How good do the Bulls look heading into the regular season?

The Bulls made it through a perfect preseason without ever having their full complement of players available. Joakim Noah missed a couple games, and returned as Derrick Rose left. Derrick Rose came back and Noah was out the rest of the preseason. Kirk and Jimmy each missed a few games as well.

Despite the injuries, the Bulls still cruised through preseason and looked good doing so. Derrick Rose didn't leave any doubts as to whether he's back. He looks ready to crush through the league like a wrecking ball leaving carnage in his wake. The news couldn't get any better for Bulls fans as Derick playing at 100% or 90% is the difference between a legit chance to win the championship and not.

The rest of the team played largely in fits and bursts. There has been plenty of talk about a new offense and the ball seems to flow out of Derrick's hands much quicker than in the past. The offense seems to typically start with the PG dribbling to the top of the three point line, passing off to the wing then making a hard cut to the hoop then down the baseline.

So far, the Bulls have found plenty of seams to attack opposing defenses and have lived at the free throw line. They've done a nice job swinging the ball side to side to create weak spots in the defense and Butler and Deng have both attacked the basket hard when they've found them.

While the pick and roll is still an element in the offense, it seems to take on less of an importance than last season with the Bulls setting more backpicks for cutters than in the past. That said, all the elements in the offense were still there last season, it's just perhaps the emphasis of which elements to use has changed.

Strengths so far

As I noted, the Bulls have gotten to the free throw line a ton. This is also likely due to the caliber of competition in preseason. There are far worse, more foul prone defenders playing more minutes. However, Chicago has done a nice job getting the ball inside and getting a ton of shots at the hoop.

They haven't done so through the post game, but they have done so by driving the ball relentlessly towards the basket. Under the present rules, that's probably the best way to get scoring at the hoop as it's tough to defend the drive in today's NBA.

Rose averaged nearly 9.5 FTAs per game, Deng and Butler each averaged over six per game. Keep in mind that everyone was playing fewer than regular season minutes as well, so the per minute attempts were very high.

Derrick Rose looks like he really did improve his three point shooting. He connected on a very high percentage of his threes through the preseason (12/27 overall). Rose shot 47.6% from the field, but that included a couple shaky games at the beginning with his percentages and his efficiency was through the roof due to all of the free throw attempts.

Luol Deng also shot the ball pretty well from beyond the arc. He started off shooting very poor in preseason overall, and his non three point shooting was still a bit dicey at 42.7%, but he knocked down half of his threes which is a good sign for Chicago.

Taj Gibson shot nearly 60% during preseason and looked very smooth with his mid-range jumper. He's still not a force when it comes to creating shots, but if the can consistently knock down the open ones it will be a huge boon to the Bulls.

Kirk Hinrich played really well prior to getting a concussion. He shot the ball well, played hard, and looked very aggressive on both ends of the court.

The defense was very good, and the Bulls were missing their best interior defender for virtually the entire preseason. The Bulls defense looks like it should be an absolute terror this season. Especially if they close games with a Rose, Butler, Deng, Gibson, Noah lineup.

Luke warm

Mike Dunleavy jr didn't shoot the ball particularly well in preseason. He knocked down just 30% of his threes and was only slightly better from the field. That said, his play in terms of everything else was above my expectations, and I'm not really all that concerned about his shooting given his long track record.

I was a bit surprised how hard he fought for boards and a few of the heady defensive plays that he made while on the court.

Carlos Boozer didn't exactly tear it up this preseason, in fact he mostly looked kind of pedestrian, but I expect Boozer will have no problems logging another Boozeresque season of pretty good scoring/rebounding numbers when on the floor, too many turnovers, and too much ball stopping on offense, along with some of the league's most cringe worthy defense.

Marquis Teague started off the preseason really rough, but he improved as it went on. He still finished with more turnovers than assists which isn't a good sign for a point guard, but I still like his ability to get to the hoop, and his scoring looks improved.

Weaknesses

Jimmy Butler was just 2/11 from beyond the arc in preseason. After shooting around 40% to close out the end of last season and the playoffs, Bulls fans were hooping that Butler's shooting was legit and not a fluke. We'll have to keep hoping, because the evidence, in very limited attempts, doesn't look good so far.

