We're finally here. The Bulls open up preseason against the Memphis Grizzlies with a 7:00pm tip off at the United Center. Preseason games mean absolutely nothing in the outcome which is typically determined by the deepest part of the bench by each team. However, that doesn't mean something can't be ascertained by watching the important players play.
How does the starting lineup generate shots?
While the Bulls have in theory played inside-out [at least according to Tom Thibodeau whom always stresses this point], we know that in practice Derrick Rose typically controls the ball at the top of the key, breaks down the defense (with or without a pick) and looks for a shot for himself or others.
To the extent the Bulls play inside out, the majority of that "inside" is Derrick Rose breaking down the defense to get there rather than a pass to a big man to force the defense to react.
No one left can break down the offense off the dribble like Derrick Rose, so where do the Bulls look to initially create their shots? I suspect we'll see an offense that uses far more variety in what it does to create looks rather than leaning on the "you can't stop Derrick Rose even if you know he's coming philosophy".
1: Kirk/Boozer and Kirk/Noah pick and rolls
2: Noah in the mid/low post back down his defender then passing out
3: Boozer in the mid/low post working for his own shot
4: Quick passing to look for a seam for any perimeter player to drive through
5: Hitting Hamilton/Deng off of curl screens
If Rose is in the game, we'd see a whole lot of #1 but with him out I expect a greater distribution of the other options.
Do the Bulls continue to go with two five man units?
While the Bulls rarely subbed out five guys last season, the team would typically manage its substitutions closely together which effectively created two units: the starters and the bench mob. With Asik gone, the Bulls seem less likely to utilize a five man second unit.
If it works out that way, it will have a few interesting consequences. First, the five man unit philosophy probably contributed to the Bulls enhanced chemistry as a bench. They practiced together constantly and drilled together constantly against the starters. With guys playing with different players more frequently, they won't be practicing with the same exact units the play with as frequently.
The upside is that better players should be on the court more frequently. What the Bulls may lose in chemistry they should hope to make up in talent.
While I expect the Bulls to play with a shorter roster this season, it wouldn't surprise me if they stuck to the five man bench either. Of course, this is a trend we'll look for all season long and may be difficult to spot in a preseason game where the team goes much deeper into the bench than normal to give guys a few looks.
What does Marco Belinelli bring to the table?
Of all the newcomers, I'm most excited to see Belinelli. Does he put the ball on the floor much to help generate shots? Is he just going to fire up long threes all night? Can he play any defense? Marco Belinelli's the SG equivalent of C.J. Watson coming to the Bulls a couple seasons ago.
I was excited about what he did in spurts at his previous destination, thought he was a great player for the money, and was interested to see if he could develop and improve with a more structured and defined role. We get our first peek of that tonight.
Does Deng do anything with his left hand?
Deng's talked about how he doesn't think about his wrist anymore. How strong it is now. He may not need surgery after all. Last season he looked awfully limited handling the ball after the wrist injury. We get to see what a few months of rehab and strengthening has done to address the issue.
Will we see Deng driving the ball? Will we see him dribbling with his left? If Deng looks limited this early on then the collective fears of Bulls fans that he should have had the surgery will deepen.
Does Marquis Teague flash signs of promise for the future?
Get a good look at Marquis Teague over the next eight games because I suspect we won't see him play much after they're over. Whether Marquis is destined for the D-League or not is unknown, but he's sure not destined to have any playing time once Derrick Rose comes back and will struggle to find it while Rose is out unless there's an injury.
After seeing Marquis struggle in summer league that's probably a good thing for Bulls fans, but I still want to see Marquis wow me once or twice tonight with his potential even if there are struggles in between. I think having a week of real training camp probably helps him more than anyone else as well as the structure of a preseason game being a bit more serious than that of a summer camp one where most players are effectively hoping to show off for the European scouts in the stands.
The Bulls are back. Finally. Despite Rose's absence and the meaninglessness of the game, I'm jacked up for it. It's just good to have the NBA back again.