Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Once again back is the incredible ... Ball Don't Lie's NBA previews, outlining off-season moves, projecting win totals, spinning tracks and much, much more. It's a fun, hot mess. Right now, the Chicago Bulls.

2008-09 Record: 41-41, second place in Central Division
Head Coach/Hair: Vinny Del Negro/Immaculate
Key Additions: Jannero Pargo(notes), James Johnson(notes), Taj Gibson(notes)
Key Losses: Ben Gordon(notes), Tim Thomas(notes)

Do I trust Vinny Del Negro? No, I don't trust Vinny Del Negro.

This is a carryover from last season, his first campaign as Bulls (or anyone's) coach, and I don't mind working with a mindset finalized last May. It's the hole he's dug.

For all I know, the man's turned it around. One season was all he needed, he's ready to lead, he's ready to complain about the offense when the offense was the problem (instead of when the defense was the problem, or vice versa), and actually mean it. Not in some passive/aggressive, Scott Skiles-like way. Skiles used to needle the defense when he knew the offense stunk, as a way to motivate. I don't quite assume that level of panache from VDN.

But I could be wrong, there's a great chance of it, but that's what I'm going with until I'm proven wrong. Most of you know where my fandom lies, so here's hoping I'm way, way wrong.

That's the big worry with these previews. You tend to either overestimate or underestimate teams based on getting it wrong in years past, and that's no way to run a predictin' business. You can learn from your mistakes, of course, but that doesn't mean you overcorrect.

With this year's Bulls, though, this feels like an overcorrect done correctly. Even if I give them the same win total as last season.

See, young Bulls teams in 2003-04 (making the postseason) and 2006-07 (making the Finals) were expected to take a leap, and both squads failed miserably. And you can't quite blame a lack of new blood for such failings, because those squads introduced (relative, in the case of the former) firebrands such as Kirk Hinrich(notes) and Joakim Noah(notes) to that year's roster. Either way, heading into this season, we can't get too dour with the Bulls chances based on previous incarnations that have failed to live up to expectations.

But that doesn't mean we overcorrect the overcorrection. Understeer, oversteer, we're still steering into the ditch. And then when you toss a wild card like Vinny Del Negro into the mix, yeah, it all tends to even out.

So the team could fail miserably. Or it could threaten 50 wins. Could, honestly, do both. Not a cop out, and apologies for the waffling, but anyone telling you they know exactly where these Bulls are ending up is lying.

The youngsters will get better. Rare is the season that sees youngsters fall off, save for (seriously) 2003-04 and 2006-07 in Chicago, but Derrick Rose(notes) and Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas(notes) and Luol Deng(notes) will improve.

Losing Ben Gordon hurts, losing your leading scorer always will, but replacing his looks with more touches for Deng and John Salmons(notes) (who you know, come on, will backslide this season) won't be too awful. Chicago will miss his spacing -- this isn't a team you'll have to guard on the perimeter unless someone is hot (and even then, go ahead, you don't have to close out on Hinrich or Salmons like they're Ray Allen(notes) and Reggie Miller) -- but they didn't lose a 7-footer with skills. And they didn't tie up their 2010 cap space to retain him. And Jannero Pargo ... I'll stop. He did come cheaply.

Noah's already been a beast during the preseason. Tyrus Thomas, you can't help but get a better feeling about him this year (minutes!) than you have in years past, Brad Miller(notes) should be solid enough, and the team got a taste last May. Should have been in that second round.

But there are so many things to juggle. So many things have to go right. The defense was king for years, and it fell off the face of the earth late last season despite the presence of so many (Noah and Hinrich and Thomas, especially) who were around when the team was lights-out defensively. The offense is still way too dependent on a transparent attack that relies way too much on perimeter touch without much space to get a shot off. And that late-season regular-season run? Check the schedule. They took on the league's worst, and came out ahead. Bra ... vo?

Then you toss in Del Negro.

So, yeah. Half wins, half losses. Cheap wins, tough losses. W's they should have lost, L's they didn't earn. Exactly when you expect them to zig, they'll zag. Chicago fans should be used to it.

Prediction: 41-41

Kelly Dwyer

Do the Bulls have enough depth to compete?

This team goes about only nine deep, and that nine includes Aaron Gray(notes), Luol Deng and his recovering leg, and Kirk Hinrich, who missed 31 games last season. The Bulls would prefer not to sign anyone else because they're a few million dollars under the luxury tax, and are telling fans they'll add more salary in the 2010 offseason. We'll see.

