Top five things to watch for in the Memphis Grizzlies at Chicago Bulls preseason game one

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".

Some possibilities:
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.

Final thoughts

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.


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  • Should be very interesting too as the roster has had so many changes and it's just great seeing the Bulls on the court again even without Derrick!

  • Basketball!!!!!!!

    That is all.

  • I'll also be looking at Beli but the real X-factor is Nate Robinson, his high electric energy play could be the differences in wins and losses. He's our john lucas the third on steroids and you love his ability to shoot from the outside or attack the rim. I'll also be looking at Nazr, see if he looks good on defense and rebounding and if he gives us anything on offense, thats a plus. I expect the offense to run through Boozer and Hamilton, giving them the first option to score or playmake.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    I'm irrationally excited for Robinson as well simply because I've always thought he was an exciting player even if not a great player.

  • All eyes are on this new/current Bulls team understandably with pre-season kicking off tonight at the U.C.(No, I will not be buying any tickets this year in protest, but post outrage I blame no die hards for going to Bulls games, Reinsdorf be damned).

    Quickly, back to the future though, did anybody see Nikola Mirotic aka Mr. 2015 and Real Madrid playing at Toronto aired on NBATV last night?

    Basketball junkie that I am, watching a few preseason games already I've noticed teams playing starters and regular rotation guys a lot of minutes. Maybe due to the lack of offensive chemistry last season with no camp to jell /the lockout? That Denver vs Clips game the other night definitely had a regular season feel as in intensuhteeee(Norm) to it.

    While Mirotic missed several threes against the lowly Raptors, he stil managed to eek out 17 points and 12 active rebounds. Mirotic with his right hand near the post can flat out drive with elite speed for a four IMO. He has some nice floaters and extended hooks/finger rolls going to the basket. You can laugh, but what surprised me as much as anything was his tenaciousness and a bit of a nasty streak on defense. He'll always be marginalized by a lack of elite lateral quickness i.e whitey syndrome, but his instincts and effort are very good from what I he played most of the game against an admittedly soft but talented opponent in Barngani. Also after a questionable foul call(IMO) he got a technical(which I actually kind of liked that he had the balls to do that) especially when he otherwise carried himself with class and poise.

    Waiting two more years(three really) sucks or however you want to look at it summer of 2015, but I think at minimum Nikola is going to be a solid, solid starter at PF for the Bulls or some NBA team. That is if he can bring that kind of energy and ability to put the ball in the basket on a nightly basis which is always the key no matter how much talent there is. There is no doubt in my mind that he was a great pick by Gar/Pax and that includes Marshon overrated Brooks.

    As far as tonight's game, well, everybody seems excited about the Bulls being back so who am I to rain on the parade? Honestly if replacements Belinelli and Nazr play hard and display a good team attitude then I can see enjoying watching some Bulls games. Hopefully Jo and Taj can stay healthy and Hamilton can actually manage to play some basketball though we'll have a stretcher ready, just in case.

    I still have a bad feeling about Deng from what he's been sayig "it is what it is" that his wrist is still going to be an issue, but no sense in worrying about it as preseason and November will tell us one way or the other.

    A big question for me is will Jimmy Butler be able to provide any kind of consistent offesne aka hit open shots? Also, will Robinson mind his p's and q's under Thibs who he seems to respect as previously playing for him?

    Despite the crushing dissapointment of last summer's blown opportunity draft and dismantling, yes it was deflating as a Macy's Day baloon post parade despite new season/turn the page optimism.; yet if everyone stays healthy(hardy, har), but it is possible, then this could actually be a fun team to watch especially come February/March with a limited but not limited in spirit Derrick Rose. I hope the Bulls pull off a May Surprise, and yes, make it back to the ECF(where we can be summarily slaughtered by the firm of James, Wade, and Allen).

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Sam Smith had similar things to say about Mirotic. I can't wait to see him come oer.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    That soft but talented barngani backed mirotic down in the post with ease. I'm fine with mirotic not coming for another 2-3 years because he needs to get stronger. If he comes sooner he will get abused.

  • Oh, I forgot to mention congrats to Thibs on the new contract, please continue to develop relationships with players, only harp on players on say every OTHER play, and seriously everybody likes Thibs and wants to see him grow and succeeed, but he's got a ways to go to prove himself as a take a team to point C winner IMO. And that's a good thing, in fact the most fun thing in sports perhaps, the proving ground. Let's goThibs. Take the next step. Please guys, please stay healthy! Go Bulls!

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Thibs never harps on players in the press, and I think that's the main thing they appreciate. All coaches ride guys in practice, but he defends everyone in the press.

    He was talking about how good Boozer's defense is in the press for Pete's sake.

  • Am not excited about Bulls basketball as everyone else is on this thread. It will be good to see some basketball but it wont be the same knowing the Bulls have fallen behind the pack of talented teams in the league, and knowing their owner has taken the cheap approach with the make up of this current Bulls roster after 2 regular seasons with the best record in the league. it sucks that nothing was done, as far as bringing in players to build towards the future to compliment Rose when he returns. 5 or more years has been added to the Bulls drought for winning a championship IMHO. I will be watching from afar and not as much and wont be attending any Bulls games at the UC for the foreseeable future in protest as well. I will still support the team at away games when I have the chance and hope that they can somehow have a good year this season

  • In reply to Reese1:

    I don't see how anything done this year would add 5 years to the title drought. You don't think there will be an opportunity to add a Courtney Lee or O.J. Mayo type for 5 years?

  • No not with the Bulls being as cheap as they are, No I just dont see it happening. And im not as sold on the euro guy as everyone is. Bulls owner and management will have to get very creative in bringing in a Lee or Mayo type of guy with the rescent and always cheap history of the ownership. Some big trades will also have to be made with fan favorite players and future draft picks that the Bulls have. Trust me on this Doug, when I said a while back about the Bulls being a mediocre team I seen this coming 2 years ago. One big injury to Rose and this is where the Bulls as constructed is now, on paper mediocre. However I will give them a chance to prove me wrong with their play on the court once the season starts. But I find it unlikely that I will be wrong.

  • In reply to Reese1:

    If the Bulls are going to be cheap then they're going to be cheap, but nothing they did this year prevents them from not being cheap in the future.

    The Bulls are mediocre without Rose. The Thunder would be mediocre without Durant too. If Rose is back, the Bulls aren't mediocre, they're really, really good. Not best team in the NBA good, but still top five good.

  • I expect to see an offense that will be painful to watch. Hinrich over-dribbling, Deng playing one-handed, Noah shooting airball skyhooks, Boozer taking fadeaway jumpers and Hamilton faking an injury so he doesn't have to play. Instead of going all in or backing up the truck the Bulls settled for the soft, cushy middle.

  • I'll be excited to see Nate Robinson play. He was a good grab this past offseason. Nate has been a fan-favorite everywhere he's played and I don't see that being any different in Chicago. The guy is fearless. Just last season he earned mythic status in GS for the way he caught fire against the Heat.

  • Didn't bother watching because it's pre-season but 11 free throws for Deng is a good sight to see in the box score. Anyone who did watch able to comment on how he got them? Was he able to dribble with his hurt hand unlike last year, or did Memphis just not know he was playing one handed?

  • It seems Thibs is aware of the impending offensive stagnation, that's why they've been running the ball at every opportunity. If they walk it up court, we'll be seeing those overdribbling, Boozer fumbling, etc.

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