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.
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.
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.
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.