Nuggets-Bulls Preview

With Carmelo Anthony and his Denver Nuggets coming to town, this could be one of those classic “look what you (supposedly) could’ve had” games.

There was a lot of buzz about whether the Bulls should (or, rather, could) trade for Anthony during the offseason. ‘Melo apparently wanted out of Denver…although you wonder whether he still feels that way right now. The Nuggets are 4-2 — and they could be 5-1 if not for a one-point loss to the Mavericks last week — and Anthony is having what may be his best season to date: 24.7 PPG on 51.4 percent shooting to go with 7.7 RPG, 3.7 APG and 1.3 SPG.

And check out his advanced stats: A Player Efficiency Rating of 24.3, a True Shooting Percentage of 60.1, an Offensive Rating of 119 and a Defensive Rating of 102.

What’s more, he’s been on fire in recent games, having scored a season-high 30 points two games ago (although it was against the Clippers) and then 27 points in a 103-92 win in Denver’s rematch with the Mavs. In the Dallas win, ‘Melo went 4-for-4 from downtown, hitting three of the four in the final 3:47. He’s shooting 23-for-37 in his last two games.

Inevitably, Bulls fans will probably compare ‘Melo’s hot start to Luol Deng’s…not-as-hot start. Deng is averaging 19.8 PPG on 46 percent shooting, including 50 percent accuracy from downtown. Not bad. However, his rebounding is down (3.6 RPG) and let’s not even talk about his PER (13.7), O-Rating (103) or D-Rating (110).

But hey, Denver wasn’t going to trade ‘Melo for Deng straight up. They wanted Joakim Noah…and that wasn’t going to happen. And with good reason. Noah is averaging 16.2 PPG on 54.5 percent shooting to go with 14.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.2 SPG and 1.8 BPG. He leads the team in Defensive Rating (103), ranks 2nd in PER (20.8), and is right there in Offensive Rating (118).

Then too, a lot of people wanted the Bulls to offer the Nuggets a combination of Deng and Taj Gibson, but Gibson is giving the Bulls 15.0 PPG on a crazy-hot 64.2 percent shooting. Taj has a PER of 19.4 and leads the starting unit in O-Rating at 123 points per 100 possessions.

And honestly, if the Bulls are going to win tonight, Noah and Gibson are going to have to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Chicago’s biggest advantage is in the frontcourt. After all, Denver is still without Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin — both of whom are recovering from offseason knee surgeries — and have been missing Nene for the last three games because of a groin injury. No word on whether Nene will play tonight.

Update! According to Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post, Nene worked with the first unit at shootaround Monday, and coach George Karl has indicated Nene will try and play tonight.

Still, the Nuggets have been getting it done with a small lineup. They’re currently ranked 5th in Offensive Rating (110.9) and 7th in Defensive Rating (102.7). The Bulls are ranked 11th and 18th, respectively. Those rankings are a bit disappointing, especially the D-Rating. Did anybody think a Tom Thibodeau team would be in the bottom half of the league in Defensive Rating this early in the season? I sure didn’t.

Thanks primarily to Noah and Gibson, the Bulls are the second-best shooting team in the league (49 percent). Unfortunately, they’re struggling from three (33.8 percent) and from the line (69.2 percent). The Nuggets are closer to the league average in FGP (45.4), but they’re a better three-point shooting team (38 percent) and they’re near the top of the league in free throw percentage (82.5).

To win, the Bulls are going to have to:

1. Contain ‘Melo (obviously).

2.Take advantage of their frontcourt edge. The Nuggets rank 17th in Defensive Rebound Percentage. The Bulls rank 8th in Offensive Rebound Percentage. Noah and Gibson (and everybody else) need to crash the offensive glass. Every extra shot opportunity could be huge.

