

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