Chicago Bulls Sleepers to Watch This Preseason
During the Chicago Bulls' preseason, all eyes will be on Derrick Rose, who'll play for the first time since tearing his ACL in April 2012. Fans will also focus their attention on All-Stars Joakim Noah and Luol Deng as well as talented youngster Jimmy Butler. But what about the lesser known guys?
The main players know their roles for the 2013-14 season. The starting five is basically set in stone with Rose, Butler, Deng, Noah and we can't forget about Carlos Boozer.
However, some guys will attempt to land a final roster spot or grab a larger role. Who are the sleepers to watch this preseason?
The Bulls were expected to take a center during the first round of this year's draft. Possible targets included Duke's Mason Plumlee, Louisville's Gorgui Dieng and France's Rudy Gobert. However, the team passed up a big man in favor of New Mexico swingman Tony Snell, who was drafted 20th overall.
Hopefully, Chicago made the right decision. While Snell can't back up starting center Joakim Noah, he provides shooting to the lineup, something the Bulls surely lacked last season. The team ranked just 21st in three-point percentage.
Snell, who shot 39 percent from downtown as a junior, has the ability to stretch the floor. The California native showcased his outside game during this year's NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Against the Dallas Mavericks, he hit five of his eight three-point attempts, as he poured in an impressive 20 points.
Shooting isn't the only reason the Bulls drafted Snell. The 6'7" guard possesses a 6'11.5" wingspan, per DraftExpress.com, which will certainly work to his advantage at the defensive end. Everyone knows how the Bulls are all about defense, right?
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, of course, doesn't love the idea of playing first-year players. The team's last two rookies, Marquis Teague and Jimmy Butler, both averaged about eight minutes per game. Yet, Snell actually has the chance to see the court this coming season.
He could emerge as Butler's primary backup at shooting guard, playing the three-and-D role. But in order for that to happen, he'll need to have an outstanding preseason.
Chicago selected Erik Murphy with the 49th overall pick in this year's draft. Like Snell, he was picked up mostly due to his shooting ability. The power forward out of Florida shot a ridiculous 45.3 percent from three-point land as a senior.
Although he's far from a lockdown defender, Murphy can serve as a much-needed stretch 4. Vladimir Radmanovic, whom the Bulls signed last summer, was supposed to play that role. But unfortunately, he wound up being a disappointment, shooting just 18.5 percent from long distance last season. Yes, 18.5 percent, you read that right.
Murphy is currently third on the power forward depth chart behind Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson. That basically means the only way he'll see any action next season is if an injury occurs. Thibodeau, however, could give Murphy playing time. He's going to have to shoot the lights out during the preseason, though. And that's definitely not impossible.
Right now, Marquis Teague is third on the point guard depth chart behind Rose and Kirk Hinrich. A strong preseason could result in him becoming Rose's primary backup.
Teague is coming off an incredible summer league, putting up 18.3 points and 4.8 assists per contest. He showcased an improved jump shot, was able to get to the basket with ease and set his teammates up nicely. While it was only summer league ball, he looked like an NBA starter rather than a third-stringer.
Here are the highlights from his 25-point performance versus the Portland Trail Blazers.
Teague averaged an unacceptable 3.5 turnovers during the summer. We'll see if his ball-handling improves in preseason action.
According to Sportando, free agent Dexter Pittman will join the Bulls' training camp, turning down an offer from an Italian team. It will be interesting to see if he actually makes Chicago's "real" roster.
The Bulls have two centers in Joakim Noah and backup Nazr Mohammed. A third player on the depth chart is needed, and that's why Pittman has a chance to make the team.
Pittman was drafted by the Heat during the second round of the 2010 draft (32nd overall pick). His career has been unspectacular to say the least. He has averaged only 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds in 48 games with the Heat and Memphis Grizzlies.
The former Texas star has the potential to be a decent third-sting big man, though, possessing a nice little touch around the basket. And under Thibodeau's tutelage, he could develop into a solid defender.
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