The Bulls strength is finally in the front court

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For the first season in seven years, the Bulls will not open the season wondering how they'll get points in the paint.  Not since the 2004/5 season have the Bulls had a dangerous player in the front court, back then, despite whatever warts he had, Eddy Curry could give you some really high efficiency low post offense while Tyson Chandler and Antonio Davis could provide defense and rebounding.

With the addition of Carlos Boozer, the maturity of Joakim Noah, and surprise play of Taj Gibson, the Bulls have gone from one of the worst front courts in the NBA, to one which can carry the team on both ends of the floor.  

We've lacked a low post offense for so long, Bulls fans may have forgotten what it looks like, but with our dangerous front court, here's a few things we're going to see this year, that we haven't seen for quite some time.

The pick and roll will be a dangerous play rather than a frustrating trap on Derrick Rose.

The Bulls ran the pick and roll to death under Vinny Del Negro, and while I appreciate that Rose couldn't and shouldn't play a whole game trying to work in isolation, the pick and roll frequently led to Rose getting double teamed and trapped on the perimeter.

He would then make the correct pass, hitting Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, or Brad Miller.  However, Miller was too slow to take advantage, and teams were more than happy to let the Bulls offense be decided on what Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah could do with the ball in their hands.

That ends now.   Go ahead and leave Carlos Boozer open on a pick and roll, because if teams live or die by what Boozer can do while open with the ball in his hands, they'll mostly die.   He's a big enough threat that if there's a trap, teams need to rotate to pick him up immediately, except that Boozer's a great passer and everyone else on the floor is great at cutting to the basket. 

While teams can still play good defense, and the Bulls pick and roll won't be unstoppable, teams will have to mix up their coverage a lot more, and Derrick Rose is going to get many more single covered opportunities while coming off a pick.   In this scenario, he can use his speed to get to the basket and make things happen.

Look for an uptick in Rose's efficiency and free throw attempts due to having less coverage on the perimeter.

The Bulls interior defense will be tough

Many people express concern over the defense of Carlos Boozer, and I'm not necessarily one to disagree.  However, Boozer will improve the Bulls team defense.   What people forget in their angst over Boozer's defensive ability is the man he's replacing.   Brad Miller was more or less a terrible defender last season.  He'd occasionally use his size to great effect, but more frequently he was too slow to defend guys.

On top of that, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson should come back as better defenders as well.   Noah's growth last season is certainly well documented as he went from perceived screw up to borderline all-star.   He provides elite rebounding and very good help defense down low.  If his strength improves this summer, he'll perform better in the physical matchups as well.  He's also a perfect complement to Boozer defensively, as he can handle the weak side shot blocking and help defense.

Taj Gibson's defense didn't go unnoticed last season, but what might be under appreciated is how much he improved as the season went on.   His foul rate dipped as the season as he stopped making silly mistakes.   His box outs, man defense, and court awareness all took significant steps forward with more playing time.  As a 24 year old rookie, he's perceived to have little upside, but it still takes two years to really learn the NBA, and I expect significant growth this season, especially on the defensive end.

The Bulls will dominate the glass

Rebounding can be one of the most underrated and overrated things in the NBA.   It can be overrated, because players can rack up a lot of meaningless rebounds in a game simply by playing near the basket and the scheme of the defense, however, team rebounding makes a huge impact on every game.

The Bulls should own the glass on both ends of the court as all three of their primary big men have rebound rates over 10 per 36 minutes.   Boozer and Noah are amongst the elite rebounders in the NBA.  Their individual numbers may dip as they compete to collect boards, but as a team the Bulls should hold a significant rebound rate edge over their opponents every night.

If the offenses and defense of the two teams are evenly matched than the rebounding will determine the winner.   When the Bulls are overmatched on either end, the rebounding can level the playing field as well.  However, what I love most about the Bulls rebounding advantage is that it stops teams from slopping up the game.

The Bulls should play well on both ends of the floor, and one of the primary ways undermanned teams can keep up with a better team is to force turnovers and control the boards.   However, controlling the glass against this Bulls squad will prove nearly impossible.  That means the Bulls should do a nice job avoiding upsets and can scrap their way to hang in their against the few teams with more talent.

Final thoughts

It's an odd feeling preparing for a season where I'm not thinking about ways to get the front court player we've long needed.   The Bulls have finally addressed one of their long term needs and have put together a team with offensive versatility, defensive ability, and glass dominance.  I can't wait to see it come together on the floor.

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  • POWER FORWARD:

    That is the one position they did UPGRADE this summer. Hope Booz stays healthy.

