The Bulls have played four preseason games thus far and are 2-2. There are some things that are impressive and things that need work, but here are the things I have noticed these first four preseason games:
- Jimmy Butler is doing work: 16 points per game, 5.75 rebounds per game, 2.75 assists per game, 1.75 steals per game, 1 block per game, 61.8% shooting…my goodness. This is a guy that deserves to be paid. Like now…right now. He was already one of the best or the best perimeter defender in the league and so far he’s showing an offensive game that has impressed. He’s become more consistent on the mid-range jump shot he improved last year, he’s attacking the rim, getting to the line, making beautiful cuts to the basket and utilizing the two best passing big men in the NBA. He’s literally doing it all. I maintained last year that he was hurt a good chunk of the year and that he meshed well with Derrick Rose. We’re seeing it again now that he and Rose are both healthy. Hopefully this keeps up and we see Butler’s next gear for an entire season.
- Derrick Rose looks comfortable: This is no small point. Last year in the preseason and into the regular season, he put up numbers, but he just looked awkward. This preseason and also in FIBA, he looks comfortable, confident, and athletic. He literally looks like a load has been lifted off of his shoulders and he’s enjoying just playing basketball. Statistically, he’s not where fans want him, but physically he looks great. Once the rust wears off, you’re going to see a more consistent, but maybe different Derrick Rose.
- The Bulls are evolving : Hey, the Bulls can score! And shoot! Through four preseason games, the Bulls rank 16th in points per game and 11th in three-point percentage. Their field goal percentage leaves a lot to be desired (ranked 26th), but that should improve with more reps. Also, the Bulls haven’t lost anything defensively by adding offense. They are ranked 9th in opponent’s points per game, 5th in opponent’s field goal percentage, 6th in opponent’s three-point percentage, and 10th in opponent’s turnovers. The Bulls are also 2nd in blocks and 9th in rebounds. The Bulls have become a more well-rounded team and we should all be excited that it won’t physically hurt watching the Bulls offensively this season.
- The Bulls need to focus and clean up the small stuff: Thibs has been preaching it all preseason long, even calling for a rare practice following a back-to-back. The Bulls look sloppy. The Bulls are 10th in the league this preseason with 19.2 turnovers per game. Yikes. Part of this is rust from Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah (who hasn’t played basketball all summer) and just getting used to new personnel on the court. Defensively, the Bulls seem a bit lax. Against the Nuggets on Tuesday, it looked like the Bulls were going to be embarrassed at the United Center until their defense ignited them. Maybe they’re just ready for the regular season, but I’m with Thibs. I’d like to see the effort in the preseason too and not just trying to coast.
- I’m not sold on this rotation: I’m not 100% certain it’s a good idea to start Mike Dunleavy Jr. I know Bulls Nation has been brainwashed by Tom Thibodeau to say, “It’s not who starts, but who finishes.” That’s nonsense. We saw that in the playoffs. How many games in that series did the Bulls fall behind by a wide margin and have to fight back? The other night, the Bulls played extremely well against the Bucks and made a big run in the second quarter against the Nuggets with McDermott with the starting group. This starting group is primed to run with D-Rose, Butler, and Noah. Having two slow guys with Dunleavy and Gasol will only slow them up. Dunleavy would be much more productive off the bench with this unit that should play well in the half court. As far as defense goes, why not start McDermott with a group that has the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Joakim Noah, the best or one of the best perimeter defenders in Jimmy Butler, another solid rim protector in Pau Gasol, and an above average defender in Derrick Rose? His defensive deficiencies will only be more glaring off the bench whereas Dunleavy can actually play well in the team defensive scheme and provide a lot of the same offense that McDermott does. More importantly, is Thibs even considering this? Which brings me to my final point…
- Is Thibs the coach to lead the Bulls to ring number 7?: I’m worried y’all. Derrick Rose said yesterday that he’s numb to Thibs’ quest for perfection. This is year five for Tom Thibodeau. We know he’s a great coach, but is he burning the players out? Is he too stubborn to adjust? I brought up the Wizards series from last year. This is where I question Thibs: Why not make an adjustment by starting Taj Gibson over the disinterested Carlos Boozer? How simple was that? That was their best five man lineup. Would that have made a difference? Maybe not, but he didn’t even try it. How many times have we been frustrated by Thibs’ lack of recognition for offensive talent for the sake of his defense? How long is he going to force almost 34 year-old Kirk Hinrich down our throats even though it’s clear he’s lost a step? I’m not trying to bash Thibs, but listening to him this preseason and listening to the players’ reaction to him…I don’t know. Like maybe they’re growing tired of it. Ultimately, we’ll see how this plays out, but it’s definitely something to watch.