The Bulls, without Derrick Rose, picked a bad time to lose their depth.
In: rookie Marquis Teague…Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli, Vladimir Radmanovic, Nazr Mohammed, Nate Robinson, Kyrylo Fesenko
Out: Omer Asik (HOU), C.J. Watson (BKN), John Lucas III (TOR), Kyle Korver (ATL), Ronnie Brewer (NYK), Brian Scalabrine, Mike James
PG Derrick Rose Kirk Hinrich, Marquis Teague (r), Nate Robinson
SG Rip Hamilton Jimmy Butler, Marco Belinelli
SF Luol Deng Vladimir Radmanovic
PF Taj Gibson Carlos Boozer
C Joakim Noah Nazr Mohammed, Kyrylo Fesenko
Offseason Recap: The Bulls lost a lot of their depth this summer due to financial constraints. That’s what happens when you pay a guy like Carlos Boozer the max and he ends up being your 4th option on offense. Despite their small wallets, the team was able to bolster its PG position…a key seeing that Derrick Rose will be out till well after the New Year rehabbing his knee. Former Bull Kirk Hinrich was affordably acquired via trade, Marquis Teague was drafted in the 1st round, and ‘sparkplug’ Nate Robinson was signed to the veterans minimum. Robinson will assume the role of ‘tiny fan favorite’ vacated by John Lucas III (now a Raptor).
The team was held hostage for a few weeks dealing with the restricted free agency of center Omer Asik. Management ultimately decided that $24M over three years was just too steep. Shortly after the Turk headed to Houston in late July, the rest of the Bulls bench was pieced together at bargain prices…SG Marco Belinelli, F Vladimir Radmanovic, C Nazr Mohammed. The loss of Kyle Korver also stings, but the addition of Hinrich in that deal made more sense. The team is hoping that second-year SG Jimmy Butler teams with Belinelli to insure the team against the annual Rip Hamilton injury.
Strengths: The starters have an offensive and defensive cohesion that few other teams do. Even Kirk Hinrich, filling in for Rose, is a former Bull so he’s very familiar playing with the other guys. They also have a clear identity and strong leadership from coach Tom Thibodeau. This is a huge plus, one that the Spurs have been milking for years. While a lot of teams spend the 82-game season trying to find themselves, this group will just be plodding along waiting for their leader to return.
Weaknesses: This team is no longer the deep squad that just plugs in a bench guy seamlessly for a starter. Other than the PF position, there is a serious drop-off when someone heads over to the scorer’s table. Omer Asik leaving is bad and not having Rose till likely February is even worse. This team will just try and stay afloat until their Super Star comes back (hopefully healthy). Speaking of health, that is another weakness of this core: Hamilton, Deng, Boozer…must I go on?
Prediction: Carlos Boozer may make max money, but his back-up is a much better player. It’s time that Coach ‘Tibs’, with his new contract, rewards good play. I predict that Taj starts at the ’4′ on opening night and Carlos comes off the bench. It’ll be a good look considering the only other bench ‘big’ is Nazr Mohammed. I think it will also help keep ‘Booze’ healthy, or as healthy as can be expected.
Derrick Rose admitted recently that this knee injury forced him to learn how to walk all over again. I expect his game to be quite different as well. He won’t be the fearless paint-attacker we’ve been accustomed to seeing. ‘D’ will learn to blend in more floaters and turn arounds in order to avoid those collisions that led to his injuries. It will be transormation reminiscent of fellow Chi-town stud Dwyane Wade.
By the time Derrick does make his return in January/February, I also picture at least one or two other guys going out. Rip Hamilton is always due for another injury while Luol Deng was surprisingly healthy the past two years. Talk about being due. I also recommend the Bulls trainers keep all sports bags away from Carlos Boozer…last year he proved that most injuries happen close to he home, or even in it.
This team will be very mediocre until the return of Derrick Rose, which is dangerous in a very good Eastern Conference. They’ll hit a nice stride late in the year but ultimately only advance to the 2nd round. I think the Indiana Pacers are better (as of today) and so are the defending champion Miami Heat. If by chance they avoid these two teams, then their chances go up dramatically…though I still think Philadelphia is really good. They also have the confidence of beating Chicago in the playoffs (though without Rose). It won’t be a return to glory for the Bulls this year, but definitely a return to contention.