The Bulls adding shooting in the draft, too bad that shooting can't shoot. Tony Snell is shooting 30% from the field and 25% from beyond the arc. Erik Murphy shot just 24% from the field and 23% from beyond the arc. I noted for most of the preseason and summer league that Erik Murphy doesn't look like an NBA caliber player to me. Still doesn't.

I'm a bit more patient with Snell, but I'm surprised how many Bulls fans come up to me and ask why I'm so down on Snell. Have you watched Snell play? He looks passive with the ball and misses most of his shots. He's had a couple flashes of solid play, and he looks comfortable driving at times, but his release looks much slower than I thought it'd be, and he doesn't look to be anywhere near the shooter he was built up as.

This isn't really a surprise given that his college numbers didn't support the reputation as one of the best shooters in the draft. Still, he has a legit NBA body with some legit NBA athleticism, and his muscle memory may be a bit off for shooting given that he bulked up a ton over the summer which will play havoc with anyone's shot.

I'm willing to wait, but I'm just not all that confident.

Nazr Mohammed looks done. Maybe this will be a good thing because he looked awesome last preseason and stunk, yeah, that's the ticket. In all seriousness, the Bulls more or less will have to go small or get killed if they have an injury to a front court player. I don't see how you can play Nazr more than five minutes a night right now.

To make things worse, the Bulls decided to keep Mike James on the roster as their 13th man. This gels with the rumors that Chicago is shopping Teague, but it makes little sense given that Nazr Mohammed and Erik Murphy both look like they have no business whatsoever on a basketball court right now.

As poor as Malcolm Thomas looked when he played in the regular season last year, I'd take him back over this pair here. We didn't really see much from Dexter Pittman or DJ White on the court, so I'll have to trust in the coaching staff that both were actually worse than Nazr/Murphy in practice.

Overall?

The Bulls look like they're bringing a more aggressive offense to the court this season. They're attacking the basket more effectively than in the past and Derrick Rose looks even beastlier than before.

The defense should be the best unit the Bulls have had in the Rose era, and their defensive line up looks much stronger offensively than it did in the past as well which should make them far more dangerous.

Shooting and depth are still big question marks for the team, and whether or not the Bulls have a real chance of winning this thing will likely come down to how healthy they are in the playoffs.

Comments

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  • Snell's numbers from the pre-season games are eerily similar to Bellineli's pre-season numbers a year ago. Snell actually shot a higher 3pt%, grabbed more boards and had more assists than Marco in less minutes per game. I don't remember a lot of worries about Marco's ability to shoot a year ago and he was fine in that regard during the season.

    Snell hadn't shot the ball well but his shooting mechanics are good and consistent, his shot should be fine once he adjusts his timing and stops rushing it. If anything I'm encouraged by all the other aspects of his game - his defense was ok for a rookie, rebounding was fine, his assist numbers were very good considering his position (finished second on the entire team along with Kirk in assists per minute) and he didn't force anything - just played within the offense.

    If (and when) Snell's shot comes around (and it doesn't have to be anything crazy, a 35%-37% from three would be just fine), I feel quite comfortable with him playing 5-8 minutes as a backup wing next to Kirk as a point guard. More comfortable than I feel with Teague running the offense with Kirk as the shooting guard at this point.

  • In reply to FibGld05:

    Belinelli had a proven reputation as an NBA shooter that Snell does not have. He also has a much quicker release than Snell. Snell looks more like a Nocioni type shooter, perhaps he'll be accurate but he takes awhile to load up that shot.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    If his shot was slow it would've been much easier to block it. Murphy for instance has a slow release which is why he got some of his mid-range and 3 point attempts blocked during the pre-season. Snell on the other hand was blocked once during the entire pre-season and even then it was on a layup attempt against the Bucks.

  • In reply to FibGld05:

    Not many guys ahve their jumpers blocked. Usually if you have a slow release you know how much time you need to get it off and don't shoot it if you don't have that much time available. Snell looks that way to me.

