Off Season Overview:
Chicago had an understated off-season considering the fanfare surrounding Kobe Bryant
and Kevin Garnett
. The Bulls were major players in trade negotiations for Pau Gasol
earlier in the year and had their hat in the ring for the two biggest fish before eventually staying their hand and allowing things to die down.
While the Bryant rumors will surely be resurfacing, the moves that are in-hand for the up-and-coming Bulls should certainly bolster their already formidable team. The major addition in the off-season was afforded to them via their draft pick swap with the Knicks. Joakim Noah
was a player who would have received much more notoriety as an acquisition just a year prior. But the strength of the past draft somewhat diminished Noahs value in the eyes of both scouts and fans alike. The fact that the Bulls had been heavily involved in trade talks centered on addressing their perceived interior scoring needs only furthered the lack of attention Noahs arrival garnered.
The addition of Joe Smith
was an intelligent complement to the drafting of Noah. Smith is steady, if not spectacular, and should replace the face-up game in the frontcourt that PJ Brown
left vacant upon his departure.
The decision to retain Andres Nocioni
was also a brilliant move by GM John Paxson
. Nocionis retention and the upwards of 7 million per year it will cost the team has been criticized by more than a few around the Bulls cyber community. But Paxson understood that Nocionis passion was equally as valuable as his production and will help fuel this teams drive alongside Wallace and rookie Noah.
Simply put, most teams do not have the luxury of having a player of Nocionis caliber coming off the bench, Dallas and Phoenix come to mind. His commitment to slimming down and becoming a better conditioned player speaks to the respect he has for the teams belief in his value. Nocioni stands as the Bulls most proficient offensive player and allows the team to put multiple looks on the court depending on situation. Depth Chart:
[c]courtesy of Synergy Sports Tech: Figure represents NBA offensive percentile rank[/c]Strengths:
Depth and chemistry define this Bulls squad. Chicago lost a hard-fought battle with rival Detroit last season, but seem poised to take another step toward unseating their division rival this season. Chicago is the younger team in terms of their focal point players, but those players are beginning to come into their own and the production from their bench unit may provide the tipping point for the team this season.
Despite their lack of a go-to interior offensive threat, the Bulls are built for success. The team has superior defensive big men and the team has the ability to match just about any look an opponent can give them. Ben Wallace
still has the ability to be a tremendous interior defender on both forwards and centers. He may have lost a step in terms of covering perimeter players, but his help defense and harassing style still make him an excellent player for the Bulls perimeter players to funnel men toward. Joakim Noah
almost seems like Ben Wallace
2.0-hes bigger, faster, better. Noah can handle the ball, passes like a guard, and is even a superior offensive player. His ability to be a play maker out of the high post should complement Wallace well given the proper scheming by coach Skiles. Tyrus Thomas
and Joe Smith
represent the offensive side of the equation for Chicago, but both are in the least solid team defenders. Smith is a veteran who knows how to be in the right place and not leave his teammates exposed, Thomas is raw but has jaw-dropping help-side defensive ability to go with his opportunistic offense. Originally projected as a starter, he will have to stave off Noah's furious assault during training camp to maintain that status. Thomas may be a work-in-progress player, but as a fourth frontcourt talent, the Bulls depth is ridiculous.
The teams defense at the point of attack isnt too shabby either with Kirk Hinrich
, Chris Duhon
, and Thabo Sefolosha
seeing time at point guard. Luol Deng
s wing defensive ability gives Skiles an embarrassment or riches for his defensive desires. Weaknesses:
The biggest knock on this club has been the lack of a true go-to franchise type player. With the lack of a dominant offensive force in the frontcourt, conventional wisdom dictates that a tandem of star-caliber backcourt players to create defensive havoc for the yeomen to clean up off of-think vintage Bulls with Grant, Cartwright, and company taking advantage of the Jordan/Pippen tandem.
Much of this criticism has fueled the interest in aforementioned superstars Garnett, Gasol, and Bryant. Bryant is still probably very much on the teams radar because of the advantage a franchise player can create. The team has been known to go into offensive dry spells because of their perimeter oriented attack and the lack of upper echelon offensive prowess that their main three weapons posses. Hinrich, Deng, and Gordon are very good, put none posses the out-of-this world dominant ability that most teams covet. Outlook:
What this team does have is the potential to contend for the Eastern Conference crown and possibly an NBA title. The team enjoys great chemistry and most of its key members are still on the rise toward their competitive primes. Luol Deng
was most likely deserving of an All Star bid last season and this year he should be a lock based off his career progression to date. Ben Gordon
may be streaky, but he has the ability to hit clutch baskets from impossible angles and is the best creator of his own offense that the team has. Kirk Hinrich
is always a dangerous kick-out option and is a terrific floor general for the club.
With such a perimeter oriented attack, wouldnt be surprising to see Joakim Noah
inserted into the starting lineup with Ben Wallace
at some point this season. Noah and Wallace have great mobility and length as a defensive tandem and could be a killer combo on the offensive glass as opponents defenses will be focused on stopping the other three players as they drive the engine of the offense.
The rival Pistons won a championship with a balanced attack and defensive prowess. Chicago is very much poised to make their run in a similar fashion and has depth that Detroit would have envied during their title run. The league is different and its not the conventional path, but the road to the finals may very well lie through Chicago this season.