Posts Tagged ‘ESPN

28
Oct
08

Chicago Bulls 2008-2009 Season Preview

UPDATE: Multiple reports are out that Thabo Sefolosha will get the starting role next to Derrick Rose tonight over Kirk Hinrich. While it’s interesting that Thabo will get a shot, and not a horrible idea, he did not play all that much during the preseason. This is just another example of what worries me about Del Negro as a coach. It’s not that he won’t have good ideas or cannot communicate well with his team, but it seems like he just doesn’t know what he’s doing a lot of the time. Hopefully he’ll learn quickly, because I think it will be a long year otherwise. Thank goodness it’ll be fun to watch Rose regardless of the team’s record.

Projected Starting Lineup

5 – Drew Gooden

4 – Tyrus Thomas

3 – Luol Deng

2 – Kirk Hinrich

1 – Derrick Rose

Projected Bench

Guards

Ben Gordon

Larry Hughes

Thabo Sefolosha

Forwards

Andres Nocioni

Thabo Sefolosha

Michael Ruffin

Centers

Joakim Noah

Aaron Gray

Not Gonna Play

Demetris Nichols

Cedric Simmons

Michael Ruffin

9 Luol Deng SF 23 6-9 220 Duke $9,385,000
Deng needs to take another step this season. He gained good leadership experience over the summer with the British national team. Now he needs to bring that experience to the Bulls. The two players with the most years of NBA service on this roster, Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden, aren’t going to get that job done. Deng also needs to be more aggressive on offense. Too often he catches a pass, dribbles once and shoots. He needs to work on his triple threat game more instead.

90 Drew Gooden PF 27 6-10 250 Kansas $7,151,183
Gooden is the team’s most accomplished low post scorer. This ability will earn him minutes and seems to have earned him a starting role on opening night. We’ll see if Del Negro gets fed up with his lack of concentration the way Gooden’s past coaches have. Gooden is talented and in a contract year. I expect motivated play from him, but nothing we have not seen before.

7 Ben Gordon SG 25 6-3 200 Connecticut $6,404,750
Ben Gordon will score. However, will the team jerk him around after all of the contract issues over the summer? I envision a Reinsdorf-Paxson-led minimization of Gordon’s role unless they plan to trade him during the season, which is sounding unlikely. Anybody else think the toe stub thing was extremely strange? Poor Ben. Nobody is going to pay him his $10 million, but he also does not deserve the way the Bulls have treated him.

34 Aaron Gray C 23 7-0 270 Pittsburgh $711,517
Gray lost 30 pounds over the summer and while he was not overweight before, he was probably one of the slowest players in the NBA. His speed should be improved, but he is not going to outrun anybody. I think it was KC Johnson who recently humorously wrote that Derrick Rose might lap Gray in a down court sprint. Gray is a solid backup Center with a soft touch and a big body. The only problem is the Bulls do not seem to have a starting Center.

12 Kirk Hinrich PG 27 6-3 190 Kansas $10,000,000
So Hinrich is coming off the bench? I think if that’s how they’re going to use him, they need to try and trade him. Maybe he is too small to guard 2s every game and has had trouble adjusting to playing off the ball, but he is too valuable to play bench minutes. Sure, he would be a great backup PG, but does anybody else see that going over well for the long-term? This situation concerns me. That said, he did have a down year last season. If he does not revert to his prior form, maybe he will be best suited to come off the bench.

32 Larry Hughes SG 29 6-5 185 $12,827,676
While I do not wish the man harm, pain or misfortune, his injury was kind of a blessing in disguise. It will allow Del Negro to look at a back court situation he wishes he had. A situation with a manageable four guards deserving of time instead of five. While Hughes has really surprised me with his effort on both ends of the court in preseason – what is it, 2002? – he is still far and away the least valuable guard in the rotation. Too many bad, forced shots and too much defensive risk taking for glory steals. The Bulls would trade him if there were any other team in the league willing to take on his contract. Unfortunately the only team out there who might consider it would be Cleveland for Ben Wallace.

35 Demetris Nichols SF 24 6-8 216 Syracuse $711,517
May he’ll develop out of nowhere? Not going to see much playing time.

