It's tough to pick a headline for a preseason game where there was so much to take away. Of course it's the first Bulls action in since last April, so it'd be easy to get over excited about anything that happened, but there were some significant takeaways from this game.
Before going anywhere too deep in analysis, I'd like to point this out, normally in preseason you add in the caveat "it's only preseason", but these teams played each other with a playoff intensity. Fights almost broke out twice, the groups clearly don't like each other, and so, I'll say this. This wasn't just a typical lazy preseason game, these guys were really going at it.
Let's start with the good:
Derrick Rose looked pretty good
He was one for three on jumpers (his make coming on a three) and three for four at the rim and drew another foul on a drive to the basket to add two free throws. Overall, he was defended by one of the more athletic point guards in the league in John Wall and didn't seem to struggle getting to his spots.
He broke down the defense numerous times off the dribble and only one of his makes was on a fast break (which should have been an "and one" as well.
The story about Derrick Rose after this game is that when it was over, I didn't think there was a story about Derrick Rose. He just looked like Derrick Rose. It felt so natural that I'd forgotten he hasn't looked like Derrick Rose for about two years and this is actually a huge deal.
That's the best news that could possibly come out of a preseason game for Chicago, and everything afterwards pales in importance to this.
Pau Gasol's defense
Pau Gasol had three blocks in 25 minutes had a bunch of tough physical contested rebounds and looked pretty good defensively when not caught up in a pick and roll. He moved pretty well to play interior help defense and looked very solid.
Gasol is very clearly a center at this point in his career. When he had to get 10+ ft from the basket his ability to stay with guys was compromised, but when he was near the basket he was actually really good defensively. I expected the poor perimeter defense but was pleasantly surprised by his quality defense down low.
His offense wasn't particularly fluid and will need some work, but I think he'll fit in much better than Boozer simply because he won't be a huge defensive sieve.
Doug McDermott's ability to garner attention
McDermott had a busy first minute of NBA action, pulling down a tough contested board, then throwing the ball away immediately, then getting fouled on a drive to the basket.
Overall he scored eight points in his 25 minutes with 3/5 from the line a Luol Deng'd jumper (ie, both feet about two inches inside the three point line) where he came off a hard screen and had a lightning release, and a quick release three.
What was more impressive though was the Wizards defense was already treating him like Ray Allen. He caused multiple hedges and shifts in the defense where guys refused to leave him to double team and had to run like hell to chase him around screens.
His activity was a huge plus, and I'll say it now. Doug McDermott needs to start and finish games for the Bulls.
Nikola Mirotic can play
Mirotic didn't look like a whole lot in his first stint of minutes on the floor he was 0-1 on a corner three that barely grazed the rim. He missed his next three point shot as well, and overall when playing with/against the real players he looked fairly static and uncomfortable.
As the game wore on, he played better and better. In the fourth quarter, he was the only thing keeping Bulls fans awake as he knocked down three triples, scored on a couple drives, and got to the free throw line too.
His physicality picked up considerably as the game wore on, and while it will likely take him awhile to find his niche in NBA basketball, the signs are all there that he'll be a baller. He ended up leading the team with 17 points on 5/9 shooting.
Mirotic has a high, awkward release on his shot that will make it very tough to block but also looks like he's forcing every jumper he takes. He had one play where he grabbed a rebound, looked for someone to outlet the ball to, couldn't find anyone, dribbled up the court, and knocked down the pull up three when no one stepped out on him.
Overall, I'm excited about Mirotic's play and hope he brings the level of aggression he brought against the scrubs against the real players next game.
Everything but Jimmy Butler's shooting
Butler looked like a beast on defense, he led the Bulls with five assists, he rebounded well, played with tremendous activity, and in general looked great at everything except shooting the basketball.
While just 1/7 from the field, he did get to the free throw line on four possessions for eight free throw attempts to give him seven points on the night.
The not so good
Taj Gibson was cringe worthy
Not only was his offense terrible (3/12 from the field), but he went into an Eddy Curry black hole mode on offense. I don't know if he felt he had something to prove, but he was forcing shots all over the place and didn't appear to want to give the ball up when he was down low.
Lots of turnovers, no blocked shots, pedestrian rebounding in his minutes, overall, it wasn't a good stint for Gibson.
I suppose for the hell of it, we'll raise the question of whether he's pissed that he's going to be coming off the bench again. He said he's not, he said he wants to win 6th man of the year. However, he played like he was pissed about it today.
Starting unit had little chemistry together
With Derrick Rose, two elite passing big men, a three point specialist and a guy who can slash if given a little room, we'd hoped to see some offensive magic.
It wasn't happening right away. Rose looked great individually, but everything else looked clumsy. Gasol didn't look good on offense early with this unit, Noah looked rusty as hell the whole game (not a surprise given his limited basketball activity over the summer), Butler couldn't score and Dunleavy's lone three came when playing with Kirk Hinrich.
Overall, the unit just didn't look like they had much continuity together yet.
It's no secret I think Doug McDermott should be starting. He played very briefly with the four starters (maybe for two minutes) but it wasn't enough time to see how things looked.
It's not a big concern yet, working this type of thing out is what preseason is for, but it's where the Bulls are at right now.
Aaron brooks didn't impress me much
He looked fast and knocked down a couple early threes. The positives end there though.
He looked completely out of control frequently and was careless with the basketball. His three turnovers were probably lower than he deserved as he missed the mark on plenty of other attempts.
He tried to play the Robinson/Augustin role at times and act as a scorer for the team but good things rarely happened when he did. he finished 2/7 missing all five shots after those two early threes.
We'll see what Brooks can do with more time, because the speed and talent is there, and the Bulls need a guy like Brooks, but he'll need to play better as time goes on in order to earn some minutes.
I really don't want to watch Kirk Hinrich anymore
Yes, he had six assists vs no turnovers, and I'm sure someone will go on about how great he is about running the offense and his grit and whatever.
However, he was 0-5 from the field. His defense now largely consists of grabs, holds, and veteran moves that he tries to get away with.
For a BAE guy, I suppose he's fine. He's solid, dependable, good character guy, but you just wish he could put the ball in the damn basket at a better rate.
Tony Snell still stinks
I've been saying all summer that this guy isn't part of the Bulls rotation and not to be fooled by anything in Summer League because the way he compiled his numbers wasn't impressive.
It looks like Tom Thibodeau agrees as Snell only played the fourth quarter with the scrubs and rookies.
In his 12 minutes he had 1 board, 1/2 from the field, and two turnovers. Thibs has been saying Snell needs to improve in the camp interviews, and it's clear that Thibs doesn't think he's a rotation guy.
I agree. He's not. Tony Snell is not an NBA player.
Bairstow didn't play in the game. I can't imagine him cracking the rotation anyway.
Soloman Jones looks like a better option to me than Nazr Mohammed, but I'm sure we told Nazr to buy and not rent already.
The Bulls play again tonight against Detroit. Awesome to have a quick turnaround and get to see it all again.
Basketball is back and I'm loving it.
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