  • keeping a 4th point guard when we needed a big? maybe brian scalabrine, keith bogans and john lucas III should of joined training camp. I'm sure thibodeau would of had trouble choosing which blast from the past he likes best. This kind of reminds me of 2010 when Kyle Weaver outplayed Lucas III but the Bulls let both guys go so they can sneak in Lucas III a few weeks later because he's a thibodeau guy from the past. Seriously, they should of gave that spot to Malcolm Thomas, even at 6'8", he's still more affective compared to erik murphy. Malcolm Thomas can rebound and defend better. I guess they have no faith in Teague or Hinrich being healthy.

  • all the championship talk seems very optimistic..they are a good team, but championship level? idk..guess we will find out..cant wait for the season to begin!!

  • In reply to vikings1:

    A championship is optimistic but not out of reach. When we last saw Rose with the Bulls, they were a top-4 NBA team and look slightly better now than they were then.

    Besides, what else are we to talk about? Making the playoffs? Making a nice run? Championship or bust!

  • In reply to vikings1:

    I guarantee you the Bulls play the Heat in the ECF. Brooklyn is not a contender. We beat them with our 3rd stringers last year. They added two over the hill spot up jump shooters who can't defend anymore. There's not a position I'd worry about vs. Brooklyn on the floor. As for Indiana, they are pesky but they play our brand of B-ball and have less scoring punch. The hole at PG will be shown off this year with D-Rose out there. After that you've got Deng or Butler to put on George, and Granger is going to be hurt all season. Our front courts are very similar, but edge Noah over any big man in crunchtime (Game 7 vs. Brooklyn). If the Bulls play the Miami Heat in the ECF, you're talking about a 6-7 game series. So, the fact that the whole season will come down to about 10 possessions in the ECF vs. the Heat makes me pretty optimistic.

  • Yeah, they could use another big, but Booz and Nazr are better than you give them credit for. As for the rooks, they look like they're more worried about playing defense the Thibs way than looking for their shots. Give 'em a year to grow before condemning. We were never going to rely on them in crunch time this year, anyway.

  • In reply to EJMF:

    I'm not worried about crunch time. I'm worried about them even in any minutes.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Well, Doug, is that pessimistic or realistic? Probably a bit of both. I would say you are protecting yourself by keeping low hopes for Teague and the rookies - wise.

    However, based on recent draft history, tho, I feel the team will get something out of Snell and, if he isn't traded, Teague, too.

  • 1) It comes down to hitting shots and Butler/Deng/Dunleavy/Hinrich need to bury them when given the opportunity. Not too worried about Butler. I'll take Butler's 2012-2013 2nd half and playoff performance over 11 preseason shots when he missed a bulk of the preseason anyway. Fingers crossed here, but hoping that these guys can all average at least 36% from 3 on decent volume. (Dunleavy should be closer to 40% or more, obviously.)

    2) I'm concerned with Snell, too. I absolutely love the size and length for a wing. He is an above average NBA athlete at minimum and he can improve all-around through greater strength training. His shooting looks fluid and smooth, although slow. Perhaps he is streaky, because he has been either on or off going back to the summer league. I've seen enough to know that he is a good shooter and has the potential to be a great shooter in time. Maybe most importantly, he appears to be a hard worker and says the right things.

    He should fit right in and I will not be worried unless he is featured in next year's Summer League and he wets the bed. He is only 21 and is not expected to contribute much now. I complained about the Butler pick for at least a year. Scottie Pippen looked pretty bad his first couple years. Development is key and the Bulls needs to develop his body and mind (build his confidence) and hope his game follows.

    3) Nobody expects the Bulls can get to the Finals. I'm sure most would give the Bulls a 10-15% chance. As stated, the Bulls will only go as far as their health and shooting. Jimmy Butler may be the biggest x-factor out there! I think they can knock out the Heat if both teams are at full strength. But, I am high on Jimmy Butler.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Pippen put up 14 and 6 with 2 stls/game and 1 blk/game his second season shooting 47%. Its about the same Lu Deng did in his second year too. Since this is literally JB's second year playing, I expect him to put up those numbers (14, 6, 1.5 stls, .8 blks, 46% FG, 36% 3pt). He does that, he will wash out Wade when we play the Heat. Remember, in years past we had Rip, Brewer, and Bogans. He can't NOT be an upgrade!!