13 Joakim Noah PF 23 6-11 232 Florida $2,295,480
Noah has me worried. He was supposed to have the starting Center job all wrapped up but now it looks as if natural Power Forward Drew Gooden will start there. Though entering his second professional season, Noah is said to have major conditioning issues. And this from a lanky guy whose major assets are energy and grittiness? He was arrested in the offseason for carrying an open container and was found to have a joint hidden in a pack of cigarettes on his person. While the joint does not worry me the cigarettes do. This guy might actually be the one who would START smoking after becoming a professional basketball player. I still have very high hopes for what Noah will eventually bring to the team, but I am worried, very worried.

5 Andres Nocioni SF 28 6-7 225 $8,000,000
I expect Nocioni to settle in to a solid 7th man role, bringing energy and scoring off the bench while annoying other teams best scorers part-time with his in your face defense. He is not a great defender, but he can bug the hell out of some guys. He and Deng have the best rotation situation of any position on the team.

1 Derrick Rose PG 20 6-3 190 Memphis $4,822,800
He needs to start from day one. Looked great in preseason, showing the ability to get to the rim almost any time he wants. His defense still has a ways to go, but he will create a lot of open outside shots for teammates with his penetrating ability. If the season goes wrong, Rose will leave us fans with at least something entertaining to watch regardless of the record.

2 Thabo Sefolosha SG 24 6-7 215 $1,931,160
I guess Thabo is a starter. Interesting. This is a role he can grow into and be strong in. However, with guys like Hinrich, Gordon and Hughes on the bench behind him, how much time will he have to do so? Great defender. Good ball handler and passer. So-so shooter. Last season he showed the ability to get to the rim but had some trouble finishing. He has all the tools though we are still waiting to see him put them all together. Now is his chance.

15 Cedric Simmons SF 22 6-9 235 N.C. State $1,742,760
See Demetris Nichols but take away two years.

24 Tyrus Thomas PF 22 6-9 215 LSU $3,749,880
I expect a huge year from Thomas. He had a very strong preseason, showing a ton of energy and more desire than he has in years past. However, even though his mid-range jump shot is improving, he is settling for it way too much. I think his FG % in the preseason was in the mid-30s. That is not going to cut it. He needs to play to his strengths – opportunistic interior offense and help side defense – and bring the other aspects of his game along slowly. Playing with Derrick Rose should really help Thomas. These two, hopefully, will turn into THE duo for the Bulls for years to come.

Coach: Vinny Del Negro
I am worried. Very worried. Let’s hope I am wrong. He seems smart and likable. The players seem happy with him for now, which is all you can ask so far. However, tonight will be the first regular season basketball game he will coach at any level. When Michael Jordan decided to try and play major league baseball the White Sox manager at the time said, “I’m interested to find out if baseball is as hard as I think it is.” While I am no kind of basketball coach, right now I’m interested to see if being an NBA coach is as hard as I think it is.

Average Age: 24.3

Average Height: 6-7

Average Weight: 218

Source: ESPN.com – Height, weight, age and salary vary based on source.

Team Preview:

The Bulls are one of the youngest teams in the league this season and over the upcoming 82 games that fact is going to be visible in their play. However, recent Bulls teams that won 47 and 49 games were also very, very young. The main difference this year will be a head coach who has yet to coach a regular season basketball game at any level as well as an excessive depth of talent. In fact, the combination of those two features will ultimately spell doom for this team’s playoffs hopes.

The Bulls are crazy deep at every position, yet unfortunately lack any transcendent stars. Sure, Derrick Rose looks like he’s going to be a star in the near future, but is probably a year away at the very least. While most teams would probably envy the depth that the Bulls roster features, a head coach is totally new to the profession might have trouble with it. Del Negro’s inconsistent rotation over the course of the preseason doesn’t point to good things for the regular season. He’ll have some tough decisions to make with more players expecting not only major minutes, but to start than he has roles to fill.

The balance of this talented roster is indeed fragile. You have Thomas, who is entering his third season, a season by which players who are going to be strong pros usually start to show it. He’ll be facing off against Drew Gooden for minutes in a contract year for Gooden. The Bulls have two promising young centers in Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray, yet Del Negro seems poised to start the undersized Gooden at Center. This decision of course would leave two men who each thought he had a chance to start competing for backup minutes. And that’s just the frontcourt situation.

