Before the season even began this year I wrote a blog that was part a preview and a part my predictions for the Bulls season. I was off a bit in some areas and pretty close in others. I thought it would be a fun way to look back at the season by looking back at what I thought the season was going to look like and then break it all down. So if you are a Bulls fan or just interested in the NBA in general, please grab something to drink and have a seat because this may take awhile. I will put quotes around my original blog ideas and then break them down below in bold. Feel free to leave a reply.
“The Helm: Preview
John Paxson is known now for taking a few risks. When he first took over I thought he was going to be very conservative and in many ways he is, but he seems to pull a fast one every year or so. Signing Ben Wallace, firing Scott Skiles, and trading Tyson Chandler to name a few. This summer he shocked me and I can only imagine all Bulls fans by hiring Vinny Del Negro as the head coach. I really was hoping for Avery Johnson. Others really wanted Rick Carlisle or Mike D'Antoni. In the end Paxson went a different route.
At first glance Vinny seems a bad choice. A young team with some locker room issues really seemed to me to need a veteran coach to keep things in order. What really makes this hiring work is the additions of Del Harris and Bernie Bickerstaff. Del Negro will have two former NBA head coaches on the bench to field questions and concerns too. I am sure that Vinny will want to run a faster pace offense then we have seen the Bulls run in a long time. This will really help many of the Buls players shine. I love the idea of just about every player on the roster in an up tempo style of basketball. Tyrus, Gordon, Thabo, and Deng come to mind right away, but Kirk and the other will do quite well also.”
I think I got this one right for the most part. Vinny Del Negro has been far from perfect and with a better coach like the ones I mention I think the Bulls might have made it past the Celtics in the Playoffs.
“The Helm: Prediction
I think Vinny will hold his own and his fast paced game will push the Bulls into the playoffs. Del Negro and his wise staff will be able to get the best out of the Bulls young players and the Vinny Del Negro hire will end up making Paxson look smart.”
I was wrong on this one. The Bulls did play a bit faster but nothing like I thought and Vinny and his staff were far from wise. They were what they were, rookies. John Paxson in the end does not look smart or a fool. Vinny has been just OK and the Bulls did make it to the playoffs, though that had more to do with the Kings trade then anything.
I will write my preview and predictions for each impact player below. I am not going to write about players that I do not think will get enough playing time to make much of a difference. So, let us begin.
“Preview: Kirk will be the starter at PG until Rose proves he is the better player. I do not see that happening this year. Kirk will return to his old scrappy self and establish himself as the best all around guard on the Bulls. Let us not forget how good Kirk was but a season ago. He was a top 10 PG without question and I think he has a lot to prove. His hard-nosed defense will keep him on the floor for long stretches and at the end of the game he will run the show. I know this may not be what Bulls fans want to hear. I also want to see Rose turn into a top Pg in the NBA, but it will take time, and frankly the Bulls have it. I also do not see the Bulls trading Kirk this season unless I am way off base and Derrick turns into a real stud and Hinrich's services are no longer needed.
Predictions: 12 ppg, 3 rpg, 6.5 apg, 1.4 spg, FG% .420”
This has to be my biggest bust as far as predictions go. I really thought that Rose was going to have growing pains like Jay Williams did for us a few years ago. I was dead wrong. Derrick Rose proved to be our starter from day one and there was no looking back. Kirk's averages fell even more then I thought. He ended this season averaging 9.9ppg, 2.4rpg, 3.9apg, 1.3spg, .437FG%.
“Preview: Larry has some competition at the SG spot with Gordon resigning and Thabo getting better every day. The thing that gets Hughes the nod is his size and defense. Gordon is by far the better shooter, but Hughes will match-up better with other teams starters. I could see Larry lose his starting job to Thabo if Larry takes so many silly shots and does not play team basketball. Thabo is a younger and maybe better version of Hughes anyways. But when the season starts I feel that Larry will be in the starting lineup. He should do quite well in an up tempo game and if he plays his cards right he could have a real nice season.
