Monday, December 1, 2008

Post-Circus Bulls Report

The pre-circus and circus trip part of the Bulls schedule is finally over. What have we learned during this time period about a Bulls team that had almost as many question marks as guards to start the season? The answers are not simple or clear-cut, but some things have become apparent:

The Schedule:

According to John Hollinger's power rankings which are based on some advanced metrics, the Bulls are only 18th in the league. What is interesting to note about that is the Bulls have the toughest strength of schedule by a significant margin. Entering Sunday, their opponents had a .606 winning percentage and the team with the next highest strength of schedule has opponents with a winning percentage of .576. The Bulls should be very happy at 8-9 against some very tough opponents.

Also the Bulls upcoming schedule is against a bunch of really crappy teams: Phi, @Mil, Was, NYK, @Mem, NJ, @Cha, LAC. The only team with a winning record in that bunch is the Nets, and they don't exactly scare anyone this year. The Bulls should be able to generate some momentum against these bad teams.

Coach Vinny:

It still remains unclear what offense he is running exactly. I understand that he is utilizing a high screen roll with Gordon and Rose most of the time. The other players not involved in those screen rolls seem lost, however. Also, his rotations are still inconsistent. While we have to be fair and allow him to learn his team before he settles on regular minutes, he has to understand that guys need to know their roles. On the other hand, the players seem to really respect and like him so far and his philosophy of pushing the ball has had some very positive results. The jury is still out on the coach, however, and only time will tell if he has some sort of cohesive offensive plan that can be effective.

Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon Starting:

It's working. Offensively these two are both scoring in bunches. Defensively, they are bad. Not as bad as everyone seems to think, but still bad. They are undersized and do not stay in front of their men. Rose will improve defensively and Gordon has always been underrated as a defender (for instance on a scale of 1 to 10, everyone thinks he's a 2 when he's really a 4; still not great but manageable). This lineup is worth trotting out every time. They are the most effective backcourt the Bulls have, even accounting for the defensive deficiencies.

That all being said, they are not playing as efficiently as they could be. If you have been watching the games lately (you're probably pretty tired considering they start at 9:30 pm), you will notice that Gordon and Rose don't play off each other. When Rose has the ball, he makes a move and tries to get guys open and find them in good positions to score or he takes it to the hole himself. When Gordon has the ball, he dribbles around and then takes a bad shot. Gordon needs to run off screens more off the ball and give up the rock when Rose is on the court with him. What he doesn't understand is his numbers will get better rather than worse if he gives the ball to Rose. Rose can get him the ball when he has open shots. When Gordon dribbles around and shoots, they are usually off balance and ill-conceived. Play off the ball Ben!

What's The Deal With Larry Hughes:

Here are the stats prior to Sunday night's game, do with them what you will. This season he is averaging 14.2 points and shooting 43 percent as a starter while averaging 7.7 points and shooting 33 percent coming off the bench. He shoots 45 percent when the Bulls win and 35 percent when they lose. He averages 14.8 per game when the Bulls win and 8.8 when they lose. Hughes is eight for 12 on threes in Bulls wins and one for 15 on threes in Bulls losses.

So what does this mean? Is Hughes critical to winning games, or are his poor performances the thing that is making us lose them? Hughes would argue the team benefits when he gets more minutes. I'm not sure how to feel about any of this, since I hated him so much before. So long as he continues to take the ball to the hoop and play solid defense, he can have minutes. What my hope is is that playing Hughes was a directive from above, since Pax wants to deal Hughes and is trying to pump up his value. Even if Harry Lughes is here to stay, he is still 32, expensive and taking minutes from younger guys.

Luol Deng, Where Art Thou:

I don't know, where the hell is he? Just kidding. I guess I have to post some theories about what happened to his game. Here is the list of possibilities for things that might be causing him to be a non-factor so far this season:

1) The pressure of a new contract.

2) He doesn't know where his shots come from in Vinny's "offense".

3) He has fallen in love with his jumper.

4) His bad back and other assorted injuries are catching up to him.

5) Instead of working on his game this summer, he played in Europe.

6) He has been seeing time at the 4, as well as getting irregular minutes since the emergence of Harry Lughes, causing him to lose his rhythm.

Ok there are your options. It may be one or several of those reasons, or perhaps even one I can't think of. Either way, Lu needs to get it going for this team to have any real success this season.

The Bulls Frontcourt; Young and Possibly Retarded:

What happened here? Tyrus Thomas was supposed to finally take a step forward this year with Skiles not yelling at him all the time. His fragile ego was going to remain intact under Vinny and allow him to emerge as the true star that his athleticism and potential would let him be. Oops. We all got fooled. He sucks. I mean he is really bad. The worst part is the random decent game he has that keeps idiots like me hanging on to the hope that he can be good. He is terrible, and whenever he gets into a rut like he is in now, he can't get himself out because he is an idiot. There is no point continuing to discuss him because he sucks and it looks like he will be a non-factor going forward.

Joakim Noah has been a disappointment as well. I don't think anyone was pegging him as an all-star, but the thought was he could line up next to Gooden or Thomas and be a high energy guy that plays good defense and rebounds. Nope. He has been pretty much ineffective at center. I'm not sure he warrants getting only 6 minutes a game, but it's hard for me to argue with Vinny when Noah shows no life out there.

Gooden is Gooden. He is a great role player. He can score on the block and rebounds very well. Unfortunately he is playing out of position at the center spot (thanks to Noah's digression and Gray being Gray). His defensive lapses notwithstanding, he has been a key component to the Bulls early success.

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