Chicago Bulls: 3 for 4 Preseason Outlook 2011
The Bulls struggled through a first-round series against the inferior Indiana Pacers and did the same in a second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, but they managed to pull out the victories in both. When they faced the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, they were far from their comfort zone.
MVP Derrick Rose was forced to give the ball up far too often and when he did get shots off, they just didn't fall. This made it clear that changes would be needed for a true championship run in the 2011-2012 season. Read what a few Bulls writers think about the upcoming season.
1. What Was the Bulls' Biggest Weakness Last Season ?
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Scott: I felt their biggest weakness last season was what it has been the past few years—a true inside scoring presence. Carlos Boozer was supposed to come in and fix this, but even aside from his missed games, he struggled to provide consistent inside scoring.
He needs to regain his All-Star form if the Bulls are going to make a true run this year.
Kyle: The most glaring weakness for the Bulls last season might have been their inability to keep Carlos Boozer from turning into invisible boy in big moments. All jokes aside, however, they truly displayed their lack of crunch-time scoring in the playoffs, especially when the Heat switched LeBron James over to guard Derrick Rose in the closing minutes and Rose was unable to get the mid-range shot to fall on two occasions.
Don’t misinterpret my words, this is simply a response to the question, and I have full confidence in Derrick’s ability as a game winner and finisher, but in terms of the greatest weakness on last year’s team, it was finding a second scorer at the end of games.
Max: The Bulls' biggest problem last year was scoring. Despite having MVP Derrick Rose tearing it up all season long, the Bulls averaged just 98.6 PPG, which equated to 19th in the NBA in scoring.
The main reason the Bulls struggled offensively was the lack of a legitimate second scoring option. The Bulls have two third options in Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, but no second go-to guy when Rose is out.
Injury woes in the frontcourt did not help either, as Boozer and Joakim Noah combined for 57 games missed last year. If the Bulls add a scoring guard who can create without Rose on the court, they should be able to boost their offensive productivity.
2. How Should the Bulls Address the SG Position?
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Scott: The Bulls need to add a veteran at the shooting guard position that can provide not only solid outside shooting, but can also create his own shot from the perimeter. I feel like Caron Butler, Tracy McGrady and Jamal Crawford can each fill this role.
Each is a capable outside shooter who has proven in the past to be able to create his own shot in crunch time. While these aren’t ideal options, each improves the position that lacked the most for the Bulls last year.
Kyle: It is no secret that the Bulls are an incredibly gifted team, one of the best in the NBA, but it is tough to grasp how good Derrick Rose and that frontcourt were last year until you take into account that Keith Bogans started ALL 82 GAMES.
The perfect player to take Bogans' role would be someone like Arron Afflalo, but it is highly unlikely that any offer the Bulls could make him wouldn’t immediately be matched by his former suitors.
I personally would like to see the Bulls go one of two directions. The first, would be to sign and start one of the greatest scoring guards of all time, and a true one of a kind talent, Tracy McGrady. McGrady has already said that he would like to play with the Bulls, and joining his incredible offensive ability with the defense and rebounding already in place would certainly give him the best chance he ever had at winning a title.
The second direction that I would like to see them go would be to sign Caron Butler. Butler worked out in Chicago today, and many close to him have cited the Bulls and Clippers as his top choices for the coming season. While Chicago will be unable to offer quite the finances that LA can, they offer Butler the chance at a title which his injury cost him last season.
He would also be an incredible upgrade over Bogans, and would allow the Bulls the option of creative moves such as swinging Luol Deng in an effort to play Monta Ellis at the 2.
Whatever their path, it is clear that something must be done, as I cannot bear to watch a single game in which the reigning MVP and Keith Bogans share a backcourt.
Max: The Bulls are in desperate need of a well-rounded shooting guard. They have a great defensive option in Ronnie Brewer, a great offensive weapon in Kyle Korver—and Keith Bogans. Last season, Brewer was thought to be the starting SG until he was injured prior to the season and lost his starting job to Keith Bogans, who was, without a doubt, the worst starting 2-guard in the NBA in 2011.
