Chicago Bulls prepare to take on the Sacramento Kings tonight

As noted yesterday, the Bulls have a reasonably soft schedule to kick off the season and should look to build momentum early. The Kings are a team struggling through tough times with a mismatch of athletic young players that don't necessarily fit together or complement each other. They're dangerous in that they're stacked with talent but through last season lacked focus, teamwork, and purpose.

Contain the Kings athleticism

The Kings have significant athletic advantages at many positions on the court, particularly in the starting lineup where the Bulls probably play with a small athletic disadvantage at every position on the floor against the Kings.

Rip Hamilton will need to work hard to cover Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins is the big physical center type that gives Joakim Noah fits and Asik is no longer here to guard. Thomas, Thompson, and Johnson aren't particularly dominant players, but all of them likely have speed on their Bulls counterparts.

The Bulls should focus on keeping this game in the half court when the Kings have the ball and only pushing the pace high when they have opportunities for fast breaks. They don't want this to turn into a run up and down battle.

Buckle down on defense

The Kings bench have plenty of scorers in both the starting lineup and coming off the bench. What they lack is distributors and ways to maximize the scoring talent they have. The Bulls will need to play solid fundamental defense to slow down what I expect is plenty of one on one offense from the Kings.

If the Bulls can stifle ball movement and make Sacramento work for every shot, then they should contain their offensive players. The Kings have plenty of guys who can create their own shot, but no guys who are so dominant they should beat you. Keeping them out of a team game is the key to keeping them from playing efficiently.

Move the ball, work the system on offense

The Kings don't bring a bunch of strong defensive pieces to the table in terms of discipline and fundamentals. They have strong defensive potential due to athleticism, but they've yet to realize it. If the Bulls work the system, move the ball, and play patiently they should find plenty of quality looks through the system.

Expect Rip Hamilton and others to create some easy baskets by getting behind a Kings defense that may not get back quick enough.

Who can step up on the bench?

The Kings have plenty of talent on their bench to turn to. Thomas Robinson's an NBA ready rookie big man with a quality all around game. Aaron Brooks looked like a near all-star caliber PG just a couple of years ago, Marcus Thornton can fill it up Ben Gordon Chicago style, and Jimmer Fredette, Fransisco Garcia, and John Salmons are still left on the bench as well.

The Bulls bench doesn't look quite so fierce where their best scorer so far is Nate Robinson. Taj Gibson provides defense while Nazr Mohammed has looked solid on both ends of the court. The Bulls need Marco Belinelli or Jimmy Butler to step up and give them something, or they'll be riding the starters big minutes.

Prediction?

Bulls win. This Kings team has plenty of dangerous pieces, but I don't think they're ready to put them together on a consistent basis which puts the Bulls in good position to take this game. Chicago's lack of go to players on offense should be overcome with smart play and against a sketchy defense, and their defensive fundamentals should be enough to halt a sometimes disorganized Kings offensive attack.

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  • Good article Doug! If the Kings had Thibs as their coach they would be scary good! The Kings like you said have lots of young and athletic players but don't have good veteran leadership players and coach who gets the most out of his players like Thibs does with the Bulls. They have too many young guys overlapping each other and have even experimented with Tyreke Evans at SF when he won ROY and came out of Memphis a year after DRose at PG.

    I think we do win with our stifling defense but we need some offensive firepower as well as the Kings can score in bunches!

  • This was a good writeup. I missed these. Except it thoroughly depresses me that even a scrub team like Sacramento has so many offensive options compared to the Bulls. Lotta knuckleheads, but they can score. Unfortunately if they score 120, their opponent scores 130.

  • In reply to Hunter:

    Yeah, this team has a ton of young talent.

    It all depends on if Keith Smart and wrangle them all in.

    From the preseason, it looks like they'll be very competitive this year.

  • I hope the Bulls could eventually trade for Marcus Thornton, he's exactly what we need. I was checking out OJ Mayo and he played pretty good defense against Kobe, can't believe we took old hinrich over him and had to overpay him because his buddy skiles bid up the price.......sucks, anyway not to dwell on the past, the key for tonight is to contain Cousins, he has beasted on Noah in the past and our interior defense can't be lazy or this young athletic team will be flying around. They have to force outside shooting, contain cousins and outrebound and should get a victory. IF they get any confidence attacking the rim/easy buckets,etc..its going to be a long night for the Bulls.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Mayo plays best when starting, like he did in his rookie year.

    After he was benched and forced off the bench, he didn't have the same swagger.

    I would rather have Mayo than Thornton because Thornton costs way too much.

    Bulls should go after Tyreke, for Deng...but it would cost us taking on Salmons's too.

  • Sacramento is loaded at the guard position especially and I would love to have a guy like Marcus Thornton come to the Bulls. Heck I'd even be somewhat happy to get Francisco Garcia at this point! LOL We are going into the season very weak at the 2 guard positions and it is very hard to predict how we will do even regardless of the injury bug which is a very real possibility putting so much trust in the health of RIP especially, but also Hiny and Boozer, Deng, then Noah/Taj with their foot problems in the past etc.

    Well Thibs is our master coach at least and he will squeeze every drop out of this roster...thank God he is our coach...The Kings could do a lot better with a Thibs type coach on their team!