Predictions: 13.5 ppg, 3 rpg, 3apg, 1.5 spg, FG% .405”
Larry did start for the Bulls for a while until he kept getting hurt and he really never panned out. Infact Larry was a cancer to this young team and did little but complain about playing time. Thanks Cleveland! The funniest part of this prediction was how much love I was giving Thabo. He really never worked out for us even though he had some nice skills. In the end Hughes averaged 11.6ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.2apg, 1.3 spg. .402FG%. I was not too far off on his stats.
“Preview: I think might be the year for Luol. He finally got his money, so there should be no distactions. We will find out this season what Deng is all about. Will he become complacent now that he has his contract, or will he take a step forward and become the team leader and All-star that he could be? That is a real hard question to answer these days with players striving more often towards the money rather then team success. However Luol has not shown signs of being a head case, so I gather that he will take a step forward this season. With so many shooters on the Bulls and some decent inside threats like Gooden and Thomas, I think the floor will open up a little more for him. I hope he drives it to the hole more and plays with his back to the basket every so often. When Deng decides to drive he often scores or draws a foul. I think he will become a better all around player and flirt with becoming the first Bulls Allstar since Jordan and Pippen left.
Prediction: 19.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.0 spg, FG% .485”
Well Luol ended up only playing 49 games this season and we really could have used him down the stretch. It was not the year for Deng like I thought it would be. My key statement is the one were I ask if Loul is going to be complacent or not. I thought he would shine with his new contract but I guess I was far off. I saw him as an All-star and I still think he could be if he got in the gym and got into shape. I think if healthy he would play very well with Derrick Rose. Deng could be the slasher and shooter the Bulls need to reach the next level. This season he averaged 14.1ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.9apg, 1.2spg, .448FG%.
“Preview: This is were I think things will get very interesting. Drew showed last season that he is a low post threat. He may not be the star caliber PF that most teams seem to need to go to the Finals, but he is very solid. I think with a training camp and more time with the Bulls he will only get better and more consistent. He will exploit weaker PFs all day long and will continue to struggle with faster and longer power forwards in the league. In the end Drew is a match-up guy. He can put up huge numbers when an opposing team cannot match his strength and that is what we will see all season long. Also, if Tyrus steps it up and gets his head on straight he could prove to be a better starter then Gooden by seasons end. I just do not think Thomas has the basketball IQ to be starter right now.
Prediction: 12 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg, FG% .470”
I thought Drew was a solid player for us this season and my preview was right on. Drew did look great some nights but when he had to play against a good power forward he looked lost. In the end he averaged better then I thought at 13.1ppg, 8.6rpg, .4bpg, .457FG%.
“Preview: I think that Noah is never going to be a scoring Center in the NBA. I know that that is not a shocker to most of you, but it must be said right up front. Noah is a very smart player who will play hard on both ends. He is and will become an even better passer out of the post witch will contribute to many open looks. I think in the end Noah is a player that does make everyone else on the floor better. His energy will lead the Bulls in down times and his ferociousness will turn things around in close games. He is a winner and he will become more and more a vocal leader on the Bulls. He is much in the likeness of Tyson Chandler only a little smarter but less athletic. All in all he will have a pretty good season and should be the starter throughout the season.
Prediction: 7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 1.0 spg, FG% .500”
I was close on this one as well. Noah has turned out to be all the things I said he would be and I was very close on my predictions for his stats. 6.7ppg, 7.6rpg, 1.4bpg, .556FG%.
“Preview: The real question is how much playing time will Ben get? I think Vinny will find that Gordon can take over a game and create his own shot, and for that reason Ben will see a lot of minutes off the bench. Gordon really is a 6th man no matter what he feels. He is built to take advantage of second-string players from the other team. He creates a lot of problems for opposing team's coaches. I really would have liked to see him sign the $58 mil. Contract over 6 years that is reported that he was offered. In any case he is playing for a contract this season and that could be good and bad. If he looks to build up his stats and not play team ball then he could be a thorn in our sides. Vinny and staff will have their hands full trying to keep Gordon in a team mindset. I hope Vinny has the guts to just bench Gordon, even if it hurts the Bulls this season, if it becomes apparent he is not playing to win. Regardless, I think Ben will see a lot of action this season but maybe not as much as in past seasons. I think Thabo could eat up some of his minutes so I really do not think he will put up the numbers that he wishes he could.
