Posts Tagged ‘summer league

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

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16
Jul
07

The blog that’s not afraid to root for the Bulls

We’re not afraid to root for the Bulls around here and why should we be?  It’s the offseason, a time of excitement and optimism.  There are a lot of good things being said about this team by those lucky reporters who are paid to follow and watch the NBA.  So we say, “Go Bulls!” and we hope you’ll join us.

John Denton recently summed up the Orlando summer league for ESPN.  While he said the league was not particularly exciting, two young Bulls did make his all league team:

Here are the players who separated themselves from the relatively no-named
pack this year:
Power forward: Tyrus Thomas, Bulls -- Even in the low-key offseason,
Thomas was as prickly with the media as ever. But that couldn't detract
from the fact that he was hands down the best player on the floor in the
three games he played. The Bulls are convinced that his basketball skills
will eventually catch up to his off-the-charts athleticism, and he
certainly showed signs of that this week. His ability to make the
midrange jumper now made him almost impossible to guard off the dribble.
If he can hit that shot, he said, it would make it harder for coach Scott
Skiles to keep him out of the starting lineup next season. And no player
drew more oohs and aahs than Thomas this week with his jaw-dropping
blocked shots. His stuffing of Indiana's Shawne Williams a foot above the
rim will undoubtedly be one of the lasting memories of the week.
Small forward: Thabo Sefolosha, Bulls -- Sefolosha didn't always shoot
the ball particularly well, but his nifty passing and decision-making
clearly made him a favorite this week. The Switzerland native bounced
back from a stinker on Thursday with a dazzling 25-point, seven-rebound
effort. He routinely snaked his cat-quick frame into the lane and got to
the free throw line 10 times.
With Thomas, Sefolosha and JamesOn Curry all playing well this week, it
reaffirmed Bulls GM John Paxson's abilities as a top talent evaluator.
And when Noah, who worked out furiously twice a day during the camp,
mends there will be an even greater logjam of young talent on the roster.
With Kirk Hinrich's extension and Andres Nocioni's new contract kicking
in, and Ben Gordon and Luol Deng up for new deals, don't be surprised if
Paxson soon peddles some of his young talent for a player who can give
the Bulls some pop in the low post.

These comments are further support of our statement that the Bulls are possibly the deepest team in the NBA.  Paxson does know how to draft and has made the right choices in every draft he’s been in charge of.  We can see how his stockpile of young talent may make it look like he’s getting ready for a trade and we believe that earlier in the summer he was.  However, with what’s available now Paxson will probably keep quiet and let his young team grow together for the time being.  A big trade may take place during the season, but who could Paxson go after today?  Jermaine O’Neal is still available but Paxson probably isn’t biting on him with the injury issues and huge salary.  It seems that the Gasol deal has already been explored and won’t happen.  The Milicic signing may change things but don’t look for Gasol to end up on the Bulls this summer.  The only way he’ll make it here is if the Grizzlies get off to a slow start and he starts to complain again. 

NBullsA is not blindly optimistic.  We’ll call out Paxson or the Bulls when we feel they miss a good opportunity, as we did when they let Zach Randolph go to the Knicks for nothing.  However, we do take issue with bloggers and columnists who complain, complain, and complain about what the team is doing wrong without offering better options.  Too many out there were unhappy with the Noah pick because he didn’t address the need for low post scoring, yet they didn’t go on to explain what they should have done.  Many have complained about re-signing Nocioni, but what should the Bulls have done with the money?  Who was there to get who would help the team more than Noce?

Oh well, on to more good news.  Marty Burns recently referenced the Bulls offseason success in his mailbag:

The Magic and Grizzlies seem to be the big winners so far in free agency. What
other teams have been the biggest winners?
-- J. Evey, Valparaiso, Ind.
It's still too early to tell, since not all the moves have been made yet.
But the Bulls could turn out be one surprise winner. And not just because
they managed to re-sign Andres Nocioni to a very reasonable five-year,
$38 million deal. GM John Paxson has to love the Milicic signing. For one,
it takes the 7-foot prospect off a fellow Eastern team. More important, it
leaves the door open just a crack that Chicago might be able to revisit
those talks for Gasol. With Milicic on board, Memphis now has a decent big
man to replace Gasol in the event the Grizzlies were to decide to move him
later.

 Again, we don’t think the Gasol thing is happening this summer, (though we wouldn’t mind if it did for the right price) but the significant item that Burns points out is that Nocioni’s contract is very reasonable.  It allows the Bulls flexibility to extend the contracts of Luol Deng and Ben Gordon and it makes him even more appealing should they decide they do want to trade him.  Once more Nocioni comes across as likeable to Bulls fans because he made this reasonable deal possible while more money sat on his table from Memphis.  He only needed to demand a no-trade clause to reach Mark Buehrle status (OK, he’d need a little more talent too). 

