Bulls Preseason Preview - A Year in Transition
With the 2009-10 NBA season fast approaching; there seem to be way more questions than answers on the minds of Bulls fans regarding their beloved team. Here is a preview of some of the key storylines to watch out for as the preseason gets underway.
1. How will the Bulls replace the scoring and presence of Ben Gordon?
There’s no questioning what Ben Gordon meant to the Bulls. He had an innate ability to make a shot from anywhere on the floor, and his performance in the first-round of last year’s playoffs will go down in Bulls lore as brilliant.
However, it wasn’t that difficult to see the liabilities he brought to the table as well. At his height, the Bulls were always overmatched on defense, specifically at the 2 spot. Gordon also had a tendency to gun it on occasion (maybe feeling he had to in order to earn a contract), and he had some lingering issues with his handle. The occasional turnover was nothing new for Little Ben.
In 2009, the Bulls plan sans Gordon is simple: go long. With Luol Deng coming back from injury and John Salmons in for a full season (and a contract year), the Bulls might finally have the size advantage defensively that they’ve always craved at the shooting guard position. There is going to be an adjustment period, though. Salmons himself came out and said recently it’s an adjustment changing from small forwards who post up to the constant off-ball movement of the shooting guard.
In terms of offense, the Bulls don’t seem all too worried; and nor should they. Derrick Rose is ready to make the Year 2 leap after a tumultuous offseason and a healthy Deng has a chance to be 2006-07 Deng (career high 18.8 ppg). Speaking of Derrick Rose…
2. Can Derrick Rose follow his excellent rookie season?
In a word, yes. Derrick Rose is ready for prime-time indeed as he’s gained the trust of his coaches to pull the trigger and attack more offensively. His defensive game will improve, as well as his jump shot. Put it all together, and the Bulls just may have their first all-star since the Jordan years.
3. Who’s going to score in the post?
You can pretty much copy and paste that statement from the 2005 preview, the 2006 preview, and so on, because it’s always going to be an issue until it’s absolutely resolved. The Bulls supposedly were on the cusp of filling said need with a trade for Carlos Boozer, but plans fell through when the search for a fitting 3rd team came up dry.
The Bulls are going to look to Brad Miller again as a nice high-post piece off the bench, but in terms of down low, the onus is once again on Tyrus Thomas to continue to mature. This is Thomas’s last shot at showing the Bulls he has taken that next step, as his contract is up after this season. He needs to take fewer shots, take smarter shots, and continue to polish his game.
Rounding out the frontcourt is Joakim Noah who absolutely put on a show in the playoffs last year. He supposedly has been working furiously at his post game and could have breakout potential as the next great double-double big man.
4. The 2010 Plan
While Bulls fans would never go as far as to walk around in Chicago Bulls jerseys with “Wade” on the back, the whispers are continuous. What exactly will the Bulls do this season to prepare for the 2010 circus? It could go a number of ways.
If the Bulls are struggling come February, and are on the outside looking in, then we might see a salary dump of epic proportions. The player most likely on the block would have to be Kirk Hinrich and his favorable 2011-expiring contract. Look for a Kirk Hinrich-for-Marcus Camby deal to add to the already-heaping pile of expiring deals.
What if the Bulls are in the upper echelon of the East? Well, that would still be a good thing in terms of 2010. Simply put, the Bulls are, next to Miami, the most attractive destination for a big-time free agent; great market, great fans, endorsement opportunities, and a talented young roster. The question will come down to money. If the Bulls hold on to Hinrich, and John Salmons exercises his player option, then watch out, because something would need to happen in order to clear up enough room to sign someone.
5. Is Vinny Del Negro the right coach?
When talking about the upside of Chicago, notice I didn’t mention their coach as a positive. He showed some nice strides throughout the year but the negatives outweighed the positives. Del Negro may also be a hindrance to the 2010 plan as well. Part of the reason the Bulls missed out on big-time free agents in the early post-Jordan years was because Tim Floyd was not considered a high-end coach. If the Bulls want to be taken seriously in the 2010 free agent frenzy, then they may need to think long and hard about signing a top-shelf coach.
All in all, this is going to be one of the most interesting seasons in Bulls history. I hope everyone enjoys the ride.