Prediction: 17 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg, 1.0 spg, FG% .430”
Well I was wrong and right with this prediction. Ben Gordon in the long run might have disturbed the flow of the offense but he did contribute much more then I thought he would. Gordon has acted like a professional and has not caused any problems on the team. I Just think he is not the right mix with Rose. I think we would be better served with a player who knew they were just a jump shooter. Here are his season numbers. I was a bit off on his scoring. 20.7ppg, 3.5rpg, 3.4 apg, .9spg, .455FG%.
“Preview: Rose will be affective right away, but he will not be ready to take the helm from Kirk Hinrich. Derrick reminds me very much of Jay Williams. Jay was a second overall pick behind Yao Ming and had a bumpy rookie season. Rose will have much of the same thing in his rookie season. I am sure we will witness many great passes and plays at his hand, but we will also see a lot of rookie mistakes. He is lucky that Hinrich is still around. It takes some pressure off of him to lead right away. He can learn a lot from Kirk and I like this one two punch very much. I am also excited to see him come off the bench with Gordon and Tyrus. There will be some highlights for sure with those guys all on the floor together. I look forward to watching him grow, and If I am wrong and he does become a starter this season then us Bulls fans should be very happy.
Predictions: 8.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, 1.5 rpg, 0.5 spg, FG% .410”
Wow, was I wrong here. Rose was a stud from day one and was as consistent as anyone in the NBA. We knew what he was going to give us every night. There were maybe a handful of games that he was off and scored in single digits. Comparing him to Jay Williams seems really funny to me now. Look at my crappy predictions for his stats. lol. Here is how he ended the season. 16.8ppg, 6.3apg, 3.9rpg, .8spg, .475FG%. I even could not make up my mind on him or Michael Beasley. Silly.
“Preview: It is to bad for Thabo that Gordon resigned. I really felt that Thabo would have had a breakout season with enough playing time. Now he is forced back into last season’s role as the odd man out. He could see minutes at small forward and if Nocioni misses time with an injury then he could be a viable back up for Luol Deng. I think the fast passed game that Vinny will most likely run will suit Thabo very well. Thabo will also be used for certain match-ups were his size and defense are really needed. I cannot stress it enough how much I like Thabo's game, but he will not be afforded the opportunity to make a real impact.
Predictions: 6.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, FG% .430”
Man, someone needed to tell me to get a room with this guy. I was in love. I must have been crazy too. Thabo regressed with the Bulls this season before being traded. He was a good defender but everything else was crap. He loved to turn the ball over and took bad shots. He just looked lost. Here were his stats. 5.9ppg 3.7rpg, 1.7apg, 1.14spg, .426FG%. I was close on the stats but he really was just inconsistent. He would have a great game and then not score for 4 games in a row. Crazy.
“Preview: Nocioni is my favorite player simply because he plays so hard and with so much passion. The problem is he is showing signs that he may be a little injury prone. I think his hard-nose style of ball has taken a toll on his body. If healthy, Andres is a great SF, but he is relying too much on an outside game. I am sure his injuries have forced him to alter his game, but he was at his best when defenders were not sure if he was going to drive hard or take the jump shot. Sadly, I feel Nocioni will not return to his old self anytime soon. With that being said, he is still one of the best back-up small forwards in the league and he will win a few games for us with his great 3-point shooting.
Predictions: 11 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, FG% .435”
I think I was right on with this one. Nocioni became a shooter and he stopped driving and it hurt his game. I was also very sad to see him go. His stats were. 11.4ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.3apg, .427FG%. I was close on his stats as well.
