The NBA preseason is less than a week old, and the Chicago Bulls are still working out plenty of kinks after a regrettably long offseason. Early October basketball always needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but there are still some observations to be made about where Chicago stands in its quest to survive Derrick Rose’s knee injury and return to the playoffs.
Here are three conclusions that look safe enough to draw after two preseason contests:
1. This team can still win ugly
With Derrick Rose running the show, the Bulls’ offense can be a work of art. Without him, it’s barely functional, but that’s not to say that Chicago won’t get plenty of wins while Rose is out of action.
Chicago’s defense has been forcing plenty of turnovers (as usual) and converting many of those into fast-break points (as usual). Add in two wonderful offensive rebounders in Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, and even a team that will miss a lot of shots in the half-court can score enough points to ride its defense to victory.
2. The second-unit offense is a disaster
The rebuilt Bulls bench has looked solid defensively, but (with apologies to the hardworking Gibson) hasn’t been able to score to save its collective life. Having an extreme shoot-first point guard in Nate Robinson doesn’t help, but the problems go much deeper than the streaky Robinson.
Marco Belinelli, taking over Kyle Korver’s three-point sniper role, has shown no ability to create shots—not even the shot-clock buzzer-beaters in which Korver specialized—and minimal ability to hit the ones other players create for him. Jimmy Butler, stepping in for Ronnie Brewer, has been even worse, getting plenty of opportunities with his energy and hustle but squandering them all with touch-free shots flung in the general direction of the rim.
3. Tom Thibodeaux’s halftime speeches are in midseason form
In two preseason games, Chicago has trailed after two quarters by three and 21 points, respectively. They’ve then won the third quarters of those games by identical 32-13 margins.
There’s no secret to the turnarounds Thibodeaux’s boys have managed, as Chicago has forced a combined 16 turnovers in those two quarters of action. Now, if only the Bulls can show that kind of defensive focus for 48 minutes instead of 12, they’ll really be onto something.845993