Even as Major League Baseball approaches its final month and the NFL and NHL on the verge of their season openers, my mind is invariably on hoops. My fandom towards the Bulls is unparalleled, having been a season ticket holder for 24 years now. To this day, there is no other team I’d rather watch.
That being said, it’s never too early to talk NBA hoops and share my 2010 season outlook for the Chicago Bulls. Let’s take a look at what the Bulls have done this off-season.
Head Coach Change:
The Bulls have finished up what has been a busy, albeit positive off-season. It started when the Bulls fired two-year head coach Vinny Del Negro. I wasn’t a big fan of Del Negro when we first signed him, but he began to win me over when the team made big strides last season. He constantly got the short end of the stick, especially when it came to General Manager John Paxson’s decisions. He did the best he could with mediocre talent and to only give him a slim two year chance with the team, wasn’t fair to him. But the NBA is a business, and fairness doesn’t always equate with it.
The Bulls moved in a different direction and signed long-time assistant coach and defense guru Tom Thibodeau. From 2004-2007, Thibodeau helped the Houston Rockets finish in the top five each year in total defense and FG% defense. The young Bulls gelled well together last year and it seemed the only thing they were missing was their cohesiveness as a defensive unit. The Bulls gave up an unsettling 99.1 PPG. With Thibodeau at the helm, the Bulls are sure to turn those numbers around. Expect the Bulls to finish somewhere in the 6-10th place range in the NBA in PPG allowed.
When the Bulls failed to sign Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this summer, they were forced to look to plan B or I suppose we could call it plan D. Fortunately for the Bulls, plan D turned out to be Carlos Boozer. Let’s face it, the Bulls, like every other team thought to be in the running to land the big three, never had a chance to sign them. Wade, Bosh and James knew since the 2008 Olympics that they were going to play together in Miami – but that’s another story and I digress.
Personally, I love the Boozer signing. His biggest downside is his injury prowess. Let’s say he does get hurt this season at some point – I believe he’ll only miss a handful of games at the most. His only other downside is probably his lack of a strong defensive game. Thibodeau is perfect for Boozer and the rest of the gang. I mean, we know he is one of the few guys in this league that are capable of a 20 and 10 season and there’s no reason to expect him to bring anything less to the table.
When we learned Lebron would be “taking his talents to south beach,” this left the Bulls with plenty of money to fill out their roster with the role players they needed. Yes, we traded Kirk Hinrich, a valuable on-the-ball defender who was always pitted against the opposing team’s best guards, an undervalued asset to any team. It was understandable though, as his departure assured the team of the ability to land two max free agents.
They did, however, sign Kyle Korver, 3-point specialist and high percentage shooter; Ronnie Brewer, a young athletic swingman and strong defensive player; Kurt Thomas, a decent veteran and cheaper option than the overpaid Brad Miller; Keith Bogans, a decent outside shooter and defender.
My favorite signing outside of Boozer was the addition of CJ Watson from Golden State. Watson is a young PG with great upside. It remains to be seen whether his success came as a product of Don Nelson’s high-flyin’ offense in Golden State or if he’ll strive under Thibodeau’s grind-it-out defensive style. I’m with the latter – He’ll be a great addition and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to play behind Derrick Rose. Besides, who would you rather have, Jannero Pargo or CJ Watson?
Don’t expect the Bulls to come flyin’ outta the gates to start the season. It will take this team some time to gel on the court. But do expect the Bulls’ returning players, a year older and a year wiser, to really establish themselves sometime in late-November and go on a big winning streak. Also expect the Bulls’ best circus trip since 1998.
The Eastern Conference isn’t strong. The Celtics are a year older and the Magic have proven that they become a completely different team in the post-season.
I like the Bulls to finish with a four seed in the Eastern Conference this year as long as Boozer can keep himself healthy when they need him most – at the end of the season.
My playoff seed predictions are as follows:
Bulls’ Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Ronnie Brewer/Kyle Korver
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Joakim Noah
Key Bench Players: Taj Gibson, Korver/Brewer, Watson, Bogans, Thomas and James Johnson.
Bulls kick off the preseason in Indianapolis against the Pacers on October 5.
Bulls kick off the regular season at Oklahoma City against the Thunder on October 27 on ESPN.
About the Author
Written by Kevin Blodorn
My name is Kevin Blodorn. I'm from nearby Chicago, aka the greatest city in the country, and I love sports and writing - so why not combine them? I decided to go to Indiana University and get my degree in Sports Communication. And now I'm ready to get started.