“Preview: I think we will see Tyrus take a small step forward this season. He could end up a starter by seasons end, but I am not certain he will stay out of foul trouble enough to stay of the floor for long stretches. By far Thomas is the hardest player to wrap my mind around. On one hand he is an athletic freak with loads of talent, but on the other hand he seems lost on the floor and not comfortable with the ball in his hand and his back to the basket. This is a do or die season for him in many ways. He needs to prove that he can use his talent and become a star power forward or he may solidify himself as a bust. Reports have it that he has packed on some muscle; hopefully he has worked out his brain as well. He should focus on defense, because at the very least he could become a top defender in the NBA.
Predictions: 9 ppg, 6 rpg, 1 apg, 1.5 bpg, FG% .430”
I think I did a good job on previewing and predicting for Tyrus. Funny thing is is I could make these same comments about him going into next season. Stats. 10.8ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.0apg, 1.9bpg, .451FG%. In the end Thomas did better then I thought he would and I think he could still prove to be a good starting power forward in this league.
“Preview: Word on the street is that Aaron Grey is in shape. If that is the case and his conditioning is in check then Grey could be a real darkhorse on this team. He has showed us already that he can play well in the post. Now if he can keep his energy level up and stay on the floor then he could prove to be a real great back-up Center. I might even go so far as to say that he could challenge Noah for a starting job. That may be a stretch, but a low-post scorer with real size is very rare these days. Worse case Aaron will be better then last season and good help off the bench.
Predictions: 7ppg, 3.5 rpg, FG% .510”
Another player I had high hopes for. The rumor about Aaron being in shape was a total lie. He was fatter then ever. I still contend that he is worth a roster spot because he does has a post game even thought he makes Brad Miller look like Rajon Rondo when it comes to speed. His stats were as follows. 3.5ppg, 3.9rpg, .485FG%. Get in the gym fatty!
“Most Improved Player: Tyrus Thomas. I think he has to get better. His talent level is way too high for him not to get better, plus he should see quite a bit of playing time.”
While Tyrus did shine at moments what stands out to me is that he was not on the floor at the end of games and Joakim Noah was. I would have to now give this award to Noah.
“Welcome Back Award: Kirk Hinrich. I think Hinrich will return to his old form and have a nice season.”
I was wrong with this award and would now have to give it to a more fitting player, Brad Miller. It was nice to see him in a Bulls uniform again.
“Defensive Player Award: Hinrich/Thomas. Hinrich will when unless Tyrus turns it up and starts grabbing rebounds and swatting away shots.”
It is har to argue this one. Hinrich played great defense on Paul Pierce in the playoffs and against shooting guards all season long and Tyrus became a force down low blocking a ton of shots.
“MVP: Luol Deng. He should have a great season, and the there is no reason that he should not take a step forward and capture an Allstar appearance”.
Wow, was I off here. Just about anyone on the roster deserves this award ahead of Deng. Of course I have to give it to the rookie of the year Derrick Rose even though Ben Gordon won us a lot of games.
“OK. So you have read a lot so far I know, but I have to give my final Predictions for the season. I really hope you enjoyed the read and feel free to reply or give your own predictions or thoughts. Thanks.
2008-09 Season Record: 50-32. I think the Bulls will shock many and have a great season. There is no reason why the Bulls cannot be a top 4 team in the East. I think the Bulls will end up with the 5th seed in the playoffs and face the 76ers in the first round and win the series in six. They will then go on to lose against the Celtics in five. That would be a great season in my eyes. Maybe I am a homer, but I really think last season was a glitch and I think the Bulls can pick up were they left of in the 2006-07 season. I will cross my fingers.”
Well I was 9 games off on my predction for season record which is not that great. I did really think the Bulls would turn things around and be more like the Bulls of two years ago who won 49 games and swept the Heat in the playoffs, but I was wrong and John Paxson made one hell of a trade to fix this team. I was correct in saying we would lose to the Celtics but we never did make it to the second round.
Well I do hope you enjoyed my critique on my self and I will be writing some more blogs on offseason ideas and Roster moves, so stay tuned.