At the three, they have Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni. This position probably will feature the most stable rotation. Having just signed a large extension, it should be clear to everybody that Deng is the starter. Nocioni puts forth as much effort as anybody on the team, but is unfortunately only a so-so defender. That said, he brings an excellent scoring burst off of the bench. The only wrench that could be thrown into this rotation would be Thabo Sefolosha being forced to play more at the SF position than his natural role as a 1 or a 2, which brings us to the guards.

Five guards on this roster have realistic expectations of starting. Hinrich and Hughes have started since sometime in each of their rookie seasons. Rose, the number one pick in the draft, has every reason to believe he should start after a very impressive preseason. Ben Gordon, coming of an unsuccessful negotiation for a contract averaging over $10 million per year, is both in a contract year and clearly believes he is worthy of starting.

Of course a coach with a talented, deep young team needs to try out different lineups in preseason to see what he has. However, Del Negro has gone far beyond testing the waters. Multiple players have started, gone to the bench and started again in this short exhibition season. Minutes for certain players have looked just like what Tyrus Thomas has said he hates most:

You can’t produce consistently if you don’t play consistent minutes. It’s impossible, regardless what people say. You play me five minutes and then say I’m inconsistent? That’s crazy. You won’t be consistent playing 30 minutes a game for three games and then five minutes a game for the next six. It’s not going to happen.

This roster has too many quality players, especially guards, for everyone to stay happy. Del Negro is going to have to piss off a couple of guys. However, he can keep the faith of the rest of his players by establishing both a starting lineup and a regular rotation early in the season. A rookie head coach is going to need his team to buy in. Unfortunately, it does not look like Del Negro is going to give his players the consistency they desire as he keeps talking about how the lineup and rotation are going to have to be fluid and change from game to game. I think the chemistry on this team will start to suffer early in the season and will never recover. During the offseason the Bulls will purge about half of this team and move forward with the core they truly hope to rebuild around.

Predicted record for 2008-2009: 35-47

07
Mar
08

With Wallace gone, the Bulls are finally starting the best available center

Bulls 107 – Cavs 96

A game like last night’s is a great reason for the first official post at the new address.

If you’ve looked at this site often over the course of this season you know that I was adamant about getting Ben Wallace off the floor. I didn’t think anybody would take him in a trade, but I was wrong. No matter how it was done, I’m just glad he’s no longer taking up minutes that should be going to Bulls players who actually care to try hard. Like say, Joakim Noah . . .

noah vs. wallace

Just like Joakim Noah in this picture,
the Bulls came out on top by making him
the replacement for Ben Wallace as their
starting center

This isn’t the first time I’ve compared their stats from a game, but it’s the first time I’ve happily been able to do so when Ben’s numbers were for another team.

Ben Wallace in 27:32:
1-4 from the field
10 boards
2 pts
1 asst

Joakim Noah in 32:24:
5-9 from the field
20 boards
13 pts
1 asst

So in similar minutes Noah basically doubled Wallace’s production, and that was a great game for Big Ben this year. If Wallace was still on the Bulls he would have played 33 minutes last night while Noah played 17. Thank goodness he’s gone.

Another interesting stat comparison for the two last night was +/-. For anybody who doesn’t know, +/- is a statistic made popular in hockey that many people are now using when looking at the NBA. It measures the score differential of the player’s team while he was on the floor. I’m not sure how useful it is with basketball (for example LeBron James’ +/- last night was -21), but it’s interesting to note that Ben Wallace had a -12 in that game while Noah had a +17. To me that disparity exemplifies the difference in their games at this point in their careers even if the stat is somewhat empty. Noah is going to work his ass off in order to help the team. Wallace is going to try and rely on his skills and experience and no longer bring that high level of effort he used to. I’m not sure why he’s more apathetic these days (I have my theories though), but I’m glad he’s being apathetic now for a different team.

As a rookie, Noah is going to be inconsistent. Nevertheless, he’s a much better option for the Bulls moving forward than Wallace was. He actually has center height whereas Wallace never did. I believe in his prime Noah will be very similar to Wallace in his prime. In an ESPN chat last summer I got a question answered by David Thorpe regarding Joakim Noah. I asked if he thought Noah could develop into a solid starter and replacement for Wallace or if he was destined to be an energy guy off the bench. Thorpe said he thought Noah could be a starting center on a championship team someday. I couldn’t agree more.

