Thursday, September 16, 2010

2010-2011 Chicago Bulls

So the Bulls missed out on LeBron ... boo hoo. They'll prolly have a better team with this ridiculously balanced squad than they would have with LBJ and scraps. Shoot, they got four different high-quality ball players from the salary they would have hypothetically used on James. And you already have Derrick Rose, so I wouldn't technically want somebody to stunt his development by taking the ball out of his hands for 80% of every possession. So regardless of how much Bulls fans wanted an MJ 2.0, they'll just have to get over it and enjoy this incarnation of a contender. The miserable days of Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler are long gone ...

2010-2011 Chicago Bulls

Point Guard: Derrick Rose/C.J. Watson
Shooting Guard: Ronnie Brewer/Keith Bogans
Small Forward: Luol Deng/Kyle Korver/James Johnson
Power Forward: Carlos Boozer/Taj Gibson
Center: Joakim Noah/Kurt Thomas/Omer Asik

This team's gonna be a lockdown defensive squad with Tom Thibodeau at the helm with a full complement of defensive workhorses like C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer, Keith Bogans, and Joakim Noah. Plus they have some outside shooting which was completely nonexistent last season. Headlined by all-world shooter Kyle Korver, Bogans and Watson can also spot up and knock in their share of threes to go with Rose's improved range. Being mentioned in both of those categories, I really like Watson to have a moderate breakout campaign off the bench to spark the offense as a back-up to Rose (as well as paired with him in a mini-Ben Gordon-like role). That's a backcourt with a lot of explosiveness as both are sick athletes with ability to finish at the rim.

The facet of this team that's completely nuts is the fact that they added three members of last year's Utah Jazz team independently through free agency. Why didn't they just coax Jerry Sloan into coming back as the Bulls head coach again? Boozer was obviously the near-max talent who was the fallback option from acquiring James or Chris Bosh, but Korver and Brewer are equally pivotal. They should all have an essentially seamless transition to figuring out their roles on their new team because ... they'll have the same roles. Booze is the dump down post force who can step out with a ceiling-scraping midrange jumper, Brewer fills the lanes and gets the defensive assignment on the opposing team's best perimeter guy, and Korver runs off screens and spots up at every opportunity. Even better is that they have a similarly elite, big-bodied point guard in Derrick Rose to smooth the switch from Deron Williams. What do they have to get used to besides being on the winning side of the Bulls-Jazz highlight tapes now?

I also love the Kurt Thomas signing. He's been roaming at half speed for the last six years of his career and still been a presence, so what's there to lose? Joakim Noah can hold his ground on the majority of bigs in the league, but he's got Kurt behind him now who's even more of a tree trunk and able to be relied on to make the right decisions on the court in whatever playing time he's provided. So for this Bulls squad in general, you know what you're getting from the new guys. The big question mark is how and where the returning players improve and make their presence felt. Can Luol Deng go through another year of trade rumors every other night and try to stay healthy? Can Noah keep up his newly formed impact game or will he revert to an essentially unproductive scrapper? Can Rose shake off his shaky World Championship outing and continue his meteoric rise to All-Star (or potentially All-NBA) levels? The answers to those questions are gonna be what either relegates the Bulls to 4th-team status in the East or what's gonna make the Miami-Boston-Orlando triumvirate sweat come playoff time. I personally think the Bulls are gonna be absolutely great and one of the most fun teams in the league to watch, but it's still a season or two too early to throw them right in the mix with the other guaranteed NBA elite. They'll bow out to the Heat when they get unfavorably matched up with them in the second round. It's up to Derrick Rose to prove me wrong.

Regular Season: 56-26
Playoffs: Eliminated in Eastern Conference Semi-Finals

... and do the John Wall.

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