    I have cheered on the Kings alot in the past living in Sacramento during their golden days (CWebb, Vlade, Peja, Christie, Bibby) but those days are long over and they might be leaving Sac town anyways which is very sad because their fans are amazing! If anyone wants to see a awesome fan website check out Kingsfans.com
    WOW! Very amazing forum!

    GO BULLS!!! Sorry Kings! ;-)

  • In reply to smiley:

    Tyreke should be able to be had for Deng, but it would most likely cost taking on Salmons' contract.

  • Boozer+Rip+Butler+Protected 1st ...for... Warrick+EGordon

  • I think the Kings would take Deng for Evans but that would be a tricky move to make as Deng is very valuable to our team! I'd include Deng to a lesser degree but there with DRose, then Noah, then Deng as the Bulls pecking order. We have alot of $ committed to Boozer but I'd hope we'd offer him up if we wouldn't be killed in taking back bad contracts as his.
    We should be kicking ourselves that Mayo isn't our starting SG right now like he is in Dallas! He was there for the taking!
    I know we go after good character guys but even JR Smith could be our starter with RIP coming off the bench with those old bones of his! :-)

  • In reply to smiley:

    Mayo is proving what he really is, a starting SG, not a bench player.

    Just like his rookie year when he was starting, he put up close to 18pts and played good defense...just like he did last night, hitting shots and D-ing up Kobe.

    Man, we could have had him for $4mil.

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    I've wanted Mayo since the deadline two seasons ago. People forget he finished second in ROY voting - the only year he started. Mayo is a starter in this league. The Bulls could have traded Asik for him or gotten him this past offseason.

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    Still shocked that's all that Mayo could scrounge up.

    I figured that the Bulls had no shot at him because he would get the full MLE, or maybe even a couple of bucks more.

    Certainly would rather have had Mayo @ 2/$8 million than Hinrich.

    Actually would rather have Mayo @ 3/$15 million and Hinrich @2/$8 million instead of Rip and Hinrich.

    Obviously, we'll never know what direction the Bulls would have gone in had Rose not been injured

  • I see the Kings possibly winning this game because of their offensive options that they do have unlike the Bulls. Again, the Bulls FO had their chances to pick up some offensive talent but decided to go the cheap route and this ridiculous 2 year plan which won't pan out either. I won't be surprised at all if Sacramento won this game. Bulls better play their defensive ass off.

  • Some notes at the half.
    - Taj looks VERY un-Taj like tonight. The contract situation seems to clearly be affecting his play tonight.
    - Kirk and Robinson are holding up just fine thus far in the game. Combining for 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 points in the first half.
    - Boozer is having a quietly solid game. He seems to be playing within his strengths and not forcing things. Still not worth the contract, but ill take quiet production like this in a heartbeat versus athletic bigs like this that usually give Booze fits.
    - Jimmy Butler came to play tonight. Looking very active so far in limited minutes, doing a good job playing the 'Brewer' role so far. Lots of hustle on Offense and Defense.

  • It's official, the Bulls caved. We all love Taj Gibson, but he is now one of the most overpaid guys in the league(and probably on the list for the history of the league). Non starter, 4 points, 5 rebounds, 19 minutes tonight.

    The Bulls will now be overpaying him by at least $2 million per

    http://espn.go.com/chicago/nba/story/_/id/8578147/taj-gibson-chicago-bulls-agrees-four-year-38-million-extension

    Would you rather pay Gibby 4/$38 or Asik 3/$25. We will certainly find out over the course of this season. FYI, Asik put up 12(on 5 for 6 shooting) & 9 tonight. Close to the double double that I predicted he will average, but backwards with regard to points and rebounds.

    As much as I like Taj, push come to shove, I go with the mobile 7+ footer over the althletic 6'8" guy. As I have steadfastly maintianed, going forward, I would have kept them both, and would certainly rather have the 2 of them over the combination of Deng and Boozer. Especially in light of Rose's injury, I would have kept Asik and traded Deng this summer, and amnestied Boozer by no later then next summer. It just seems to me that it is easier to find a couple of scoring wings than it is to find what might be the best defensive bigman combo in the league.

    Given the loss of Asik, we were in a no win situation with Taj, but the silver lining has to be a boozer amnesty next summer.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Not sure how you think he is overpaid.

    Bulls got him at market value (don't fool yourself into thinking he wouldn't get $10mil per on the open market).

    But let's say he IS overpaid for his production...How the hell is he suppose to 'improve' or 'live up to his contract' when Thibs continues to play him 20min per?

  • In reply to YouBlewwIt:

    It doesn't matter hoe many minutes he plays. At 27 years old he is what he is, a defender who rebounds. He won't get any better than what he is offensively.

  • In reply to rob32:

    Except without getting any better offensively, in 20min he averaged 7.7pts-5.2rbs.

    In his rookie year, in 27min he averaged 9pts7.5rbs.

    It's safe to assume if he was a starter (or at the very least get starter minutes off the bench....30+min), he would average 11-12pts-10rbs (without an offensive game).

    Add that onto his defense, and he would finally become a legitimate 6th man favorite (if he comes off the bench).

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Actually, word is that the base pay is $8 mil per and it will only get to $38 mil in total if he achieves some pretty lofty incentives. In which case, he'll deserve it.

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