3. Limit Denver’s transition opportunities, which starts with…

4.Taking care of the ball. The Bulls have 40 TOs in their last two games. That’s not going to get it done. Chicago ranks 26th in Turnover Percentage. And Denver ranks 4th in Opponents Turnover Percentage. The Nuggets will hawk the ball if the Bulls aren’t careful.

5. It might also help if the Bulls figured out a way to score during the second quarter. As I noted after the Celtics game, Chicago has been outscored 160-113 during the second quarter of their first five games. This is due mostly to the fact that Thibs hasn’t settled on a rotation. Of course, he doesn’t really have a consistent scoring threat off the bench.

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7 Responses to Nuggets-Bulls Preview

  1. gorditadog@aol.com'
    Gorditadog November 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    I am not really sure how the Nuggets have been so successful early on. Without Nene, Anderson and Martin, and with all the hoopla around Anthony’s contract status, they have still played very well against some good teams.

    We should have a big advantage inside- Noah and Gibson should be able to control the boards on both ends of the floor.

    Deng vs Melo should be a great match-up. Deng should get plenty of open shots- Anthony is not the best at fighting through screens, he likes to sag and play help defense. Deng will have his hands full trying to guard Anthony as well, although Lu will probably get a lot of help.

    JR Smith has been playing well for the Nuggets, he has been very active on both ends of the floor. I expect we will see more minutes from Brewer tonight, he looked good against Boston, especially on defense.

    Rose needs to keep out of foul trouble. Billups is among the best at getting foul calls, and the refs seem to like giving Rose ticky-tack fouls (like when Ray Allen shot a 3 over Rose and then laid down on his side- Toney Douglas did the same the game before).

  2. dengsucks November 8, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    Matt,

    Rose leads the team in PER not Noah.

  3. bscholtens@hotmail.com'
    Brad S. November 8, 2010 at 5:56 pm #

    Forget ‘Melo. When I look at this team I think about the fact that we coulda had J.R. Smith!!! lol.

  4. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale November 8, 2010 at 7:43 pm #

    “I am not really sure how the Nuggets have been so successful early on. Without Nene, Anderson and Martin, and with all the hoopla around Anthony’s contract status, they have still played very well against some good teams.”

    True. And it looks like Nene will play tonight after all.

    “Deng vs Melo should be a great match-up. Deng should get plenty of open shots- Anthony is not the best at fighting through screens, he likes to sag and play help defense. Deng will have his hands full trying to guard Anthony as well, although Lu will probably get a lot of help.”

    Am I the only one worried about Deng getting into foul trouble?

    “Rose leads the team in PER not Noah.”

    You’re right. Post updated.

    “Forget ‘Melo. When I look at this team I think about the fact that we coulda had J.R. Smith!”

    A fact that haunts the Bulls to this day.

  5. Inception November 8, 2010 at 11:46 pm #

    i really hope the CHI fans give Anthony a big cheer….we need him…time to get rid of what’s not working in our starting lineup.

  6. joe.sez@gmail.com'
    joe November 8, 2010 at 11:54 pm #

    Let Melo get his numbers and shutdown his teammates. We’ll win for sure. That’s the best way to defeat ana all-star.

    We’ll also put to rest the idea that a BB team is a collection of stats. He’s a expensive guy that needs the ball – a lot.

  7. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath November 9, 2010 at 1:12 am #

    Just watched a nice Melo highlight mix and the thing that stood out offensively is that he is patient when he has the ball, overall.

    First off, Deng is not the athlete or talent that Melo is, regardless of the output, that much is easy.

    When he has the ball, mid-to-long range, Melo uses several fakes and footjabs. He is rustling the defender, but more to the point for Deng, he is getting in a comfortable rhythm with the ball. It seems like so many of his drives have started in a near stubmble.

    And, like Melo, he needs more of a stop-and-pop, up close. He is so long that he doesn’t always need to get all the way to the basket, just freaking lean and bank.

    It is not going to have all of Melo’s polish, but it is still possible for him to grasp.

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