The New Jersey Nets will stroll into the United Center to take on the (presumably) Roseless Bulls. The Nets don't appear to be much of a threat, but with Marshon Brooks back in the lineup and the potential return of Brook Lopez, they have potential to be a larger threat than their record would indicate.
Will Lopez go? Will it matter?
Brook Lopez is listed as questionable for this afternoon's game and might play in his first game this season. The Nets will probably decide at game time whether he feels good after warmups.
Under normal circumstances, Lopez would add considerably to this Nets team, but in his fist game back it's dicey how much he'll bring to the table. Will he have his timing down? Will he be in game shape?
If he's able to go, I'd imagine it will give NJ a big lift given their lack of big man options. However, due to the above mentioned concerns, I doubt he gives them as much as he will in say two to three weeks.
Our first look at Marshon Brooks
Marshon Brooks was at the top of Bulls fans shopping list on draft day and when the Bulls traded up in the draft most thought it was with an eye on him. The Bulls selected Nikola Mirotic, a guy whom many felt was a top 10 pick on talent but has a nasty buy out situation which could prevent him from ever coming over or make the Bulls wait two to four years.
While Mirotic has played well enough to continue to validate the Bulls appraisal of his talent, Brooks was a front runner for rookie of the year until he was injured in mid January missing the first two games against Chicago. He hasn't played nearly so well since returning from injury for New Jersey.
How to contain Deron Williams?
I've traditionally liked C.J. Watson on defense, but he's struggled with Rondo for a couple of games, so the Bulls will need to be cognizant of getting him some extra help on Deron Williams, the primary threat of the Nets offense.
I look for Chicago to trap on screen and rolls and see if the Nets bigs can get anything done once released. My guess is that they can't.
Beat them up inside
Whether Lopez plays or not, the Nets are soft in the middle. Lopez has never been much of a rebounder or shotblocker, and he's not an exceptionally quick athlete to provide help defense.
This means Noah and Boozer should consider their runs of big points and big rebounds to lead the Bulls while Rose is down. To the extent that Watson can get through Deron's defense, he should find himself with plenty of quality looks at the basket as New Jersey isn't going to provide much help.
Chicago should own the glass against these guys and outside of Kris Humphries hitting the offensive glass, the Nets don't have much of a rebounding threat.
Luol Deng time
The Nets have no one to check Deng who's been playing extremely well as an offensive facilitator with Derrick Rose out. Deng's logged back to back double digit assist games [the only two of his career], and is playing well on offense.
The Nets have no answer for Deng on the defensive end, so look for his solid offensive play [be it with the pass or shot] to continue.
Play low risk basketball
This Nets team simply doesn't have what it takes to beat Chicago unless they beat themselves first. As long as the Bulls aren't turning the ball over and giving up offensive rebounds their superior defense and inside presence should win out.