Bulls Still a Work in Progress…

Bulls thib

The return of former MVP Derrick Rose, after basically two seasons out, coupled with the demise of Miami and Indiana had many touting Chicago as the team to beat in the East before the season tipped off.

Some cited problems Cleveland would have in a transition period following some fantastic trade moves in the off-season which saw them pick up two all-stars in Lebron James and Kevin Love as another reason the Bulls would emerge from the Eastern Conference come playoff time.

Early form suggests that these predictions could ring true, with the Bulls last night taking their record to 4-1 despite a spirited performance from a young Milwaukee Bucks team, whilst Cleveland’s record moved to 1-3 after going down to the Utah Jazz.

Whilst 4-1 suggests everything is ‘Rosie’ in Chicago, excuse the pun, looking deeper into Chicago’s performances so far, I would suggest that Tom Thibodeau might not be as happy as some might think.

In terms of what the Bulls have added in the off season, Thibodeau made no secret of the fact that he wanted to add scoring to an offense ranked the worst in the league at 93.7 points per game last season.

Chicago acquired Doug Mcdermott, otherwise known as Dougie McBuckets, who lead the NCAA in scoring in the 2013-14 season, and was fifth in the NCAA Division 1 all-time scoring. Clearly with Chicago giving away their two first round picks in the 2014 draft, and a future second round pick to the Denver Nuggets, the Bulls have confidence in McDermott’s ability to make the transition to the NBA.

Doug McDermott

Doug McDermott has been a key addition this season for Chicago (Image Credit: Bleacher Report)

Needless to say if he can replicate his college form in Chicago, his ability to score will be a huge help to a Chicago team who are renowned as being one of the greatest defensive teams in the league.

The Bulls also added Nikola Mirotic to their roster. Mirotic, who has plied his trade in the Spanish League in recent years and picked up the MVP award in 2013, allows the Bulls to stretch the court with his ability to shoot from range.

His height also adds to Chicago’s defensive depth, Mirotic averaged 4.6 rebounds per game last season in Spain, and looks an exciting prospect at both ends of the court for the Bulls.

Further to this Aaron Rose has been added to replace D.J Augustin, and provide cover for Derrick Rose at point guard, and Pau Gasol, who provides a greater scoring presence in the paint, along with being one of the best passing big men in the league again adds to the Bulls’ defense.

So why are the Bulls still a work on progress? Surely a 4-1 record and a number of additions to a team with 48 wins last season can only mean good things?

A closer look at Bulls’ performances shine a different light on how they are shaping up so far.

Firstly and potentially the most important aspect is the health of Derrick Rose. As I’m sure any Bulls fans who has watched Derrick’s return can relate to, watching him is a test to the blood pressure. Every time Derrick goes down it’s hearts in mouths for Bulls fans after two seasons without their star man.

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose’s health is key this season for Chicago (Image Credit: NBA Blogtable)

With an injury to Derrick’s ankle already meaning he has missed minutes, Bulls fans will hope Rose’s body can hold up after essentially two season out of the grueling NBA season.

The second point is how Chicago can get Gasol and Noah playing together most effectively. They arguably have the ability to be the greatest big man pairing the league has ever seen. However the Bulls are now asking Noah, last seasons defensive player of the year to play a completely different type of defense.

With Gasol lacking mobility, and Noah having the ability to defend 1 through 5, Gasol has now taken Noah’s defensive role in the team, with Noah taking up a greater role in defending further away from the boards.

I have no doubts Thibodeau will work out how to use these two great big men effectively, but games so far this season have suggested they aren’t quite there yet. Joakim is down 1.3 rebounds per game on last season, and his statistics suggest he is struggling even more with his offensive role in the team, with Noah down 50% from 12.6 points per game last season, to 6.3 this season, and assists down from 5.4 to 3 per game.

Bulls Bigs

The way Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah gel is crucial (Image Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports)

Another potential teething problem is how to fit in McDermott and Mirotic. Some have suggested McDermott should start, with Mike Dunleavy playing with the rotation to provide more experience.

However Dunleavy’s performances at the end of last season have made him hard to leave out, meaning at present McDermott is struggling to get the looks he needs to build scoring momentum.

Mirotic has looked good in spells, but has shown a softness when defending, something he will need to address quickly if he wants to continue getting minutes in a Tom Thibodeau team. On several occasions he has fouled, but failed to prevent the opposition from scoring. He needs to learn to foul hard if he is going to foul.

By no means am I suggesting the Bulls are struggling, however I believe last nights win in Milwaukee will have left Thibodeau with more questions than answers.

If the Bulls can address the teething problems, I don’t think there is any doubt they can emerge from the East and look to win their first Championship since the Jordan era.

Image credit: www.basketball-society.com

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Brynn Cooper is the founder of NBA_UKfans.

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