The Chicago Bulls haven’t played the toughest competition (Sacramento, Cleveland, New Orleans, Orlando, Oklahoma City and Minnesota), but they are off to a 4-2 start without franchise superstar Derrick Rose.
- The backcourt is looking for the lost production of Rose with Kirk Hinrich and Richard Hamilton manning the starting spots.
Hinrich, best suited as a combo guard off the bench for a contender, has been steady at the point and is the second best on ball defender for the Bulls. He is moving the ball and limiting his turnovers (more than five assists to one turnover per game), but his own scoring has been slow.
Like Hamilton, Hinrich is at his best working off the ball on screens along the baseline or on curl cuts. Hamilton, after an injury plagued first season with Chicago, has bounced back at more than a dozen points per game thus far, but hasn’t added much outside of it.
Marco Belinelli is an intriguing scorer off the bench, but is very similar to Hamilton except as a better three-point threat.
A pleasant surprise has been Nate Robinson with his production across the board and trademark energy. His style of play doesn’t mesh with head coach Tom Thibodeau’s system, so his production needs to be monitored. Rookie Marquise Teague has been a non-factor.
- Forwards are the strength of this team, with Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer as starters and one of the better reserves in the league in Taj Gibson (who is fresh off a four-year extension).
Deng has been solid this year at approximately 15 points per game, but needs to attack the basket more on post ups and drives to become a more effective scorer. Deng continues to show himself as one of the top defenders at small forward, including a good late effort against Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans in the season opener.
Boozer, on the other hand, continues his disappointing stint with the Bulls in averaging 13 points and seven rebounds. Boozer is shooting less than 40 percent in floating out of his comfort zones and has seen Gibson taking minutes late in the game. With Rose out, it is Boozer who should be the logical person to set up.
Speaking of Gibson, he continues to be very efficient in his minutes in averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds on a per-40 minute projection. His athleticism allows him to guard multiple positions and he could start for a number of teams in the league. Second year forward Jimmy Butler has seen 14 minutes per game and is an athletic player, but is limited offensively.
Joakim Noah may be better suited for the four spot, but has to be considered one of the top centers in the league. He is averaging strong numbers across the board and is playing with infectious energy. He has offensive limitations, but understands them and works around it. He is a good post defender, but can also protect the rim. However, with Nazr Mohammed not being able to build on a good preseason and the loss of Omer Asik during the offseason, keeping him fresh will be key. Handling minutes of his stars hasn’t been a strength for Thibodeau in the past.
Chicago remains strong defensively as expected, but scoring points without Rose will determine if the Bulls bounce around .500 this year or contend in the upper half of the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are a poor outside shooting team and need to create easy looks to avoid being handcuffed in the halfcourt.