  • THE GREAT TEAM TOURNAMENT:

    It's the FINALS of the GREATEST TEAM tourney on ESPN.com/NBA.

    The MJ led Bulls are going up against the Kobe (in the eyes of his fans) led Lakers. If you think MJ is better than Kobe, than VOTE 4 THE BULLS!!!.

    If you can't stand the ARROGANCE of Lakers fans, than VOTE 4 THE BULLS!!!

    If you are tired of all the media coverage they get, than VOTE 4 THE BULLS!!!

    If you can't stand all the FAKE CELEBRITY fans they get, than VOTE 4 THE BULLS!!!

    This VOTE 4 THE BULLS is a vote to show that there are more teams in pro sports than just the Los Angeles Lakers. Help ESPN/ABC recognize that today.

    Thanks.

  • As much as I like Noah and Taj....the Bulls are going to replace them with average NBA players hopefully. It is not going to be Asik and Kurt Thomas at Center. Maybe not this year, but next year. Do you think Noah/Taj will provide such a big advantage over Joel Anthony, Ilgauskas, Haslem and the other Heat guys. Jamison dominated them but couldn't do anything against an old Garnett.
    In the counter argument, What I think the value Noah/Taj might provide is during the playoffs or close games where they might make more plays to nullify less talented big men during crucial stretches. We are not sure if they are capable of that..

  • Trading Noah/Taj would be a huge mistake...who will we get to replace these guys?? The bulls will definitely take a few steps back. What if Melo gets injured? where does that leave us?, not a pretty sight! We already have our superstar D-ROSE! I'm bold enough to say this team we have now can win a title! We are stacked and ready to rock!!! DEFENSE WINS TITLES!!!

  • In reply to REDHOTBULLS:

    I think if Noah goes, then probably Taj is staying. I don't think it will be both going in this trade.

  • In reply to REDHOTBULLS:

    Doug, thank you for referencing the Bulls frontline from 2004-5. Many forget that is still the best Bulls team post Jordan. After their 0-9 start they played .644 ball (53 win pace) for 90& of the season. A major reason was the frontline. As a committee those 3 bigs had scoring, defense rebounding, and a lot of SIZE.

    Noah, Boozer, Gibson is certainly the best frontline in years. Only reservation I have is they are a bit undersized. That may be a problem against the better playoff teams.

    Noah is our only playoff-sized big man. By that I mean deep in the playoffs teams typically have two or three 6'11"+ bigs. Gasol, Bynum, on Lakers. Garnett, Perkins, Jermaine, Shaq, Erden on Celtics. We are currently a bit small to match up with those frontlines in a playoff series. And it looks like Miami may land Erick Dampier to pair with Bosh.

    I recall last season's Portland game where our center Noah had to guard their PF LaMarcus Aldridge, who was hot and Noah was only Bull who could matchup with Aldridge. (That was the game where VDN played Noah too much and he re-injured his foot.) Bulls won that game in OT but what if Greg Oden and was healthy? Bulls couldn't matchup with both Aldridge and Oden, and that hasn't changed unless Asik or Kurt Thomas become legitimate contributors.

    Boozer's a great addition, I just wish either he or Gibson were 2-3 inches taller. That lack of size may show up in playoff series, not so much in the regular season. We're in much better shape than last year, I'm just critiquing based on trying to build a championship team.

  • In reply to REDHOTBULLS:

    Doug you have written an excellent descriptiion of what the Bulls should look like in 2010-11!

    Based on your previous statements how could you write that No-Shot Noah is a near all star?????

    You have seen guys like Bogut, Gasol, Bosh, Perkins, Davis and even
    Boozer make Noah the flyweigth Florida fairy completely disappear
    under the rim becuase he is soooo stinking weak!

    Carmelo could put the Bulls closer to a championship. Noah and Deng are not capable of lifting the Bulls to the next level that is any where near a championship!

    Because oif their injury histories and wind problems Deng and Noah will more than likeley miss many games!

  • In reply to REDHOTBULLS:

    Redhotbulls

    What if Carmelo get injured! When did No-Shot Noah and the fragile Deng play a full season? Noah was winded for 1 2/3 seasons and now he has bad feet!

    Talent and Defense wins titles!

  • OK, fair enough. Though in the FIBA Worlds Erden looked much more polished than Asik and that's why I added him.

    So remove Erden from Celtics and they still have four 6'11"+ dudes. That's a tough frontline matchup for the Bulls in a playoff series. And that was my point.

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