By Angie Wiatrowski
The only thing constant is change, and the Chicago Bulls have definitely proved that point during their busy offseason.
The Bulls have had a near complete remodel, with a new head coach, new assistant coaches, and plenty of roster moves. Now what? We know how the 2009-10 Bulls were, but what can we expect from all of this change? Will it give the Bulls a leg up into the postseason?
First things first, Tom Thibodeau has some work to do. Last season, the Bulls ranked fourth in opponents field goal percentage (.442), seventh in opponents effective field goal percentage (.484), ninth in opponents free throws per field goal attempt (.212) and eleventh in defensive rating (105.3). These numbers don’t lie, and they’re nothing to brag about. With Thibodeau’s experience, and if everyone stays healthy, the Bulls could be one of the best defensive units in the league.
While the defense is ultimately up to who does what on the court, Thibodeau does have an impact on those numbers, and he knows what he’s doing. He served as an assistant with seven teams over 18 NBA seasons, finishing in the top ten defensively 15 times, and will be a good influence for the Bulls.
While Thibodeau has a great reputation for defensive knowledge, some may be worried about his offensive strategies. However, considering the Bulls didn’t fair so well offensively last season, the only way to go is up. Anything will do at this point, considering last season, the Bulls ranked 23rd in field goal percentage (.451), 24th in points per game (97.5), 27th in offensive rating (103.5), and 28th in effective field goal percentage (.477).
Bulls’ general manager Gar Forman has faith in his new hire, telling the Chicago Tribune, “(Thibodeau) has a great reputation around the league. Obviously, most of it is for his defensive knowledge and defensive credentials. We really went back off a number of people he’s worked with over the years, and consistently, they said he’s really got a terrific offensive mind. He’s got creative ideas offensively and maybe wasn’t asked to do that as much in Boston.”
There is no question that Derrick Rose will continue to be, well, Derrick Rose. He may have gotten to a slow start last season after a preseason ankle injury, but he has clearly progressed, playing a key role for the United States at the FIBA World Championship (he was named the game MVP for the USA’s final exhibition game).
Assuming he can stay healthy, Joakim Noah could provide All-Star play this season. Last season he ranked in the top ten for rebounds per game (11.0), defensive rebounds per game (7.6), offensive rebounds per game (3.4), and despite being limited to 64 games due to plantar fasciitis, he had 28 double-doubles.
As for new acquisitions, Carlos Boozer should make a positive impact on the team and the Bulls can expect a lot from him. He averaged 19.5 points and 11.2 rebounds per game with the Utah Jazz last season and shot 56.2 percent from the field, a career high. He played in 78 of 82 games avoiding injury, and ranked as one of the top 5-6 players
available this summer.
The Bulls also looked into fixing their three-point shooting. Last season, they ranked 29th in three-point attempts and 28th in three-point percentage. The fix: they acquired Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson. Korver set a league record for three-point percentage last season (53.6), and Watson had a .468 field goal percentage and a .310 three-point field goal percentage with Golden State last season.
Between Thibodeau’s defensive expertise and a new batch of offensive leaders thrown in the mix, the Bulls could be challenging for a championship opportunity in the near future. It will take time as chemistry plays a big role as well, and cant’ really be evaluated before the season begins. Only time will tell and in a few weeks they’ll be put to the test in training camp.
The Bulls may not make it to the postseason, but they will have established a new identity under Thibodeau and will continue with their work ethic and motivation to win.