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.
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.