The Chicago Bulls will probably have a bit of a rough time to start the season, with superstar Derrick Rose sidelined while recovering from a torn ACL. He is expected to be back in time for a playoff run, but how healthy and effective he will be is still up for debate.
Prior to his terrible injury, the Bulls were thought of as one of the league’s best teams by many. The previous season, they had made it to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The Bulls are an excellent regular season team, the result of their very good team defense and strong coaching by Tom Thibodeau.
They have a former MVP and a coach that many regard to be one of the best in the league. So, they should be legitimate title contenders, right?
Well, not so quick. I’m not a believer.
Yes, they have the track record of being one of the league’s best teams for the past few seasons. And they do have an MVP; even though the award shouldn’t have gone to Rose that year anyway, but that’s a separate conversation. But the rest of their roster is extremely average, and the ceiling isn’t very high.
Carlos Boozer was brought into town on a big contract to be the wingman to Rose. He’s been productive, but he’s far from the guy they need him to be. The Bulls just don’t look comfortable dumping the ball into Boozer when Rose is either off the court or struggling, and that’s a huge problem. Additionally, he’s never been much of a defender, although he is in the minority in that category on the Bulls.
One of the biggest misconceptions in the league is the idea that Luol Deng is underrated. It’s becoming a bit annoying, because in most measures of the game, Deng is extremely average. His PER was below the league average last season, and has never really been at a level that would make him an All-Star. Given, PER doesn’t fully measure things such as help defense, but the point is that he’s nothing special. He smothers opposing small forwards, which can come in handy against some of the elite wings that the league has to offer. Other than that, however, his game is pretty limited. He can’t create offensively for himself, and is only an OK shooter. Much like Boozer, Deng is not someone the Bulls can look at to create offense when Rose is being limited by the likes of LeBron James, Avery Bradley, and some of the other elite perimeter defenders the Eastern Conference will throw at Rose. Don’t get me wrong, Luol Deng is certainly an asset on a winning team; but he shouldn’t be your second best player.
At this point, I think the Bulls know what they’re getting out of the center position and Joakim Noah. Like Boozer and Deng, Noah is a good, productive player. His specialty is his defense, rebounding, hustle, and energy; which are great things to get out of your starting center. He’s never taken a play off, and sets the mood for his team much like Kevin Garnett does with the Boston Celtics. The problem here is, Noah is extremely limited offensively, and isn’t someone the Bulls can look at when they need to score. He won’t create any offense, as most of his points come off put backs and running the floor. I ask the same question with Noah as I did earlier; when LeBron is locking up Derrick Rose, can Joakim Noah really prevent the offense from becoming stagnant?
When you look down the rest of the roster, it’s really nothing special. Taj Gibson is a defensive monster and one of the best backup big men in the game, but he’s not much offensively. They feature a bunch of guards that are pretty ordinary, and are by no means game changers in Rip Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, and Marquis Teague. Most of these guys are specialists, and although they’re pretty good at what they do, I can guarantee that they strike no fear in the likes of the Heat, Celtics, Thunder, Lakers, etc. Not to mention, competitors in the Eastern Conference can easily handle these guards due to the overloading of quality perimeter defenders on their rosters. The Heat feature LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Shane Battier, while the Celtics have the likes of Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, and Courtney Lee to throw at the Chicago backcourt.
Of course, the strength of the Chicago Bulls is in their defense. I’m not doubting their defensive ability, but I am doubting their ability to score and consistently win matchups against their competitors, who are all of the sudden getting awfully deep. Not to mention, we still don’t know what to expect out of Derrick Rose when he returns. ACL injuries are serious, and some players are never the same after they recover.
Quick flash back to the Eastern Conference Finals a few years ago; LeBron James smothered Derrick Rose, and the Bulls couldn’t find any way to get good looks, let alone score. Have the Bulls really addressed that problem? The Celtics added Jason Terry, the Clippers added Jamal Crawford, the Heat added Ray Allen, the Mavericks added O.J. Mayo, the Knicks have J.R. Smith; all of whom can help carry their team’s offense for short periods of time and take pressure off of their superstars.
Who can the Bulls look to when Derrick Rose is struggling? Because you know that elite defenders in the Eastern Conference like LeBron James, Paul George, and Avery Bradley are foaming at the mouth for a chance to lock down Rose, as they know that might be all it takes to beat the Bulls in a playoff series.
If I’m involved in management of the Chicago Bulls, I’m exploring a lot of options to shake up the roster. Using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer to bring in another big name has to be considered. Could you package Joakim Noah and Luol Deng for a superstar?
For now, it doesn’t look like the Chicago Bulls will be changing all too much.
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