Loose thoughts on the Bulls entering camp

The Chicago Bulls have finally kicked off training camp and the NBA season is upon us with the first preseason game now less than one week a way. Here's the latest scuttlebutt and loose thoughts entering camp.

Can Derrick Rose really come back healthier?

Derrick Rose made some bold claims at media day:

"I can't wait to get back on the court to see what I'm going to do," Rose said. "I don't know how I'm going to play. I don't know what's going to be new about my game. It's just going to be exciting for everybody to see.

"I'm going to be a better player. My legs have never been this strong before. My upper body has never been this strong before. My core has never been this strong before. I'm going to see where it takes me."

We've heard all off-season long that Rose was never particularly limber, never had a great core, and had plenty of areas he'd never worked on until this injury. Derrick believes after improving in all these areas that he'll come back even stronger after the returning from the ACL injury.

History isn't exactly on his side here as ACL tears tend to shorten careers and lessen performance of the players who have them. That said, Derrick's youth combined with headroom he still had to improve athletically gives him a legitimate chance to turn this statement into a reality.

Who's the most impressive new Bull? Marco Belinelli

When asked who has impressed him the most, Derrick Rose responded with Marco Belinelli which is good news for Bulls fans not enamored with sketchy play and health of Rip Hamilton last season.

Of all the players to look impressive early, Belinelli is the one the Bulls need to play well. Derrick commented on being surprised by his size and ball handling. I have to concur with Rose on this one. After meeting Belinelli at media day I was also impressed with his size as well. While listed two inches shorter than Korver he seemed similar in size when seeing him in person.

Belinelli will be counted on to replace Korver's shooting, but he's more than just a shooter. He can put the ball on the floor, plays with more athleticism and will likely fit in better defensively. Time well tell whether he can bring Korver's high basketball IQ to the table, but at 26 years of age he still have a chance to get considerably better whereas Korver's on the decline and has a very limited skillset with one elite skill.

Belinelli vs Hamilton vs Butler would appear to be the biggest and perhaps only camp battle for a starting position. It seems unlikely that Thibodeau starts Taj over Boozer, Hinrich's spot is secure while Rose is out and Deng/Noah are the obvious and only choices for their position.

The real intrigue will be in who wins the shooting guard spot. It wouldn't surprise me if Hamilton is already somewhat locked in based purely on reputation/ego, but he shouldn't be. Not after last year.

Taj nearing an extension?

Aggrey Sam reported on twitter that the Bulls were getting closer to a deal with Taj Gibson.

There's significant pressure on Chicago to get a deal done with Taj this off-season as they just watched Omer Asik walk away. Granted, the Asik situation was difficult in that Chicago couldn't offer him more than five million per year themselves, and the Gilbert Arenas provision created an odd loop hole that allowed for an unnatural back-loading of his deal that wouldn't apply to Gibson.

Still, it's hard to imagine Taj Gibson not earning 10 million a year in the open market next season given the going rate of defensive big men. The Bulls would likely prefer to lock him up this season at a much lower total while offering Taj the security of getting a deal done early.

Given Taj has played through a number of nagging injuries and just watched a teammate go down with an ACL injury, I expect him to be somewhat reasonable when considering the risk of playing the season without an extension. Taj likely only has one monster extension in him, and if he were to suffer a significant injury than his present earnings have been no where near the amount required to be set for life.

While no numbers have been leaked as of yet, I expect Taj to sign a deal for around four years 32 million if an extension gets done.

Outside of Rose, everyone's healthy. For now.

Luol Deng said his wrist has felt better and better as time has gone on since tearing a ligament in his wrist and hopes to avoid surgery all together. Joakim Noah's completely healed from the severe ankle injury he suffered during the playoffs, and according to KC Johnson, Tom Thibodeau noted that Boozer and Hamilton entered camp in better shape than last season.

With Derrick Rose out and Asik in Houston, the Bulls have precious little depth to work with and will need to play this season with as few injuries as possible to have any chance at competing for a seed in the top half of the bracket this season.

It's typically not noteworthy for a team to be healthy at the start of training camp, but with potential wrist surgery hanging over Deng's head and Noah recovering from a significant injury, the news is more meaningful for Chicago.

