Derrick Rose is starting in the All-Star Game tonight, but where does the team stand at the All-Star break? Will the current team and roster team win the NBA Championship this season? Can the team win the East against the likes of Miami, Boston and Orlando? Who has been the top offseason find by the front office?
That and more answered in Examina-Bull: 10 Observations of the Chicago Bulls at the All-Star Break.
A little more than halfway through their first season as Bulls, both Asik and Watons have been solid players for the team. The problem is that neither will play huge minutes this season, or for the foreseeable future.
First, for Watson, he’s playing behind this guy named Derrick Rose, so he might not get that many minutes. However, he has shown the ability to shoot, and every once in a while he makes a pass that is just ridiculous. Recently, Coach Thib has been playing him at shooting guard in the fourth quarter, so Watson might see a slight increase in minutes.
But the bottom line is, he is a find by the front office. Few teams have a backup point guard as skilled as C.J., which will help to add to the team’s depth come playoff time. If he continues to play the way he has for the rest of the season, don’t be surprised if come the offseason, reports circulate stating that teams are trying to trade for him.
Asik has not played substantial minutes either, whether he is behind Noah or Kurt Thomas. It is also clear that Thibodeau does not entirely trust him because he is a rookie and more importantly, new to the style of basketball here in America.
It might sound silly, but as one who lived and played in Europe for many years, I can tell you it is a much different game. Asik can’t shoot a jumper, has a terrible free throw percentage and most important, does not have the strength or confidence to quickly catch the ball and dunk. Next game, watch the difference between Asik dunking and Taj dunking. It is remarkable.
On the plus side, every one of his faults is correctable and if he hits the weight room and learns to shoot free throws, he might score more. Granted, he will never average 15 points a game, but he might be able to chip in six to eight. And I haven’t even mentioned his skills yet.
He is a decent rebounder, shot blocker and outstanding defensive presence. Heck, he played well against Dwight Howard. A great find for the Bulls from Turkey, expect him to continue to improve the next few seasons.
Back in 2003, two players were ranked numbers one and two in Rivals basketball rankings. Each player was expected to be a stud, both in college and the pros. Even at the high school level, these two players were expected to future perennial NBA All-Stars.
So who were these top two players?
Well, one was Lebron James, and we all know the history there. Who was number two?
You guessed it, Luol Deng.
Fast-forward several years and Deng has never shown the ability that made him number two right behind Lebron. Until now. In an offense that suits his abilities better than the one ran by VDN and as the third option of a playoff bound team, Deng has come into his own. Averaging career highs in many categories, including scoring, Luol has obviously enjoyed playing under Thibodeau.
Add in the fact that he has stayed healthy for half a season, probably his record, Deng has been invaluable to this team.
Luol will be vital to the Bulls’ success in the playoffs and will need to turn in a few big games here and there if the team expects to make a run. And speaking of Lebron, Deng defends him better than most in the league.
And Deng has room to improve, most fans don’t know he is younger than Joakim Noah. He just might one day average twenty points a game.
Kurt has been the veteran presence the Bulls have needed for a while. He offers vital experience and has been repeatedly credited as the leader of the locker room. Such a player is always crucial, despite how many minutes he plays. And Kurt has been playing plenty of minutes due to the injury to Noah.
No one would have expected him to perform the way he has during the injury to Joakim.
While not a scorer, he can knock down a shot on a pick and pop, rebound effectively, play good defense and is the “banger” down low to protect Derrick Rose. For example, last year, Dwight Howard knocked Derrick Rose out of two games against the Magic.
If Thomas was on the team then, he would have thrown a couple elbows into Howard’s jaw.
And even though he has played well, Kurt is the second oldest player in the NBA. He will need to go to the end of the bench when Joakim returns, and hopefully Omer will get all of his minutes. Those old legs need to be rested for the playoffs so he can be effective when it matters most.
The team has no shooting guard, that much is clear.
Keith Bogans has started knocking down a few threes recently, but is still not the player who should be starting. The problem is, however, the team does not have someone who is clearly better. Ronnie Brewer can score effectively while driving and is a great defender. Kyle Korver is one of the sharpest shooters in the league and can make any shot look easy. However, he is a terrible defender.
If the team had a player who can shoot like Korver and drive and defend like Brewer, this team is championship bound.
A list of potential shooting guards the team could trade for is here.
It seems as if the front office is happy with the direction the team is going and is willing to stay with the current roster they have now. With the recent comments made by John Paxson about team chemistry, it seems as if the team will not make a trade.
Here is a more in-depth analysis of why the team won’t make a trade.
Without Jaokim Noah, and Carlos Boozer for all but nine games, the team has played many top teams and has won. This past week, Rose was incredible and single handedly won the game against the best team in the NBA, the Spurs.
Again, this was without Noah.
This season, the team has won against the Heat, Celtics, Mavericks, Oklahoma City and Orlando. However, it remains to be seen if the team can beat these teams in a seven game playoff series.
In less than two weeks, the Bulls will have more wins this season than they did all of last year. The Bulls have won all these games without half of their starting frontcourt for all but nine games. And the biggest change made since last year is the coach.
Thibodeau has turned the Bulls into the premier defensive team in the league and is improving the defense of Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer. The last time the Bulls had such a talented coach was when a man named Phil Jackson was in charge. Thibs is a quality coach and the team will not let him leave, keeping him on the bench for the foreseeable future.
He will have at least one ring from a Chicago Bulls championship before he retires.
Despite the injuries suffered to Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, the Bulls are No. 3 in the East, and only two games behind first place. When the team is fully healthy, they could make a run for first place in the East.
Although the schedule becomes difficult the next two weeks with two games against the Heat, if the Bulls win both of those games, they will be in at least second. And remember, the team beat the Celtics earlier in the year, as mentioned in a previous slide.
Bet Lebron feels pretty stupid now.
He left for Miami to be with a top five player in the league in Wade, and a top 10 player in Bosh. Shame he didn’t come to Chicago to play with the MVP Derrick Rose and two potential top 10 players in Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. I use the word potential because they have not played together enough to determine how well their skills compliment each other.
Noah will do all the dirty work and get plenty of rebounds and put backs, leaving Boozer the chance to score and both will become much better because of the other.
But back to the main topic. Derrick Rose has been everything asked of him, and more. He is the face of the franchise, the city of Chicago and heck, maybe in the future, the NBA. Rose is the only one in a long time to average twenty four points and eight assists, and has carried the team on his back so far.
If he can keep it up for the rest of the season, lookout.
Despite all the talent on the team, the front office and on the coaching bench, the team won’t win a championship this year.
One reason is experience, which although isn’t the most important factor, it does play a slight role. Derrick Rose is expected to carry the team through the playoffs, but he needs to have won several playoff series to do that.
While the team has beaten several top teams in the league, as seen before, how do the Bulls match up in a seven game series? The roster is built around a fast, athletic team that can run the floor during fast breaks, and is more suited for that style of game rather than a half-court game.
But the Bulls will need to have an effective half-court game to beat the top teams in the playoffs.
Again, the shooting guard situation will hold the team back. Although I am not convinced that Courtney Lee is the solution, the team does, at least, have to boast a shooting guard who can average at least 10 points a game, or more. Until the team has that player, the Bulls will not win a championship.
Everyone has heard the value of free throws from their basketball coach when they were 10 years old. But the Bulls, composed of mostly seventy or sixty percent free throw shooters, Korver being the exception, miss too many free throws. Those shots could lead to the Bulls coming back from behind, or putting a team away when it matters most.
The team will lose at least one playoff game because of bad free throw shooting, and it will prevent them from being able to win a championship this season.