The best options for the Bulls to add are Caron Butler, Tracy McGrady or Nick Young. Of this group, Nick Young has the biggest upside, as he averaged 17.4 PPG last season, but whoever signs him is going to overpay and get a guy who doesn’t want to play team basketball.
If McGrady is able to play 30 minutes and average 13 points, five rebounds, and five assists, Bulls fans would be ecstatic, but I don’t know if his body will hold together.
Caron Butler is the most desirable piece to add. He even worked out with the Bulls today, and it appears that he wants to play in Chicago. Butler also has injury concerns, but if he is healthy, he could be the missing link to get the Bulls to the finals.
3. What Do You See Being the Biggest Factor in the Bulls' Success This Year?
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Scott: Carlos Boozer is the Bulls' key. If Boozer has an elite season, the Bulls will be competing for a ring this summer. If he doesn’t, the Bulls will find themselves where they were last year. An elite regular season team that struggles to beat quality teams in the playoffs because of the lack of a true second scoring option.
Kyle: The biggest factor in the Bulls' success in the coming year will be the same thing that drove them to the best record in the NBA in 2010-11—defense. The ability of the team to come together as one collective unit under Thibodeau last year was truly remarkable.
While the team was already outstanding at rebounding, it was the new system that allowed their tenacity and depth to truly shine. Few teams can hope to match the ability of the Chicago frontcourt and also manage to contain their All-Star PG.
Considering how high the team is on both Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, all of the coach’s weapons should be back and strong as ever in an effort to maintain their defensive excellence. It will be the ability of Coach Thibodeau to work whatever new acquisitions he is given into the already-strong system that will define the team’s run towards an NBA title.
Max: If the Bulls are healthy, they will win. Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, specifically, have to remain healthy all season long.
I honestly think they could be one of the best frontcourts in the NBA—if they can stay on the court and get time to learn to play with each other. Joakim Noah was in the Top Three in the NBA in rebounding before his injury last season, and If he is healthy this year, I see him averaging 14 boards a game.
Everyone was very down on Boozer last year, but he was banged up, in a new town and playing in a new offense. I think he will be okay this year. The Bulls overpaid for him, but he should give them 19 and 10. The Bulls are very talented, but they will have to stay healthy to win.
4. What Will the 2011-12 Season Be Like for the Bulls?
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Scott: I expect the Bulls to come up with some way to score when Rose is having an off day or is taken out of the game, so I expect them to be at least where they were last year and battling for an Eastern Conference Championship with the Heat and Celtics.
While a lot will depend on offseason moves, some will depend on the improvement of Rose and the dedication of core guys like Boozer, Noah and Deng.
Kyle: Regardless of the changes that the Bulls make, I would wager on them meeting the Miami Heat once again in the Eastern Conference Finals. Barring one last run out of the Big Four in Boston or an incredible resurgence in the Magic there are few teams currently built to handle the big two in the East.
While I would argue that the Bulls are the better, more athletic and deeper team, it is impossible to argue that they would win a playoff rematch against Miami.
With the addition of a competent second weapon for Derrick Rose, I absolutely see them with the potential to win the NBA title.
If I were to make my prediction today, before any free agency, I would guess that the Bulls will take the title in six over the Lakers. This prediction also hinges on the Lakers swinging a deal for Dwight Howard, and Noah frustrating him to no end en route to Derrick hoisting the trophy.
While I will not disagree that these statements are coming from a devoted Chicago fan, they are a general assessment of their team compared to the others in the league.
If Chicago is able to add another quality scorer and still maintain their defense at the level they showed last season, there is no doubt that they have what it takes to win it all in 2011-12.
Max: The 2011-12 Chicago Bulls will go 48-18.
This might be a little worse than most people expect, but I think the Bulls overachieved last year with their record. They made it as far as I thought they would—the Eastern Conference Finals. I believe they have the talent to go even further if they are able to add a guard like Butler or McGrady.
The Bulls defense was the second-best in the NBA last season, and this will not change. This year, they need help for the playoffs; teams keyed in on Rose last postseason, and when he was not able to create, he had to force shots or pass to his teammates, who were very little help.
Expect the Bulls to be atop the elite NBA teams and make a run for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
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