The consensus prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers…and the best hopes of By The Horns.
Crowd Says: 43-39
By The Horns Says: 46-36
Yes We Can!
The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!
During the offseason, the Bulls lost free agent Ben Gordon, whom many people considered the team’s best or second-best player (after Derrick Rose). Memo to Chicago fans: Don’t sweat it. Seriously. Gordon will be replaced by John Salmons, who not only gave the Bulls almost as many points per game (18.3 versus 20.7) but was slightly more efficient in how he scored them (Salmons had a True Shooting Percentage of .596 and an Offensive Rating of 117 compared to Gordon’s .573 and 112). Even better, Salmons has the size (6-foot-7) and ability to defend opposing shooting guards … something Gordon couldn’t do unless he was exposed to Cosmic Rays or bitten by a radioactive spider.
And that’s not the only good news. Derrick Rose spent the summer working on his jump shot (500 or more jumpers a day!) and seems poised to blossom into an All-Star. Kirk Hinrich (who could start for several teams) and Jannero Pargo (a fearless and streaky shooting assassin) might be the best backup backcourt combo in the league. Luol Deng should be healthy (I hope) and ready to party like it’s 2006-07 (when he had a career-high Player Efficiency Rating of 18.7). It’s a contract year for Tyrus Thomas, which means he’s likely to blow up. Joakim Noah would dive face-first into a swarm of man-eating sharks to win a basketball game, so expect him to be a rebounding, shot-blocking beast. Like Hinrich, Brad Miller is a starting-caliber player who proved last season he can be very effective in a reserve role. Rookies James Johnson and Taj Gibson have the raw talent necessary to provide support in short bursts off the bench. Lindsey Hunter is a first-rate (and mostly non-playing) locker room leader, and Aaron Gray hands out a mean cup of Gatorade.
To sum up, the Bulls have height and depth across the board. They have guys who can get to the rim (Rose and Salmons), guys who can shoot the ball (Deng, Hinrich, Pargo and Salmons), guys who can clean the glass (Miller, Noah and Thomas), and guys who can swat some shots (Gibson, Noah and Thomas). They still don’t have a low post scoring threat, which is a problem (maybe even a big problem), but they don’t have a gaping hole at any position. The Bulls won’t win the East (thanks to the Cavaliers, Celtics and Magic) or even the Central Division (because of the Cavs), but they’re going to be much better than the naysayers are predicting.
No You Won’t
A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.
From Mike Kurylo of Knickerblogger.net:
Quiz time, which Bull am I describing: “Athletic … good wingspan … more of a tweener … inconsistent scoring … has stretches where he disappears completely … questionable free throw shooter.”
A. Joakim Noah
B. Tyrus Thomas
C. James Johnson
D. Taj Gibson
E. All of the above
The answer is E, and therein lies the problems with the Chicago Bulls: they have too many forwards that are of a similar mold. Chicago needed to add someone to complement their young frontcourt of Noah and Thomas, but didn’t.
There are two ways to win in the NBA. The first is to be unbelievable good at a few major aspects of the game. The other way is to be well-rounded with enough weapons to counter any possibility. The Bulls are neither of these and hence were a middle of the pack team offensively and defensively last year. Until Chicago makes a commitment to address their weaknesses or bolster their strengths they’ll stay a tweener team.
A 140-character insight into the soul of the team.
“In the play of the series, Joakim Noah steals the ball, beats Pierce down the court and dunks ‘and 1’ to put the Bulls up 126-123 35.5 to go.” — The official Chicago Bulls Twitter, commemorating what might be the greatest post-Jordan playoff moment from Game 6 of the Bulls’ first-round series against the defending champion Boston Celtics.
On The Record
Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.
On January 30th, 2009, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said: “This [season] has been a disaster. It’s embarrassing.” At that time, the Bulls were 19-27. After that tongue-lashing, the team acquired John Salmons and Brad Miller, finished 41-41, made the playoffs and pushed the defending champions to seven games in the first round.
The 2008-09 Almanac
Some key stats from last season.
Team Factor Strength(s): Offensive Rebounding (6th)
Team Factor Weakness(es): Defensive Rebounding (28th)
So offensively and defensively, the Bulls were strictly — maybe even painfully — mediocre. That’s bad. Furthermore, they were one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the Association. That’s really bad. On the bright side, they cleaned up on the offensive glass — in fact, Noah ranked 2nd in the NBA in Offensive Rebounds Per 48 Minutes — so they have that going for them. Starting Salmons at SG and a healthy Deng at SF should help the team on offense and defense. And if Noah and Thomas can crash the defensive boards with a manic passion, the Bulls could become a real force in the East. Maybe not a championship-level force … but at least the kind of squad that other teams see on the schedule and say, “Oh, crap. The Bulls.”
Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the play?
For the last few seasons, the Bulls’ money play (and I use the word “play” loosely) has been Ben Gordon chucking it up from long range either off a screen or in isolation. And yeah, Gordon certainly gave us some lasting memories that way … but words can’t express how happy I am that we’ll never see that play again.
This season, I see Vinny Del Negro calling a high pick and roll with Derrick Rose and Brad Miller, where the first option is Rose driving to the hoop for a bucket or the foul; the second option is Rose pulling up for a short chip shot or floater; and the third option is a kick-out to Miller for a midrange jumper.
The People’s Choice
The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.
Aaron Gray has all the characteristics necessary to become a Brian Scalabrine-like folk hero in Chicago: he’s big, white, a little goofy-looking, and tries really, really hard. If the Bulls find themselves in the midst of a blowout, look for the United Center crowd to try and will Gray into the game. You know, once he recovers from that stress fracture in his left fibula.
If You’re Watching The Bottom Line, You’re Watching This
The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.
The Bulls enter the 2009-10 season with approximately $25 million worth of expiring contracts, the largest of which is Brad Miller’s $12.2 million cap killer. Those expiring deals will almost certainly lead to one of two things: a blockbuster before-the-deadline trade or a major signing in the fabled Summer of 2010. That’s when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Dirk Nowitzki and Joe Johnson (among others) become free agents. It’s no secret that the Bulls would love to add a premier frontcourt scorer … and there may never be a better chance for them to do it.