Can you believe it? Seems like just a couple weeks ago we were watching Kobe do his best MJ celebration impersonation. The NBA offseason was very busy and a lot of moves were made...Or if you are a Bulls fan, moves were simply talked about.
With one of the biggest free agent offseasons approaching, teams like the Bulls are in limbo. They find themselves in a tricky spot with not enough talent to make a true run at a ring, but enough talent to have expectations to at least make the postseason. While teams like Cleveland got stronger, Boston continued to load up, and Orlando made moves to show they aren't joking around, the Bulls sat idle.
The Bulls take the court this year with some new blood, only through the draft of course. Paxson has to be the biggest visionary in the league, or the most stubborn. Hopefully the team he has assembled will not take steps back and continue to grow, as the "Baby Bulls" moniker seems like a concrete nickname.
The projected starting lineup should look something like this: PG-Rose, SG-Salmons, SF-Deng, PF-Thomas, and C-Noah. As a fan, you would hope your team's starting lineups would have more sure things than wild cards. In my opinion, there are three wildcards in this lineup, and I'm being optimistic.
Rose has the stuff of a champion. He's a hard worker and a humble, young man. He doesn't strike me as the Iverson-type, who will never add anything to his game. I believe he will enter into his sophomore year as a more reliable jumper. His numbers a year ago weren't quite what everyone expected, however, he showed more than enough "flashes" for everyone to know he's bound for super-stardom. He's not a wildcard.
Johnny Salmons...all I can do is shake my head. The acquisition of Salmons and Brad Miller pushed the Bulls into the postseason and almost shocked the world with an upset of the defending champs. Salmons seems at home in Chicago, getting the opportunity to be even more aggressive and have more control, especially now with Ben Gordon gone. I just hope he stays focused and knows that the team needs him, even he will fold or flourish. He is certainly a wildcard.
Here we are with one of the Baby Bulls who got paid. Deng signed a huge deal before the start of last season, and will be making over $10 million this season. My fear with Deng is that he has reached his ceiling. He was never in the groove last year, only averaging 14 ppg before going down with a injury.
Even at his best, averaging 18 during the '06-'07 season, he still faded away at times. For that amount of money he's getting this season, fading away is not an option. He has to be a factor each and every night. I think he is the type of player who won't get satisfied because he finally got paid. I hope my stomach is playing with me. You have to know he's a wildcard.
This guy is a wildcard. I'm not even going to wait until I'm done talking about him. Tyrus Thomas is such a hard fit. And we will not start with the obvious about this guy. He has no true offensive game that warrants the opposition to respect him. So, with that being the case, he will get lost quite often on offense. He's still a freakish athlete who can block shots with the best in the league and also yam (yes yam) on anyone who may stand in his way. But it's possible that we've seen the best of him. It's all about the internal drive to truly improve on what God has given him.
Noah...This kid is a winner. He can be a force for the team this season, and I believe he will. As a two-time National Championship winner at Florida, he knows what it takes. The taste of the playoffs and the intensity of the series was just what he needed. I don't see any fall off from a guy who will get at least 11 boards a game this year. He can certainly use some more muscle, but his energy is undoubtedly an annoyance to his opponents and an aid to his team. Now, he's not the low post threat that Chicago (or everyone else) has been craving for years, but he gives them someone who pays attention to the boards, and that can be just as important.
We'll finish sixth or seventh in the East this year. I know I didn't mention Vinny Del Negro, but I believe he'll do just fine with his star studded coaching roster. With pieces like Rose and Noah, I don't see any regression. Only looking ahead to improving on a strong run and a powerful (albeit quick) postseason.