This could be the year of the bull. Or maybe you could say the year of the Chicago Bulls (41-41). Last season, the Bulls made it into the playoffs after finishing third in the Central and eighth in the Eastern Conference. But this was a team that over the years has been defined by inconsistency. That should be the Bulls’ goal this season—consistent play. They have a sound nucleus that is speedy, and new coach Tom Thibodeau has arrived with a reputation for creativity and an effective management style.
Joakim Noah (.504 FG%, .000 3PT%, .744 FT%, 11.0 RPG, 2.1 APG, 10.7 PPG) has become a major force under the basket. Along with being a fine inside shooter and avid rebounder, Noah is also an able shot blocker. He did miss18 games due to injury last season. Noah will be helped out by the addition of veteran power forward Carlos Boozer (.562 FG%, .000 3PT%, .742 FT%, 11.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, 19.5 PPG) from Utah. Boozer is a premium inside scorer and solid defender.
At small forward, Luol Deng (.466 FG%, .386 3PT%, .764 FT%, 7.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 17.6 PPG) played well last season and stayed healthy after dealing with injuries the year before. With Deng, Boozer and Noah in the frontcourt, the Bulls have three fine inside players on offense and defense. Deng also brings a good three-point shot to the floor.
Now starting his fourth season in the NBA, shooting guard Ronnie Brewer (.487 FG%, .258 3PT%, .639 FT%, 3.2 RPG, 2.7 APG. 8.8 PPG) will be asked to increase his output. Brewer, who played last year with Utah and Memphis, can’t hit threes and is an average defender, but he has a good two-point shot. This is a stopgap measure for now. Additionally, the shooting spot is three-deep, which means that Kyle Korver (.493 FG%, .536 3PT%, .796 FT%, 2.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 7.2 PPG) and Keith Bogans (.403 FG%, .357 3PT%, .357 FT%, 2.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 4.4 PPG) will both see action. Korver is a top three-point threat and Bogans is an overall sound shooter from the field.
Point guard Derrick Rose (.489 FG%, .267 3PT%, .766 FT%, 3.8 RPG, 6.0 APG, 20.8 PPG), who is in his fourth season as a NBA player, is a top talent. Rose is one of the premium point guards in the league. His best shot is from the floor, but his threes and frees are uneven. A fine ball handler, passer and playmaker, he’s a huge asset to this team.
On offense, the Bulls were lacking in 2009-2010. Their Offensive Efficiency was 100.8 (28th), while their Pace Factor came in at 95.5 (12th). The team has some speed and with new coach Thibodeau they could start using it more to generate offense. Rose, who had the best PER at 18.69, could be the prime catalyst for generating more shots. Boozer should help in terms of inside shooting and Korver will add more threes to the board. The Bulls were 29th in three-point field goal attempts and 28th in three-point percentage.
Chicago was better on defense with Defensive Efficiency at 102.6 (10th). Inside, Noah filled out and learned how to throw his weight around a bit and there was also good pressure on the perimeter. However, the Bulls were 24thin forcing turnovers, averaging 13.8 per game. With Thibodeau, who is an expert on “D,” coaching talented players like Rose, that stat should improve.
The hiring of Tom Thibodeau (0-0) is a major move and, perhaps a risky one as this is his first NBA head coaching stint. But everyone has to start somewhere and Thibodeau seems ready for this major challenge and the Bulls seem ready for his innovative ideas.
The biggest challenge for the Bulls this season will be opening up the floor in order to get teams to respect their outside game. That means that Chicago needs an outside game for opponents to respect. Of the three inside guys, only Deng can shoot from anywhere beyond the paint. And neither of the two starting guards can hit threes. Another problem has to do with injuries upfront to Noah and Boozer. Both have been injury prone. The Chicago Bulls have a decent chance of finishing second in the Central Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference. That is if they can meet their challenges and make the necessary adjustments.
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