The interesting thing to watch in the coming months will be how Paxson approaches possible extensions for Gordon and Deng.  He’s made it clear that Deng is untouchable.  That would seem to imply that if he does offer extensions to both players Deng’s will be more lucrative than touchable by defult Gordon’s.  He’s claimed that all the offseason moves so far do not limit him from working out fair extensions for Deng and Gordon under the luxury tax, so we can infer that he’d like to extend them both.  However, what if he gives Deng an extension but not Gordon so as to keep little Ben cheaper and thus more appealing to potential trade partners?  It doesn’t seem like something Paxson would do but extending him won’t help any trades get done.  What if he offers extensions to both but Gordon’s is significantly lower than Deng’s?  How will BG7 react?  Watching the potential soap opera play out will be interesting.  However, with the characters and personalities that Ben Gordon and Luol Deng have it’s unlikely much will be public or messy. 

13
Jul
07

Some of last year’s doormats much improved for ’07-08

The offseason is a time for limitless optimism when looking at your favorite team, or any team for that matter. For most teams the 2007-2008 season won’t go as well as they’re picturing now. For a few teams it will go even better than they’re imagining. We can’t say for certain what will happen but here are 4 teams we expect to improve significantly compared to last season.

Should be better in ’07-’08:

Charlotte Bobcats



The Cats should be much better this season, but it probably won’t be due to
Morrison’s play. He’s likely to see more time on the bench this season.


When the Cats selected Bandan Wright it immediately looked like Michael Jordan placed his UNC affinity above the good of his team. However, a short time later when news came out that Wright was being traded for Jason Richardson things started to look better. Richardson does come with some question marks. Will Richardson get hurt again? Will he play the way he’s played for most of his career and like he did at the end of last year? Or, will we see the same underwhelming player the Warriors saw for the first 3/4 of last season? Sure, it was a risky trade but it’s a risk Charlotte needed to make.

They’ve amassed some exciting young talent in Okafor, Felton and Wallace who has turned out to be an amazing pickup from their expansion draft. Sean May is still a question mark due to his frequent injuries but he could turn out to be very good as well. The problem facing the cats going into this draft is that all of their core players were 25 and under. They needed a veteran to stabilize the team and step up in crunch time. They found one in Richardson. The result looks to be a very well-balanced team. They have a great true point guard in Ray Felton, a Michael Jordanesque player in Richardson (don’t get pissed off, all we’re saying is their STYLES of play are similar), an incredibly athletic slasher in Wallace and a dominant defensive player and post presence in Okafor. If May can stay healthy and add some low post scoring this could be a very, very good team in a year or two.

Portland Trail Blazers


Brandon Roy should have a much easier time
this season with more help around him.

A lot still has to shake out before we know what the ’07-’08 Blazers team will look like. They currently have about 20 players on their roster and a ton of untested rookies whose performance will be hard to project. However, they do have a few core players who will give them a similarly balanced attack to the Bobcats.

Greg Oden had some trouble in summer league but everyone seems to agree that he will still be a great, great player in the NBA. His limited offensive game as of now shouldn’t hurt the team much because fellow post player LaMarcus Aldridge has shown some great offensive talent in summer league to complement his strong rookie season. Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy is a solid all-around player and traditional two guard. All this team needs to become a perennial powerhouse in the next couple of years is a very solid point guard. Many rumors circulated just prior to the draft that the Blazers were shopping Jarrett Jack hard, which raises questions about the guard that add to his so far inconsistent play. However, Oden, Aldridge and Roy combined with the wealth of young talent on the Portland roster should be enough for them to compete right away while looking for an improvement at the point.

Memphis Grizzlies



Rudy Gay will be one piece in a well-balanced attack for Memphis this season.

There’s a lot to be excited about if you’re a Grizz fan, especially compare to what you had to be excited about 3 months ago after you didn’t win Oden or Durant.

It looks like Memphis isn’t letting Pau Gasol go anywhere. They picked up Milicic who as we all know still has a lot to prove. However, Darko only just turned 22. New Memphis coach Mark Iavaroni is looking to run an up-tempo offense that should cater to Darko’s skills. He’ll work the high post while Gasol works the low post. They should form an intimidating big man combo and be hard for smaller teams in the league to stop.

Memphis also has sweet shooting 2 guard Mike Miller in the fold, plus #4 overall pick Mike Conley. Conley is looking strong in summer league and likely will get the starting job as a rookie. Finally, add SF Rudy Gay to the mix, coming off a solid if unspectacular rookie season, and the Grizzlies have a very solid starting lineup. The odd man out would seem to be Kyle Lowry, who is also doing very well in summer league. However, the Grizzlies can dangle Lowry as trade bait in order to pick up a scoring spark off the bench from a team that needs a young point guard (Portland?). The bottom line is Memphis should be better right away and have a lot to look forward to years down the line.