29
Oct
07

Kobe Bryant, Ben Gordon & Luol Deng – Trades and Contracts

So the internet is buzzing with Kobe trade speculation again after ESPN’s Chris Sheridan reported the Bulls and the Lakers are talking.  While I think it’s Chris’ job to write this type of article and am not blaming him for doing so, everyone else needs to calm down.  I’d say the odds of this trade happening anytime soon are 100:1 and the odds of it going down before the season starts are 10000:1.

Hopefully the Bulls and the Lakers are talking.  Fans of every team in the league should hope their GM is talking to the Lakers.  That doesn’t mean anything is actually going to happen.  I can guarantee you that the Bulls are not giving up Deng, Gordon, Thomas and Noah.

I’ve gone in to more depth before about what the Bulls should or shouldn’t give up for Kobe and you can see that here.  If you know more details about who can and can’t be traded because of contracts please post them as comments.  I know Nocioni can’t be traded for a while since his contract is new.  I don’t think that would be true about Gordon or Deng if they get extensions because those wouldn’t kick in until next year (right?). 

Until some actual news or new developments happen regarding a Kobe trade let’s all focus on contracts for Gordon and Deng.  I think this situation provides an interesting dilemma for Pax.  Very few players from the class of ’04 have signed extensions despite being able to for the first time in their careers.  I think GM’s are unwilling to risk overpaying after seeing guys like Varejao and Pavlovic unable to do much with their restricted free agency.  For all the drama that accompanied Mo Williams’ restricted free agency, he’s still on the Bucks, right?  The strategy is to let the market set the price for players instead of paying them based on speculation of what they’ll produce. 

I think this strategy is unwise for the Bulls when it comes to Deng and Gordon for two reasons:

1 – They’ll be much more expensive next season than they are today.  Sure, they could get hurt this year and then may have to take less, but barring an injury they’ll both likely put up better numbers than they did last season and thus demand larger contracts.  This scenario is particularly likely for Deng.  Gordon probably will produce more this season, but his inability to guard bigger SGs may be exposed even more and hurt his perceived value.  Either way, if you’re not trading for Kobe, locking these guys up is an absolute must do for the franchise.

B – We’re not talking about Varejao and Pavlovic here.  I think it’s clear that the Lakers would have been willing to go over the cap this past offseason to sign a restricted free agent like Deng to a huge contract if it would have kept Kobe happy (or at least quiet).  Next year who knows which teams will be in the same situation.  If the Lakers can somehow make it through the season with Bryant still on the roster they could pick off a Bull with a big contract then.  Gilbert Arenas is keeping his options open and the Wizards may need to replace him if he leaves or need to add a player to placate him if he demands a stronger team.  The point is, these guys are desirable talents that other teams will want.  Pax needs to be thinking about the summer Rashard Lewis had much more than the summer Sasha Pavlovich had.  

K.C. Johnson wrote today:

Paxson's negotiating philosophy follows the belief
that an extension two seasons before it's mandatory
has to involve some give-and-take. The money is
guaranteed. A player's health and production isn't.

His philosophy is probably appropriate in most situations.  However, the agents representing Gordon and Deng should see the Bulls are somewhat backed into a corner.  The bottom line is the Bulls need Luol Deng and Ben Gordon.  We know they’re not going to sign a high-impact free agent from another roster in the summer of 2008.  Paxson has shown that he’s unwilling to trade these players for another star.  Given that he won’t add a star player via trade or free agency, what choice does he have?

I say he should just pony up and pay the men.  Give them a bit more than he wants to and the line he gave Hinrich about taking one for the team so they can have the flexibility to continue to get better with minor tweaking.  Shape the contracts so they increase over the years as Ben Wallace’s decreases and other free agents come off the books.  All that means is in a few season instead of having solid veterans on the bench like Adrian Griffin and Viktor Khryapa  they’ll have undrafted rookies on minimum contracts.  They’re not going to play anyway, so isn’t that stomachable?  Isn’t locking up Ben and Luol worth practicing with a Thomas Gardner instead of a Grif?

Winning in the NBA costs a lot of money, but it also makes a lot of money, especially in a market like Chicago.  You’re either going to have to pay potential future all-stars like Gordon and Deng or you’re going to have to pay current all-stars like Kobe.  The Bulls need to pick one and move forward.   




August 2017
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  
Basketball Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory