Monday, October 6, 2008

Bulls 2008-2009 Season Preview

Well with baseball season winding down (in historically shitty fashion), and basketball season on the horizon, it's time for a Chicago Bulls season preview. There have been some big changes in the offseason, so I am going to do a preview of the Bulls season by personnel. We will start from the top:

Jerry Reinsdorf: Jerry Reinsdorf is a decent owner at times. His role in creating this year's team (and the drama that surrounds it) was threefold. First of all, he has a well-documented love affair with Luol Deng. It should have been obvious to most that he would offer Deng a huge long-term deal and leave Gordon to twist in the wind. Second of all, Jerry has made clear that he will not exceed the cap. I believe that he did not want to pay Gordon more than 9.5 million a year anyways, but this gave him a convenient excuse to not do that. The jury is out on whether this decision will poison the Bulls (as it did last year when contract disputes/negotiations distracted the team), or end up being a successful strategy to prevent overpaying. The third role he had on the team was to completely wreck the negotiations with Mike D'Antoni. D'Antoni was interested in the Chicago job, but Reinsdorf's delaying tactics and unprofessionalism ended up costing us that opportunity. My guess is that Reinsdorf did not want to pay him the $4 million a year he was asking. Either way we ended up with Paxson's guy, Vinnie Del Negro (VDN).

John Paxon: Will his Goatee help change things? He was unable to swing any kind of deal that would improve the Bulls. He likes VDN and so do I, but VDN is raw and unproven. Paxson has earned (rightfully) the reputation of being far too in love with his picks and charged with the inability to grow a dick and pull the trigger on a big deal. After losing out on the KG sweepstakes 2 years ago, he completely bungled the Kobe deal and somehow was unable to land Pau Gasol, even though he had better assets to offer than the Lakers. As much as I want to see this young Bulls team improve internally because I believe there is a lot of talent here, it would have been nice to land one of those big names (Ben Wallace does NOT count). This year, it is Paxson's job to unload some of our bad contracts (Nocioni, Hughes, Hinrich to some extent). There isn't necessarily a need right now to make the big deal, we aren't one player away from contention like we thought we were just one year ago. Paxson needs to get rid of Noce and/or Hughes in order for him to have a successful season.

Vinnie Del Negro: I don't know much about this guy. He seems to have a sort of up-tempo offensive philosophy and yet emphasize defense at the same time. This is what Skiles professed to do, but he was just giving "up-tempo offense" lip service because the guys didn't run that much. Hopefully VDN actually does have them push the ball and keeps them motivated enough to still get back on defense. The most important thing this season is for VDN to motivate the team to play defense and to establish a repoire with the players. I heard he's been taking the players out to eat and treating them like family instead of shitting on them like Skiles did. I don't know much more about this guy, so we'll see what happens.

Luol Deng: He signed the big long term deal that he probably deserved this summer. So now what? Let's look at two common things the sports fans/media seems to think about him and then discuss how those things are misconceptions. 1) He has an amazing mid-range game. This is false. He has a decent mid-range jumper and a developing mid-range game. He needs to develop a few more mid-range moves (a runner perhaps, or a mid-range hook, a crossover, something to create his own mid-range game). 2) Luol Deng needs to develop a 3-point shot and/or a post up game. This upsets me to no end. Why should he do these things? Why try to expand his game like that to be average in other aspects instead of having him do what he does best? A mid-range game and a slasher. Example: Rasheed Wallace developed a 3-point shot right before he came to Detroit. At first maybe it made him slightly better, and his game definitely seemed sexier and more well-rounded. At this point in his career though, I think Detroit fans would much rather have him sticking with his post moves instead of jacking up threes and wasting so many possessions. Luol Deng can have a breakout year, but he needs to focus on his strengths.

Ben Gordon: I like him. This is the guy Derrick Rose needs so that when he slashes to the basket and kicks it out BG can knock down the open three. Ok, we all hate how selfish he seemed during this contract holdout, and we've all been fed the line about how he's too short to play defense. Aside from some spectacularly bad defensive moments, overall he has improved defensively. actually is predicting that he will be the 4th best 3 point shooter in the NBA this year. We need the guy right now. In the future? I don't know if he's worth what he's asking, but I'm glad we have him for one more year.

Derrick Rose: Thank god we won the lottery, otherwise we would be bringing back the exact same shit-the-bed team from last year. Apparently his knee will be fine. He is learning how to work the screen-roll since Memphis didn't really run it in college. He probably won't start to begin the season, but it appears that everyone in the organization wants him to get minutes, so expect him to be playing 25+ minutes a game by December. Last night I dreamt he threw an alley-oop to Tyrus and Thomas slammed it home AND it was the number one play of the day on Sportscenter. I think this kid has a chance to be ROY and a future all-star for years to come, but be patient. Most of the successful point guards in this league took years to develop.