The Bulls are carrying massive health risks at virtually every position. Hamilton has been injured for multiple years in a row, as has Hinrich. Noah's had his share of injuries while Boozer's carried a ton of injury risk for his entire career, and finally, Deng still may possibly need wrist surgery at some point.

Chicago can hang on without Rose, but only if everyone stays healthy. Things look good for now, but history would put long odds on it lasting the season.

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  • Always kind of liked Belly even though I haven't watched him closely, he just seems like a guy that would fit in well as a SA Spur, which isn't a bad thing.

    In fact I am a bit surprised that he was available for the minimum, which kind of scares me about him.

    As much as I ended up liking(unexpectedly) Korver, I think that his performance as a Bull was overated on offense, and while not great, underated on defense.

    Belly definitely has a chance to be a better overall player, his effort on defense(which I don't have a feel for) will be the deciding factor.

    I am genuinely looking forward to seeing both Belly and Robinson as Bulls, VladRad and Nazi, not so much, while Hinrich is just Hinrich.

    Again, losing Asik(especially for Nazi) is the only loss of the offseason that really bothers me, and the one thing that could turn our bench mob from a positive to a negative. I believe that the loss of Asik could be the difference of a healthy Bulls team beating the Heat, Celtics, Lakers or Thunder. In fact Asik could start for 3 of those teams, and make them better.

    I see Bozo playing a good amount of center with the second unit. Asik and Taj were dominant together, clearly Bozo and Taj will not be. Will bozo's additional offense make up for the massive degradation in the second units defense.

    Going forward it is going to be very hard for me to watch Asik's career develop. I want to root for him to do well, and become a legit starter, ala Gortat, but if he does so it will only make the sting of losing him that much worse.

    Maybe we can trade Bozo for him in year 3 of his(Asik) contract, which would be Bozo's last($14.8 vs .$16.8).

    Go ahead, call me crazy, as I expect that many of you will.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I generally agree with your thoughts here, though Beli didn't sign for the minimum, he signed a one year deal at the BAE (shade under 2 mil).

    Bummer with Belinelli is that we aren't likely to be able to keep him next year if he has a strong season, but that's how you have to weigh flexibility going forward.

  • I've always liked Marco Belinelli it's nice the Bulls are finally bringing in players that can dribble the basketball and get their own shot. I think Butler and Marco Belinelli are going to have a great season for the Bulls.

    I personally would like to see them start him at the two guard since they have already tried their butts off trying to trade Rip. I'd move both Boozer and Rip to bench roles.

    Starting Rose, Belinelli, Deng, Taj, Noah.

  • In reply to SoulEater7:

    I'm cautiously optimistic on Butler and Belinelli. I think the potential is there, but these still aren't great dribble penetrators by any means.

  • I was saying during the summer that Belinelli might be a slight upgrade over Korver because he can do more things on offense. He can even play emergency point guard like he did in NO. One thing about Beli, he is not afraid to shoot, uses pumpfakes well and can drive a little. What I want to see is his passing ability off the pick and roll, something Korver did pretty well. I also like Jimmy Butler over Ronnie Brewer because Butler is naturally more aggressive on offense and can get to the line and finish at the rim. Right now Brewer is the better player but Butler has potential, even Korver said that about him. If we kept Asik, I would have believed this to be a better overall bench mob with Robinson, Belinelli and Butler bringing talents on offense that the Bulls lacked over the last several years....athleticism and the ability to dribble drive to create plays for themselves and others.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    I agree with you, when watching a Beli highlight video you notice how many of his shots were pretty bad decisions. They make good highlights but not necessarily good choices.

    I am excited about his scoring potential but am concerned a bit about his basketball IQ.

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    I think this will be a 50 plus win season. Rose will play 25 to 35 games. Hinrich gives versatility to leave Robinson in on those nights he is hot. Boozer will provide 18 - 20 efficient ppg while rose is out and Deng and Noah will score more than last season. The defense will be there and Bulls will be a 4 seed or higher. Only problem is that puts them in same bracket as the Heat in second round and Rose might not be at full strength yet by then.

  • In reply to MobtownLarry:

    I'm hoping you're right, but that feels awfully optimistic to me.

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