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.