— KD, Yahoo! Sports 2009-10 NBA Preview magazine

BlogaBull.com: "Seeing how a first-round playoff loss to a team missing its best player was seemingly treated with such extreme excitement and praise, no doubt it will be important for the Bulls to at least look like a team on the rise, whether it's true or not. And to do that they have to make the playoffs again, entering 2010 free agency as an attractive destination for players looking for a competitive team with the cap space to pay up. A season where the playoffs are missed could bring a repeat of Bulls free agency past, where Jerry Krause had a league-worst roster and whiffed on Plan A through Plan Ron Mercer." [more]

Give Me The Rock: "What are the team's biggest weaknesses? Post game. Despite the presence of Brad Miller, Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas and, now, James Johnson and Taj Gibson, the Bulls don't really have anyone who can post up other teams on the offensive end. They're pretty decent defending the post, so it's not a big deal, but without Ben Gordon, there's a lot of points to make up, and that burden basically falls to Derrick Rose, John Salmons and Luol Deng." [more]

The Baseline: "Rookie James Johnson may not get as many minutes as he's seen in the preseason. However, he can still make his name known if he plays up his martial arts background and love of all things MMA. Stern should be all over this, as should Dana White: Having an NBA player weigh in with his expert commentary, as well as proving that the Association is, you know, 'down,' is the kind of cross-branding that makes the world go round these days. Johnson definitely needs to go the written, longform route on these, maybe even stick it in The Rumble. Proof that he's a serious man about this thriving new sport, with some allusions to basketball to show the scope of both." [more]

Seal, "Kiss From A Rose"

As a Bulls fan, I can't tell you how lucky I feel to have Derrick Rose. So lucky that I'd sing a round of bizarre harmonies set to what sounds like an electronic bagpipe. That's dedication, holmes.

After the debacle that was the 2007-08 season, Derrick Rose is the light on the dark side of me. Now that our Rose is in bloom, a light hits the gloom on the grey. I don't know what that means, but it's most assuredly true. My power. My pleasure. My pain. BAY-EE-BAY!

— Trey Kerby, The Blowtorch

There are plenty of storylines surrounding the Bulls with what figure to be sizable fantasy implications. The first, of course, is the maturation of point guard Derrick Rose, as this is undoubtedly his team now that Ben Gordon and his big-time usage rate are gone. Rose scored or assisted 35 percent of the Bulls' field goals as a rookie, a figure good for eighth in the league and just a shade behind the likes of Kobe Bryant(notes) and Joe Johnson(notes) (both 36 percent). While you can count on Rose improving on that number, his upside for fantasy purposes will rely on improvements in threes, steals and free-throw shooting. He's an elite option in keeper leagues, but I don't think he'll justify the reach people are making for him in Round 3 of re-draft leagues. Take a look at Tony Parker's(notes) line from last season (per-game rank of 59) and ask yourself how much better/worse you think he'll do than that in year two across the board, and then be sure to draft accordingly.

John Salmons finished well with the Bulls last season and will start at shooting guard. He posted one of the more quiet third-round impacts in recent memory last season and is a bargain at the current seventh-round price (74 ADP). Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas and Brad Miller all project to be useful for fantasy, with Noah and Thomas headed for potential breakouts. They formed an excellent trio post-trade last season, with respective per-game ranks of 43 (Noah), 55 (Thomas) and 91 (Miller). If Noah (109 ADP) flirts with a 12/9/2 season and Thomas (89 ADP) can finally show some consistency, they will both end up among the fantasy MVPs. Luol Deng's career 2006-07 season has faded from memory, but he's looking healthy and ready to reclaim at least some of that previous form. Even if he doesn't get all the way back, his ADP (104) removes much of the risk. Kirk Hinrich will see steady backup minutes and is a reasonable late option.

— Matt Buser, Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Basketball / BuserSports.com

Sign up now for Fantasy Basketball '09.

BarackObama: I think when you spread the ball around it's good for everybody. Oh, and wealth. Spread the wealth around. #ByeBG #Bulls #NBA
about 3 hours ago from UberTwitter

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Atlantic Divison: Celtics | Nets | Knicks | 76ers | Raptors
Southwest Division: Mavericks | Rockets | Grizzlies | Hornets | Spurs

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