Hollinger picks Bucks over Bulls

In his season preview, John Hollinger takes the Bucks over the Bulls by a game. 

Bucks:

Fear the deer. The Bucks won 46 games last season with numerous
flaws, and they spent the offseason aggressively addressing most of
those weaknesses. The only real decline will come at backup point guard,
where the Dooling-Boykins combo is unlikely to approach Ridnour's
career year.

Nonetheless, there is plenty of room for
optimism. The Bucks have a pair of second-tier stars in Bogut and
Maggette, and the hope that Jennings and even Salmons might join them in
that category. Moreover, they are one of the deepest teams in
basketball and should be able to match up in any way needed.

In
projecting the Bucks' record, I had two big questions. The obvious one
is health. Bogut's elbow is one concern, but the oft-injured Maggette's
availability is another. Both players have enough of an injury history
that I was conservative with minutes estimates for each; if they can
stay healthy for 75 games, the Bucks will achieve beyond what I've
written here.

The other confounding prospect is the
defense. It's a credit to Skiles that the Bucks played so hard last
season and finished third in defensive efficiency, but it also begs the
question of whether they're doomed to regress. Most of the new players
aren't accomplished defenders, most notably Maggette, so this is another
source of potential slippage.

Nonetheless, it's hard to
imagine this team missing out on the playoffs. If the D holds up, the
Bucks should be in the mix for one of the top seeds in the East. If so,
Milwaukee will continue a remarkable and unexpected shift to prominence
from what seemed a hopeless situation two seasons ago.

Bulls:

There's no question things are looking up in Chicago. Thibodeau is
just the guy to take an already talented defensive group and turn it
into a force of nature, and Rose is blossoming into one of the game's
top point guards. The easily forgotten Deng remains one of the best
small forwards in the conference. Throw in the emerging Noah-Boozer
frontcourt and the promising Gibson-Asik pairing to back them up, and
the Bulls should be a top-five team in the East for years to come.

Unfortunately,
I don't think the Bulls' offense is going to match its defense. Rose,
for all his gifts, is not a good long-range shooter, and that replicates
a weakness found up and down the roster. The wing players as a group
are a grade below what's found on most contending teams, and any
injuries to the historically fragile Noah-Boozer combo will blow open a
crater in the frontcourt rotation.

I expect the Bulls to
be a good team, but not anything more. They could easily be a top-five
defense and could place two players into the All-Star Game, but I have a
hard time seeing them moving above the league average in offensive
efficiency. Until or unless they do, 50 wins is their ceiling.

Hollinger seems to love Corey Maggettte far more than any of the teams he's played for.  Maggette has piled up lots of points on high efficiency for losing teams his entire career.   I don't know anyone else who considers him a borderline star.  He also calls Drew Gooden a great value contract.

The one concern I have for the Bucks is that they were the #3 defense in the NBA last season, a tribute to Scott Skiles defensive genius IMO, but the roster moves made this season appear to be made almost as a taunt.   Drew Gooden is one of the worst big men defenders in the league.  He rebounds well, he has the size and athleticism, but he just has god awful court awareness.

Maggette's reputation is fairly similar, but since he wasn't on the Bulls, and I like to really watch a player a ton to make those judgments, I won't say for sure.

Either way, the Bucks will be hard pressed to defend at the same level this season.  I look at their roster vs the Bulls roster from position basis, and I simply don't see how the Bucks end up with the better team.   The Bulls have mammoth advantages at PG and PF, while the Bucks have a large advantage at SG only if Salmons continues to play well (which he's basically never done for more than half a season after a trade).   They have an advantage at C as well, but not a large one, and I'd definitely give Deng the nod over Maggette at SF though Maggette has his strengths.

The  Bulls bench is just as deep with Gibson, Watson, and Korver making up the remainder of their top 8 rotation against.

At any rate, I look at the Bucks and think, they'll be hard pressed to repeat.  They had performances by several players (Salmons in particular) that I don't think are sustainable and brought in two guys who are terrible passers and defenders making things even worse for Salmons as he went from an isolation scorer on a team that needed one to one of three isolation scorers likely to be on the floor at any one time.

The Bucks are cursed with the same flaw as the Bulls in terms of a lack of outside shooting, so I don't think they'll have that on us either.  I'd expect the Bulls to be better on both ends with a better closer and a cast that meshes more with each other than the Bucks.

Maybe I'm just a homer though.

Comments

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  • OH NO... do we really have to fear the dear? The Bucks will be a good team but I do believe the Bulls will be able to handed them.

  • I think Milwaukee will be right in the mix record wise with the Bulls and Atlanta and the likes for much of the season. However, the Bulls, on paper, look to easily be the better "team." I think Doug's point that the SG position is really the only spot we are weaker in rings true. Rose & Boozer are way better, Noah and Deng are close match-ups. As for Brewer, i think he can easily defend Salmons, but lacks the offensive firepower. I am predicting the Bulls go 3-1 head-to-head with the "Fawns" this season LOL

  • Hollinger, like many fans and commentators, oftentimes loses sight of the bigger picture. The game is not won on stats alone. And sometimes you can line up all the stats in the world, but you're not going to be able to predict what's really going to happen till you play the games.