Kirk Hinrich: This was once my favorite Bulls player. Now I would be indifferent if they could unload his contract. With the logjam at point guard, Kirk will have to make himself indispensable this year. The problems last year stemmed from two things. 1) His jump shot went on vacation and never returned. I don't know what else he can do to work on it and get it back. No one is asking him to be a shooter, but he does need to knock down 42% of his shots to be an asset and not a liability. 2) Defense/foul trouble. Where did his defense go? The last few years he was a great perimeter defender. He was physical and annoying in the kind of way you want a defender on your team to be. At some point he went from physical and annoying to lazy and fouling. Perhaps the missed shots made him mopey and uninterested, but he needs to get back to the hustling that made my brother declare (idiotically) that "You will see a Number 12 jersey hanging in the United Center rafters someday".

Tyrus Thomas: Tyrus had a tough year. And the year before that was pretty tough. Scott Skiles hated him and benched him for any reason he could find. TT is not a genius and his ceiling may not be as endless as originally thought. If he can stay focused and get the proper minutes and coaching to develop, he can still be a force to reckon with in the league. The biggest mistake Skiles/Boylan made was starting TT at the SF position. He cannot handle the ball and the last thing we want is for him to be hanging out on the perimeter; he needs to be hanging around the basket to be effective. Assuming VDN gives him minutes and coaches him instead of just yelling at him, look for TT to have a breakout year. Not 20-10 breakout, but showing that he is not a benchwarming bust kind of breakout.

Joakim Noah: He just needs to keep hustling and working on his touch. He also needs to bulk up a bit more. Look for Joakim to be an 8 and 11 kind of guy. He is very limited offensively but brings a lot of energy (I mean who else pounds their chest after a made free throw in the third quarter of a game in November). Oh, and Joakim, you better not be getting high during the season. We are paying you way too much for that.

Andres Nocioni: As long as he is here he is valuable. He brings energy and he has never seen a shot he doesn't like, which is a good thing for a team with a bunch of pussies who don't want to step up and be the man. That being said he is not worth 8 million a year and we need to unload his contract. Here's a nickname I came up with for him: The Banshee. I doubt it will stick but it always struck me as applicable.

Larry Hughes: Hey Larry Hughes, Please Stop Taking So Many Bad Shots. I'm serious. Trade this guy. He's is taking minutes from younger, more effective players in the backcourt and his contract is ridiculous. Trade him.

Drew Gooden: This guy is exactly worth his contract (6-8 million dollar range) and he is somewhat effective in the post. My problem with Gooden is the same problem everyone has had with him since he came in the league: He went to Kansas. Just kidding. Sort of. The problem is he doesn't focus. You can tell when he's paying attention because he plays excellent defense and takes good shots. If he can just stay focused enough to inflate his trade value, he might be good bait to attach to Noce or Hughes to get someone to take those contracts off our hands. Look for him to have the same sort of year as every year, with a few flashes but mostly wasted potential. Oh and he lost me $20 on that beard bet, so if you see him tell him I'm not happy.

Thabo Sefolosha: He is filthy. The kid plays amazing defense and has shown he can be an effective slasher. If he can improve his ballhandling and put some more arc on his jump shot, he can earn some of the limited backcourt minutes on this team. He has the potential to be an effective player in this league, but he needs to improve in those two areas to get minutes this year.

The Rest: Besides Aaron Gray, no one else will emerge out of camp and get major minutes. If Gray slims down and improves his footwork defensively, he may see some real minutes.

Predicted Depth Chart to Start Season:

PG: Hinrich/Rose/Gordon
SG: Gordon/Hughes/Hinrich/Thabo
SF: Deng/Nocioni/Thabo/TT
PF: Gooden/TT/Nocioni
C: Noah/Gooden/Gray

Prediction for The Season:

The Bulls will struggle a bit early in VDN's new system. They should heat up a bit as they learn to play together and as Rose learns the league. Record: 41-41; 5th in the East.


Ethan said...

Can anyone agree that Paxson only gets one more year? His inability to pull the trigger on a big trade has cost this franchise at least one finals run. I can't believe he always gets off the hook for this, and will likely get an EXTRA year to prove himself b/c of the new coach hiring. Personally, I'm ready for a switch.

Stormin' Norman Disciple said...

I'm just happy someone read this whole post. It was WAY TOO LONG, but I had a lot to say. As usual.

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