Guest Post: More than half-full

In this age of Twitter, it comes as no surprise that dedicated basketball fans are inclined to immediately parse every game in detailed fashion. There’s nothing wrong with expressing opinions after a game, but along with such micro-analysis comes the unfortunate tendency to lose sight of the bigger picture.

The Bulls have now played three games, which, if the full NBA season were expressed in terms of a single 48-minute game, is equivalent to less than two minutes into the game. In other words, all of the hyperbolic contributions to various blogs and sports media should be taken with several grains of salt. So, with that in mind, let’s take a deep breath and attempt to put a little perspective around what we’ve seen thus far.

The Bulls are obviously a work in progress. There is every reason to believe that they will improve throughout the season, both before and after Boozer’s return. Bearing that simple point in mind, there is every reason to be very optimistic.

Another broad, though related point, is that it will take some time for Tom Thibodeau to become fully comfortable with his new head coaching role, and for the team to fully adapt to his very different style and concepts. Anyone who thinks that he is not a huge upgrade from VDN — even at this very early stage — simply isn’t paying attention. This is another reason to be very Bullish on the team’s prospects this season.

Luol Deng had a terrific pre-season, both internationally and with the Bulls, including showing signs that he had done some seriously effective work on his three-point shooting. His first game of the season was decent, and his second was disappointing. He broke out against the Blazers, and reminded everyone how valuable he can be at his best. When the Bulls begin to fire on all cylinders, and especially after Boozer returns, neither Deng nor Rose will be under great pressure to carry the offensive load themselves. That should, and almost certainly will make both of them even more effective.

Rose and Noah are obviously playing very well, and their recent exploits have been well-documented. I will add a couple of points, though. Rose is clearly the best point guard in the league at getting to the rim, and finishing around the basket. In fact, he may already be the best ever. His mid-range jumper has improved, and is more than adequate.

His three-point shooting, however, continues to be uneven, and I frankly don’t have high expectations for major improvement in that area during the season. I hope that I am proven wrong, but I do not want to see Rose shooting threes with regularity unless he improves his consistency. His defense has improved, and should continue to do so under Thibs. I also expect that his passing will improve, especially when Boozer begins to play, and Rose feels less pressure to score. Noah is, quite simply, outstanding, and anyone who thinks (or thought) that he should have been included in a ‘Melo trade should have their head examined.

I don’t agree with the yelps of criticism leveled at Bogans by some fans early on. He is a strong, solid defender, and has shown signs of being able to hit open threes. I love the way that he almost never leaves his feet while defending, and he is also very good at staying in front of his man. He is a solid role player. Brewer was obviously hampered by his hamstring injury, and is beginning to show signs of life. While limited offensively, I expect that he will prove useful on both ends of the floor, especially when the Bulls are running an up-tempo offense. Watson is useful at best, and, while I can’t get excited about him, he is clearly an upgrade over Pargo.

Korver will be very valuable, and has barely had a chance to begin to show his stuff. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by his adequate defense, and his near-constant movement on the offensive end is a big plus. Asik will improve throughout the year, and is already a valuable contributor. He is likely to become the biggest overachiever (relative to expectations) on the team. James Johnson has made impressive progress, though he still has a long way to go. He’s a terrific athlete, and is showing a willingness to be coached. He still needs to show more restraint at times (e.g. less ball handling, staying on his feet more on defense, etc.), but should continue to improve, and contribute on both ends.

Taj has, to my mind, been something of a disappointment. I was a big supporter of his last season, and he does bring a number of positive qualities to the table. However, he remains (too) foul prone, and there is no use in trying to deny that he has very poor hands. That’s not to say that he can’t be a useful backup to Boozer, but I was hoping to see more improvement in his areas of weakness (including free throws).

Barring any major injuries during the season, I believe that the Bulls will prove to be very dangerous in the playoffs. They have already shown signs of being able to compete with some of the better teams in the league, and, for some of the reasons touched on above, aren’t yet anywhere close to reaching their full potential.

About the author:
Tony C. grew up in Evanston, and cut his teeth on the exciting, early ’70’s Walker-Love-Sloan-Van Lier Bulls. As a pick-up player, he admits to having stuck too long with low-top shoes (Puma Baskets, for the detail oriented), but did belatedly make the switch when the sprained ankles became tedious. Tony’s professional life revolves mainly around buying, selling and managing Thoroughbred racehorses. While he now resides outside of Chicago, he remains an interested, enthusiastic, and at times critical Bulls fan.

13 Responses to Guest Post: More than half-full

  1. Jimmy November 3, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    Great read, I like your breakdown of every place. I think we (myself included) are being a little harsh on Taj. This is because we expect alot out of him, especially from a solid rookie year. He still shows good tenacity getting to the hoop and good off the ball movement to get easy shots. That in itself is a sign a GREAT backup PF.

