Bulls Preview: All Grown Up in Chicago

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Bulls Preview: All Grown Up in Chicago

IconThis offseason, the Chicago Bulls laid low on the free-agent and trading fronts.

The team needed a low-post scoring threat, but the front office didn't mortgage the future in chasing a Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, or Jermaine O'Neal.

John Paxson knows what he's doing.

The Bulls ultimately signed Joe Smith to fill the hole left by veteran forward P.J. Brown. The former No. 1 overall pick looks to give Chicago a competent low-post presence.

However, he might not even be the Bulls' best option in the paint—not with rookie Joakim Noah on the roster.

Early in the preseason, Noah has shown himself to have the same motor and shooting ability as Tyrus Thomas—and is a better passer to boot.

As a team, the Bulls are energetic, fast, and unselfish. More importantly, they might have the deepest roster in the NBA.

With a few years' experience under their belts, these Bulls can no longer claim to be "too young." Kirk Hinrich, often mentioned as the leader of the bunch, needs to be just that in '07-'08.

He'll have plenty of help from Luol Deng, who's already the Bulls' best overall player and who's only getting better.

Deng averaged 18.8 points and seven rebounds per game last year. His defense was nothing short of amazing, as evidenced by shutdown performances against Kobe and LeBron.

And then there's the X-factor:

Ben Gordon.

We all know Gordon is as clutch as any player in the league. When he gets hot, no one can stop him.

But when he gets cold, he belongs in the NBADL.

Gordon needs to start being more consistent both offensively and defensively. Granted, he did lead the Bulls in scoring last season at 21.4 PPG, but he'll have to step up this year to fill the starting two-guard position.

Ben Wallace, for his part, is ready for his second tour as the cornerstone of the Bulls defense—and that may be the most important storyline in Chicago this season.

One thing's for sure about these Bulls: If you want to beat them, you have to shut down their offense.

When scoring 100+ points the Bulls are a staggering 33-8.

On the offensive side they scored 98.7 ppg and their opponents scored 93.7 against their defense. 

Not many teams will be able to score 90+ points against the league's most tenacious defense in recent memory.

Breakout Player: Thabo Sefolosha.

Be ready to hear Sefolosha's name on the highlight shows. Not known by many but he can develop his own shots and drive to the hoop against anyone. He showed flashes of talent last year, and will be fighting for time off the bench with Andres Nocioni.

Intangibles

Scott Skiles is the most underrated coach in the league. There aren't many head men who can match his fierceness.

If you don't show effort on defense, you'll find yourself on the bench. Skiles has his players playing hard every play for 48 minutes.

Trouble Spots

The Bulls frontcourt offense continues to haunt them against bigger opponents. It's hard to go into a game knowing you have to make jump shot after jump shot.

The Bulls also ranked seventh-worst in the NBA with 15.9 turnovers per game last season. Enough with the wild unnecessary passes—it's time to get back to fundamentals.

Prediction

The Bulls will improve upon their 49-33 record of a year ago. Look for them to win 55-60 games and land the second seed in the East.

Can they make the NBA Finals?

Only time will tell.

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