With a lockout firmly in place, the NBA and its players can expect a long summer. With so much down time for Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls, there will be plenty of opportunity for them to hone their skill sets.
Let's take a look at each player's strengths and weaknesses, as well as what skills might make them even more valuable to an already outstanding team.
This article will refrain from discussing the team's elder statesmen, namely Bogans and Thomas, as their games are not going to change much from now until next season. Their primary focus will likely be to stay in shape and on the court.
We begin with the Turkish Hammer.
The 7'0", 255lb center brings plenty to the table for the Bulls' bench mob. As a rookie off the bench, he averaged 2.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks in a little over 12 minutes per contest. Most of his points came from offensive rebounds, putbacks, and fastbreak dunks.
Although he played an integral part in the successes of the Bulls team, he averaged 1.9 fouls per game. He also shot a meager 50% from the free throw line. Granted, he took few trips to the charity stripe during his time on the floor, but converting on one-of-two per contest is not going to cut it, especially come playoff time.
His role on the team as a defensive stopper off the bench is unlikely to change this next season, so his most beneficial skill to develop would be his free throw shooting. Free throw shooting is something he could work on in the gym, all by himself. It would also increase his scoring numbers, something the Bulls' bench struggled with last season.
Does this even need to be discussed?
Obviously, Korver's strengths all come on the offensive end of the ball. He shoots well, utilizes screens effectively and is a shot of energy off the bench. He averaged 8.3 points at 43.4 percent and 1.5 three-pointers at 41.5 percent in about 20 minutes per game this past season.
Unfortunately, his defense is awful. I can think of innumerable occasions in which he scored clutch baskets, only to have his man come right back and score on him. No numbers are necessary to define how stale his defense gets at times. Although I doubt it will improve much, he needs to work to stay in front of his man, deny him the ball and get his hands in the air.
If he wants to maintain his same role next season, he needs to improve his efficiency on the defensive side.
Watson is the floor general for the Bulls' bench mob.
Of all the bench players, Watson has the best handles and passing ability. His ability to distribute and handle effectively showed, as he sported a 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio last season. He is small, quick and plays well with the ball in his hands.
The most glaring number on CJ's stat line from last year is the fact that he shot a higher percentage from beyond the three-point line than from the field in general: 39.3 percent vs. 37.1 percent. This shows that he is much more comfortable shooting from outside rather than taking it to the hole. He is already an effective and willing passer. Add in the ability to finish close to the basket, and he begins to draw defenders off their assignments when he penetrates, thus creating more open looks for his teammates.
Gibson is slowly becoming a true power forward in the league. His game is a lot of grit, grind and hustle. As Bulls' announcer Stacey King often exclaimed, he is a "blue-collar kind of player" who has "his hard hat and lunch pail" every day he comes to work.
He is a high-energy type of player who plays excellent defense for a big man. He finishes well at the rim and in the paint, and has excellent leaping ability. He grabs rebounds, blocks shots, sets good screens and hustles on the court. He averaged 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in about 22 minutes a game last season.
About the only thing that Taj needs a lot of work on is his mid-range game. If he could develop a more consistent mid-range jump shot, it would open up a new dimension to his game and generate a lot more scoring opportunities for him. If nothing else, it would space the floor more evenly, as Asik can't do much of anything outside of the paint.
Ronnie Brewer is in stiff competition as the Bulls' best wing defender.
Simply put, he can shut his man down on D. And on offense, he is most likely the Bulls' best player off the ball. He utilizes screens well, and makes extraordinarily effective cuts along the baseline. In fact, during the regular season, most of his points came from either creating space off baseline cuts or on the fast break.
His most glaring weakness is his shooting touch. Even though he only took 27 shots from beyond the arc, he converted on just six of them all season, for a total percentage of 22.2 percent. While not a terrible shooter from close and mid-range, the further away from the basket he gets, the harder it is for him to put the rock in the bucket.
If he were to add a reliable three-point shot to his arsenal, he would undoubtedly secure his spot as the starting shooting guard next season. His baseline cuts could extend all the way to the three-point line, drawing his man out of the paint and allowing Rose more room to run. His developed accuracy would also allow for an outlet as the defense collapses into the paint.
Joakim is the consummate hustle player.
He has seemingly limitless energy, and he uses it on every play. He crashes the boards with vigor, he dives for loose balls and he scores well underneath the basket. He also happens to be one of the best passing bigs the league has to offer. He averaged a double-double, with 11.7 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per contest last year.
Joakim's weaknesses are his shooting form and his tendency to commit fouls. In about 33 minutes per contest, he averaged more than three fouls a game, although much of this was due to the need for him to constantly rotate after Boozer's lapses on his man.
Last season, Dwight Howard took a crash course in low-post offense with Hakeem Olajuwon. And it showed, as his scoring numbers jumped from from 18.3 points to 22.9 points per contest. I think Joakim would do well in taking a similar practice routine, and would see an increase in his scoring numbers next season, much like Dwight did last year.
This is another one of those no-brainers.
Boozer's strength is obviously his offensive arsenal, especially on the low block, his ability to finish through contact and his refined mid-range jumper. He also attacks the boards effectively, and is a willing passer. Last season, he averaged a very respectable 17.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in just under 32 minutes.
His weakness comes, of course, on the defensive end. I've read countless articles, blogs and fan commentary on Boozer's lack of defense. His defensive rating for last season was a 99. That's lower than Kyle Korver's. Need more be said?
There's no doubt that his defense is lax, and that should be the unquestioned focus of his offseason.
Luol Deng is the glue that held the Bulls together last year.
His defense improved by leaps and bounds over last summer, and one could have made a very strong case for him to take a spot on the All-Defensive team last year. On offense, he shoots well from distance, attacks the rim with reckless abandon and finishes close to the basket. He is even a good rebounder for his position. He averaged 17.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 threes in a whopping 39 minutes per game.
About the only thing that could make Luol more valuable to the team would be his development of a post game. Watching last season's contests, he rarely opted to post up undersized forwards, and instead tried to take them off the dribble. If he were to develop this aspect of his game, his length and footwork would allow him to be quite a threat. It would also take the ball out of Rose's hands when he begins to draw an extra defender.
Finally, we arrive at the leader of the Bulls. Derrick Rose led the team to a 62-20 record, and eventually went on to win the league's MVP Award. He has improved his game considerably each year he has been playing professional ball, and one would expect him to do the same this year.
Obviously, Derrick is a very gifted offensive player. He led the team in scoring and assists, with 25 and 7.7 respectively. Add in his quickness and his 40-inch vertical, and it allows him to attack the rim harder than any other point guard. His offense is at its best when he can penetrate into the paint.
On the other hand, his decision-making has been called into question, especially after a season of taking almost 20 field-goal attempts per contest. He also tends to force the ball when he can't get penetration, and turns the ball over a lot as a result, as evidenced by his 3.4 turnovers per contest last year.
Derrick's development could go one of two ways. If he works on passing and facilitating the offense like a true point guard, his assist numbers would rise, and his turnovers would likely decrease. However, I think he should work on his three-point shooting, as this adds more dimensions to his offensive game. It will also force his man to play tight all the way to the three-point line, allowing for more opportunities to beat his man while running isolation plays.
As a team, the Bulls need the most work on their offense. Although, after finishing last season with the best record and having the league's MVP and Coach of the Year, drastic changes are not necessary.
If the current roster stays together, practices hard and plays with a chip on its collective shoulder next year, they will be in a very similar position to the one they enjoyed this past year (assuming there is a next year, of course).