    I too think the Bucks improved, and because of that, I think they will push the Bulls pretty hard for top spot in the division. But I just can't see them not slowly falling 3 or 4 games back when it's all said and done.

  • I think the Bulls might have the SG problem under control by inviting Kyle Weaver to training camp. Under Thib's training he might become a steal because he's already shown flashes of being a solid scorer and defender at the 2. He's young and long, can shoot and defend, and is coming into a system that will make everyone better. Management is doing some real thorough work in selecting a specific kind of player for this team. This guy did a funny backup move on Kobe when he played with OKC. He was injured and forgotten like a few other players on our roster. I think Thibs is like a walking Wikipedia of basketball that can study players and tell them right away what they need to do to become better players. Remember a rookie named Rondo who was like the 34 or 37th pick (or somewhere down there) and he's up there as a top 10 point guard in the league because he lived in the gym with you know who. That was no accident, players love this guy's knowledge base. I think Weaver makes the team and challenges Brewer for the starting spot at SG...

  • In reply to hinton980:

    I like the Weaver invite a lot. In OKC he was stuck behind Thabo, James Harden, and to some extent Russell Westbrook...but seeing as how shooting guard is still kind of a wildcard in the starting lineup, Weaver definitely has a chance to compete for the 2-spot, especially if he displays solid 3-point shooting in camp. I remember reading about him when he was drafted and he was noted for having some point guard skills, which will help when he's in there with Derrick and D-Rose plays off the ball.

  • In reply to hinton980:

    Bulls will sweep the Bucks this season, book it

  • In reply to hinton980:

    Rondo was the 21st pick...

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Thanks bullshooter, I know he was a low pick to be competing at the level he's competing at, but so is Boozer! Thibs will squeeze a little more out of this roster than any other coach out there.

  • We have to do a stat analysis of how much ESPN's predictions are true. Whoever Milwaukee added seems to be really ordinary in terms of talent. Corey Maggette's efficiency is probably low and we have seen enough of Salmons. The only thing I would be worried more about Milwaukee is Jennings's becoming a star and Bogut being healthy. They can both be second tier stars and give the Bulls problems.

  • I have to wonder if the Bulls would be better with Maggette instead of Deng, he is a better shooter, scorer and gets to the free throw line alot

    MIght be a better fit with Rose than Deng is.

    Just my gut reaction.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Deng's injuries and VDN's coaching skills combined to make Deng look like he's not worth the contract he received. This is the year of truth for Deng. If he's anything less than a young Paul Peirce with more defensive skills then he might be close to Maggette's level. I think Deng will be a big improvement to what he produced in the past. Thibs speaks very high of Deng and is making him one of his priorities to get the most out of him. This will be a fairytale season for all of the bulls...

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Hollinger's projections are always based on numbers. Stats are cool to identify trends, but they can often be misleading when making projections. Numbers answer the "how" but not the "why." Hollinger can't factor in the intangibles (heart, effort, chemistry) - which by definition are not quantifiable - that often make the biggest difference in player and team performance.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    For the Bulls, I think Deng is a better fit at the 3 due to his defense and the fact that Deng will pass the ball more within the offensive sets and he'll move better without the ball. Magette is MUCH better at creating his own shot, but I don't think that's as important for the Bulls now with their current roster as it has been in the past.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    That makes me think that Hollinger is giving a nod to a team that did well last year and waiting for them to show they are not as good. Where as the Bulls are a new team that needs to prove itself first. I just cant believe you can blindly look at the rosters and think the Bucks come out ahead unless you assume the Bucks will remain on the roll they were last year, which was quite impressive.

  • And Maggette is a bad defender, or at least disinterested defender. Plus he needs to be one of the focal points of the offense to provide value. Deng is the opposite.

  • I think the bucks could surprise. I think the biggest thing for them is establishing a pecking order. They have too many scorers and not enough dirty work guys. Plus Jennings isn't a very efficient scorer, but there is no way they take the ball out of his hands and stunt his growth. So Maggette, Salmons, and Bogut are automatically competing for second. Bogut should be the guy, but he'll have to have the other guys passing him the ball, which can be problematic. Salmons could easily fall through the cracks and have another bad first half, and Maggette could be the ball hog who ruins the chemistry. This will be a harder team for skiles to coach than last year.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    "hey have too many scorers and not enough dirty work guys."
    -- Sounds like our Bulls if they pulled the trigger on Noah for Melo.

  • In reply to bullshooter:

    Skiles style doesn't fit this team, he's going to go insane coaching these guys.

  • True Doug, I'm just excited at how the Bulls are going after the best available talent left on the table.

  • I was thinking the same thing. Assuming both teams stay healthy, Jennings will have to have a monster year for the Bucks to edge past the Bulls. I think there won't be more than 2 or 3 games separating them, but Bulls' impact players should give them the edge.

  • Don't let Mappy hear you using that X-factor word, he'll have blog stroke in the form of predominantly capitalized letter words.

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