Chicago Bulls – You had to know this was coming


Viktor should see more playing time this season and
the Bulls will be better. We’ll see if Khryapa gets credit
for the improvement or if it happens in spit of him.

While the Bulls were anything but a doormat last season, they look like they’ll be significantly better this year. We’re projecting 55+ wins for Chicago in ’07-’08.

The biggest difference this coming year should be the continued development of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas. Both Deng and Gordon showed significant progress to their games last season. Both are still very young, especially Deng. Look for Gordon to again average in the 20’s with Deng reaching that level as well. Hinrinch will continue his stellar point guard play and should put up similar numbers to his last two seasons.

Tyrus Thomas has been tearing up the Orlando summer league. He’s shown a hugely improved mid-range jumper he developed in the offseason (see below post for details on Tyrus offseason development). Pair his new found shooting ability with his incredible athleticism and he should be in intimidating offensive and defensive force in the league this year.

The Bulls also should have possibly the best bench in the NBA this year. They’ll feature either Andres Nocioni or Tyrus Thomas depending who starts at the 4. Either one should be a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Thabo Sefolosha should build on his very solid rookie season while seeing more minutes this year. Joakim Noah is a perfect bench player at this point in his career. While he won’t bring much scoring he will bring a ton of energy and great defense. Chris Duhon, if he’s still on the team the start of the season, is an incredible point guard for a backup. Viktor Khryapa should see more minutes this year with the departure of several former Bulls power forwards and should display the form that made him a starter a couple of years ago in Portland. Seriously, what other team will feature a bench with 5 players who would be a starter on at least one team in the NBA?

Chicago is still lacking that dominant low post scorer that so many teams covet. However, in addition to their deep bench they will also feature one of the league’s premiere defenses. This D, which will be particularly strong in the key – should make up for their relative lack of consistent low post scoring. Ben Wallace, super-blocker Tyrus Thomas, Jaokim Noah and Andres Nocioni will be one of the better defensive rotations at the 4 & 5 positions in recent memory. Last season Luol Deng took one of his weaknesses, his defense, and made it one of his strengths. His long arms and increased defensive awareness have made his a similar defender to Tayshaun Prince. Hinrich was all-defensive second team and will be that or first team this year. Thabo Sefolosh quickly earned a reputation as a “stopper” for subduing Kobe in the regular season and Dwayne Wade in the playoffs. Finally, Duhon is also a superb defender on smaller guards. The Bulls scoring may be inconsistent at times, but their defense, effort and energy never is.

Barring any unforeseen major changes the Bulls will be one of the top 5 teams in the league this year.

10
Jul
07

Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah could become a lethal frontcourt duo

In the Bulls first summer league game Tyrus Thomas apparently dominated. He left the game with a minor injury sometime in the third quarter but still managed 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 blocks and 2 steals. Summer league stats are inflated for most players but still, those numbers would make Tyrus a fantasy basketball GM’s dream.

The best part about his performance is that he showed that he has developed or at least refined his 15-foot jump shot. ESPN is reporting that opposing players purposely didn’t cover him away from the hoop, believing he was nothing more than a leaper. He made them pay with his new midrange game, apparently developed by working 7 days a week this offseason and staying at the gym until he made at least 700 jump shots.

If this report is true it is very significant to the immediate future of the Bulls for two reasons:

First, if Tyrus has a sophisticated offensive game then the Bulls have a much more complete roster than we previously thought. They wouldn’t need a scoring big man nearly as badly as it seemed. We were sure he’d develop an all-around game eventually but not this soon. If he can score that also allows Skiles to put Noah in the game for Ben Wallace. That lineup would allow us to see the future of the Bulls and one amazing defensive front court. With Wallace, Thomas and Noah rotating through the 4 and 5 spots not a lot of players are going to want to take it to the hole on the Bulls.

With Ben Wallace, Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah all in the frontcourt rotation drives
by opposing players are going to end with this result often in ’07-’08

Second, it would show that Tyrus is a hard worker who is passionate about winning. His character was questioned a few times last season by the media. While his work ethic was never the issue it would still be reassuring to know he’s the type of player to work as hard as ESPN is reporting. It would mean he’s a perfect fit for this team and that he and Noah will complement each other perfectly. Hinrich, Gordon, Deng, and Wallace are all hard working great character guys, but at times they lack emotion. Nocioni will bring excitement and energy, Tyrus will bring a mean streak and Noah will bring intensity to the team. Couple that with the steadiness and dependability of the core players and there is a lot to be excited about on this Bulls team.

These guys will keep the team calm, cool and collected
under pressure

While these guys bring the team intensity, emotion and energy

October can’t come soon enough.




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