  • fb_avatar

    I try to stay away from stats and rely on the eye test.
    The Good: Derrick Rose is back! Enough said. I'd still like to see more assist, and less scoring from him. Tony Snell is the truth. The Kid has a good head on his shoulders when it comes to not making bone headed mistakes. His shooting stats are misleading because he's still getting used to the pro game. Don't sit him, play him this season. Taj Gibson...If he can keep it up playing this well on offense... Yes! Luol Deng looks more confident in draining those open shots...Keep it up Lu!
    The Bad: Marquis Teague has shown little to no improvement from last year. Mike Dunleavy is who I thought he was O-ver-ra-ted! Clap,clap clapclapclap! Where's that shooting touch @? I've read post that criticized the Rooks more than MDJ and I wonder why? The rooks have played in the NBA for 4 weeks, Dunleavy for 11 years. Hit the darn shot!
    The ugly: Joakim Noah's groin, Kirk's shoulder, Rose's knee, Taj's legs and the overall health concerns of this team. Saying a prayer for a injury-free season. Go Bulls!

  • In reply to Michael Cunningham:

    I don't know what eye test Tony Snell passed for you, but he didn't pass mine. He's young, small sample size, all the normal disclaimers, but he's got a long way to go.

    I think Teague looks more improved to me.

    I agree that Dunleavy needs to improve his shooting, but I'm not too worried about it given we have a huge sample size of him shooting well.

  • You know when the Clippers are proclaimed the best team in the West the NBA is in a sad state of affairs. The Spurs really let slip away a title they had in hand. Yes, the 'great' LeBron's Miami Treat barely survived the Geritol gang. Woo-hoo.

    OKC is crippled. Houston has Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons as the shaky compliment to Dwight and James(please see a periodontist so you can trim the Survivor slash lost on an island beard) Harden.

    New York? Really? Nobody thinks a Carmelo team will win. Nobody. Brooklyn Celtics? Please. Ship in the wheelchairs and Viagra(on the road groupies).

    Contenders: Indiana, Bulls, OKC if Lamb has delayed ROY and Westbrook comes back healthy, honorable mention to Clips and Rockets. Did I forget anyone?

    Nobody wants to admit that Rose still needs that second star scorer. How good could Derrick be with a second star to deflect attention from himself? Answer: maybe good enough to score efficiently in the playoffs as in dominate. Won't happen though so be prepared for some offensively hideous nights. Butler's no scorer anyone with eyes can see that. And, When the (Dun)Leavy Breaks,' sorry, not impressed. Bug eyes control freak Forman and emotionally disturbed Pax get Rose a SCORER you imbeciles.

  • I actually take the pre-season with a grain of salt. It is nice that the Bulls were unbeaten, but at the same time, they seemed to play with more effort than other teams. I got the impression that some of the opponents just wanted to sell tickets and collect checks while exiting the game unscathed. Even the Pacers and Thunder seemed to back it in at a point.

    That said, I do like what I've seen from the new offensive sets. People weren't just sitting there watching Rose dribble like pre-injury. The defensive 5 the Bulls can throw at a team (Noah, Deng, Butler, Taj and Rose) is just sick and may be more enjoyable to watch than an offensive explosion.

    If I had to handicap the season, I'd say 55-57 wins feels about right. If the Bulls are able to stay very healthy, I wouldn't be surprised by anything up to 64 wins. However, I just don't see the team staying healthy. A NBA title would be surprising, but only slightly. I would take this team over the Mavericks team that won the title a few seasons back; again, if relatively healthy. Conversely, a 2nd round exit after a physical series wouldn't be surprising, either; especially if either Noah or Taj are badly banged up.

    All that to say, it should be a very interesting season. The Bulls have a high ceiling. Here's to hoping they hit it!

  • hard to disagree with anything that you said. Out here on the west coast I was only able to see 2 and half games.

    Didn't see anything from Snell to be optimistic other than he has an athletic body. As I asked since he was drafted, how can you pencil him in as improving our shooting when he only shot 42% in college in a non major conference. It is way too early to know what we have in Snell, and we won't find out this season unless we have major injuries.

    Teague still isn't showing me anything, he seems passive and dumb.

    I didn't see as much from Dunleavy as I hoped for, especially the shooting, but maybe he just needs some time to learn to play with his new team mates.

    Taj looked much better, hopefully he can keep it up.

    Butler looks like he is still figuring out how to play with Rose, I expect him to get better as the season goes forward. I like the fact that he is still finding ways to get to the free throw line.

    Fingers crossed that Noah can still walk on Wednesday. I just don't enjoy watching the games nearly as much without Noah on the court.

    Rose looks awesome, even though he still looks like he puts way too much stress on his body on every drive to the basket. Would love to see him break 40% from 3 this season, average 9-10 free throws per game and 8-10 assists. If the he does that and the Bulls have the best record, he could very well win another MVP. If Miami doesn't have the best record the voters will be looking for someone else with a good story to give the MVP to. Like they did with Barkley and Malone during each of Jordans 3 peats.

    Can't wait for tomorrow night, it should be a ton of fun, well maybe 80% of a ton of fun.

  • Hello Ya All

    1---Bull's 'D' will keep Bulls in Most Games.

    2--- While Noah keeps covering for the Boozer, we'll be fine.

    3---Snell will help in a few games on 'O"...,will be fine in most games on 'D'. (I am curious to see if Snell rotates in for those games where Kirk is out. Dunleavy will show his worth in THESE GAMES)

    4---I'm guessing Murphy will get Garbage Time at the 4 and 5. Hoping Snell builds to 5-8 minutes Every Game.

    5--Taj played at the new contract value in the pre-season. If he keeps it up during the regular season, this could be the area of Biggest Improvement. (Lets all remember Taj always starts the season slow..,last year never pulled out of that slow start.)

    6---Lulls in the offense happened again in the preseason.., but more so when the lineup had lots of Snell,Dunleavy,Murph, and Nazr. Thibs wont throw these guys, in bulk, out there at the same time. (Thibs trying to help here with the new OFFENSE)

    Overall, Health will determine soooo much.!!!!!!

    Comments????

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    1, 2, 3, and 5 - agree.
    4 - I would not bet on any time for Murphy, but I hope I'm wrong. Guys have to see the floor to develop. Maybe there will be a lot of garbage time! They have to get Snell minutes, they will need him at least for the playoffs.
    6- Coaches have apparently figured out how to keep the ball moving on O - I wonder if Thibs is responsible or one of the assistants.
    At some point, unless the team is tanking, I am looking for a trade for the backup C.

  • fb_avatar

    Doug.... Very well said. You pay very good attention to the Bulls. Take it easy on Nazr. 5 minutes a night is about right. And yes you are VERY RIGHT concerning the center spot. However, I believe that if Noah has a recurrence of the groin or that nagging plantar faciatis (hope I spelled it right) the Gibby will BRING IT. Tune in at 6:20 tomorrow on ABC 7 Eyewitness news and at the end if my sportscast I will give you and the rest of our viewers my take on what will happen this season for the Bulls. Have a great day... On my way to Miami to see the Heat get BEAT

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  • Depth is a much bigger issue than shooting. Snell is really inconsequential because he wont' play in Thibs' system. Dunleavy is a proven shooter who will be fine, and Deng shot the rock great. Butler is going to be asked to be aggressive on the defensive end and be a playmaker offensively. If he knocks down ~ 35% from 3 thats a win and i think he showed he can do that. I don't think Nazr is done, but he is not a reassuring back-up center. It may be time the Bulls consider packaging that Charlotte pick up for a legit backup center. The Nuggets are stocked with bigs, and Anthony Randolph has a world of talent but will not play a lot now they have Hickson, Faried, Mcgee, Arthur. If this year starts looking like the year, I really hope our wussy management won't take the all too often "go with what we got" approach and try to load up - Miami cannot win 3 in a row.

  • Saw that Houston cut Camby. Anyone think the Bulls are still interested?

  • In reply to PaBullfan:

    I heard Camby's going to have surgery and may return to the Rockets if he recovers in time to contribute.

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