    -Jimmy

  2. bob.edwards47@yahoo.com'
    BoppinBob November 3, 2010 at 5:28 pm #

    Lets remember that both Gibson and JJ are both only second year players. Gibson was considered the more NBA ready player and therefore had less upside. JJ was considered to have the most upside and that is still the case. Gibson contributed as a starter last season but was clearly outclassed against the the better PF’s in the league, coming off the bench he becomes one of the better back-up PF’s in the league. JJ has yet to define his role. I believe he has the potential to contribute at the 2, 3 & 4, and that appears to be how Thibs is using him. I would not be willing to give up either of them in a trade at this time. That could change as we approach the trading deadline, but I would not be willing to trade both of them to get one player, no matter who that player is.

    I am waiting for Brewer, Korver and Watson to make the impact that were expected and fully believe that they will over time. Asik has been a pleasant surprize and has changed my opinion about his ability to have an impact this season, he is already an asset, and hopefully will continue to improve over the season. Bogans is a pleasant surprise but still looks uncomfortable which implies that he could get better. Both Thomas and Scalabrine are doing what I expected out of them.

    I believe that we are seeing that the core of the Bulls from last season are playing well together (Rose, Noah, Deng, Gibson and JJ). The new guys are still getting comfortable with their roles and probably will continue to be in that mode through December, as Boozer begins to fit in. This team is significantly improved but has a long way to go to reach its potential. It should be fun to watch their development.

  3. doubleaccord@gmail.com'
    Tony C. November 3, 2010 at 5:52 pm #

    I agree that both JJ and Taj have further improvement in them, and it is no surprise that the former has improved more markedly over the off-season, given that he was nowhere near as polished as Taj last year. I do believe that they are both valuable, and Taj is a solid back-up PF, but I wouldn’t want to consider either to be completely off-limits if the right trade opportunity were to come along.

    We also agree about the essence of my post, which is that there is plenty to like about the Bulls already, and they should be far better when the season really heats up.

    It should be fun to watch the Bulls develop during the season, especially as we now have a coach who is likely to contribute significantly to such development.

  4. bscholtens@hotmail.com'
    Brad S. November 3, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    Nicely done, Tony C. …although I must admit: I think I am going to miss your “VDN Time-out Performance Reveiws”. Catch any Clippers games lately???

  5. sam z November 3, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    ETOWN

  6. cerebral_thought@yahoo.com'
    C.T November 3, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    @ Brad S – yeah ima miss that too

  7. doubleaccord@gmail.com'
    Tony C. November 3, 2010 at 10:41 pm #

    Brad and C.T. –

    Imagine my amazement when another NBA team jumped at the chance to hire VDN! I actually feel quite sorry for Blake Griffin…

  8. Joe.sez@gmail.com'
    JoeSez November 4, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    VDN had two years of on the job training.

    Clippers needed a coach and he’s not that expensive.

  9. danezra@aol.com'
    Dunkatron November 4, 2010 at 3:54 am #

    Don’t be too hard on Taj, he has taken over the Bulls standard 1st quarter offensive set breakdown that turns into a 1 on 1 iso for powerforwards/centers. This play used to belong to ben wallace, tyrus, joakim, etc. These plays usually were laughable and deflating. Taj has pulled off some nice spin moves and mid range J’s when plays break down to help the bulls not lose steam early in the ballgame.

  10. zilla2033@yahoo.com'
    zillaa November 4, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    Loved it Tony, but I gotta respectfully disagree about Taj. He’s hitting his jumper when he takes it now (hit his ceiling?) and playing good ball on both ends in general. The great part is that his one problem (you are right, the fouls are pretty bad) is one thing I fully expect Thibs to be the guy to help with almost immediately! It’s just a coincidence I’m happy to have that our backup big man’s biggest problem is one we DEFINITELY have the coaching staff to fix.

    Also, definitely right about Bogans. You don’t always notice him on the floor, but that’s a hell of a lot better than saying “Bogans is getting lit up” every game, which is what I expected to say about our SG after we let Hinrich go.

  11. doubleaccord@gmail.com'
    Tony C. November 4, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    zilla –

    Thanks, and I agree that there are plenty of reasons to like Taj as a back-up PF. I am being rather critical, but given his reputed work ethic, I would expect to minimally see him improve his free-throw shooting. Also, it is excruciating to see him regularly fumble passes and loose balls, though I don’t know whether significant improvement can be made in that area through practice.

  12. daveydavidson@gmail.com'
    Andrew November 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm #

    Evanston

  13. gorditadog@aol.com'
    Gorditadog November 4, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    Asik shows potential and Korver can shoot, but the rest of the bench is underwhelming. I don’t see CJ as a back-up point guard, he doesn’t look good under pressure.

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