Written by Marco Radenkovich | 07 April 2011

Even though the Bulls are in the playoffs, and the regular season isn't complete yet, I'm always looking at the NBA draft.  Part of the reason is that Marquette has had some success in the draft and the NBA recently, and the other part is that I'm always interested to see who the Bulls would get.

Early entries have been announced, and even though some players haven't hired agents yet, we have a pretty good feel for who is staying in the draft.

In this post, we're going to assume the Bulls will keep its three draft picks.  As of today, the Bulls hold picks 25, 28 and 42.  By assessing needs and draft strength, we should be able to come up with a pretty solid group of people that they could take. 

Bulls Needs:
Shooting Guard - Keith Bogans is bad at basketball, and while Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver are great off the bench, the Bulls could certainly find a better player to play 15 minutes than Bogans.  A shooter would be the best fit here, and a decent defender.  Someone in the Courtney Lee mold, since the Rockets won't part with him unless we move Omer Asik.

Small Forward - Luol Deng has played great this year, especially in 2011, and has been a key cog in the Bulls machine.  The Bulls wouldn't be where they are today without Luol.   That said, Luol has an injury history.  He's only played all 82 games once in his seven year career, and even though he may play/start all 82 this year, he's no guarantee in the future.  The Bulls could use a slasher.

Bulls Draft Strategy:
This year's class is weak at shooting guard, which is the Bulls biggest weakness.  The class is strong at the athletic 4 spot.  There could be some sleepers late, but the Bulls best strategy might be to take the best available player. 

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Written by Mike Loszach | 05 April 2011

A general note before I get started: these ratings are based mostly on expectations. If I give Omer Asik a better grade than Carlos Boozer, that doesn’t mean I think Omer is the better player, just that he performed better based on expectations. Also, these grades are my opinion and don’t necessarily reflect the opinion of the entire HTTH community. Let’s get started.

Derrick Rose - A+: Derrick is clearly the MVP of the league in my opinion and it’s hard to put into words just how valuable he has been to the Bulls this year. Without Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah missing significant time, Derrick has kept the bulls rolling all season long. Every time the Bulls have needed a big bucket, Derrick has been the one that has got it for them. He has played his best against the league’s best opponents. He has improved his jump shot and his defense immensely from last season. He leads the team in PPG, APG, and PER. Even better, I believe his best games this season are ahead of him.

Joakim Noah – B+: It seems like you can pencil Jo in for a double-double just about every night. He leads the team in rebounding and has averaged 12.1 PPG. His defensive contributions to the team can’t be understated. He is one of the best defenders on the team and the toughness and energy that be brings to the team is very valuable. Like Rose, he played some of his best career basketball in the postseason and I would look for that to continue this season.

Luol Deng – B+: Definitely didn’t think that I would be typing this. I was never a real big Deng supporter but I need to give him a lot of credit this season. He has stayed healthy all season long, played good defensively, and been one of the team’s top scorers all season long. While I still wish he would go to the rim more than he does he has knocked down some huge shots for us this year. The second Miami game at the UC comes to mind right away when I think about Deng’s season. His PER is still pretty unspectacular but I give him credit for playing almost 40 minutes per game all season long.

Omer Asik – B: Omer has far surpassed my expectations. At first I thought he was a zero basketball skill, 7-foot stiff. Then he improved a little, and I thought he was somebody we could go to for about 5 minute spans when we were missing some post players. However, as he’s gotten more and more comfortable in the NBA he’s become better and better. By the time we reached the deadline I was firmly on the Omer Asik bandwagon and vehemently against the rumored Courtney Lee for Omer Asik deal. He’s cheap, controllable, and a talented 7-footer. His defense is a strength and he has been getting better and better offensively.

Taj Gibson – B: I don’t know how, but Taj just finds a way to get it done. At 6’9” he’s usually going up against taller opponents but he always seems to make an impact when he’s on the floor. He’s averaging 7 points and almost 6 rebounds per game while playing only 22 minutes per game. I also give him a lot of credit for the way he has had to switch roles several times this year between starter and bench player.

Ronnie Brewer – B-: Hey Stacey King, how is he at running the baseline? I had to. I like Ronnie a lot. He’s probably the best guard defender on the team. He understands his role. He has shot the ball really well this year (48%), and he brings a lot of energy. I would like a little more offensive production out of him, but it just doesn’t seem like he’s ever going to be that player for us. If only there was some way to merge Korver’s offense with Brewer’s defense.

Kyle Korver- B-: Which brings me to my next player: Kyle Korver. I also like Kyle a lot, but he struggles a lot defensively. Like just about everyone else on the bench, he understands his role and performs it effectively. He’s not shy about shooting and now should he be. Despite going through a couple mini shooting slumps this year he has still shot 42.3% from behind the arc. He also hit one of the biggest non-Derrick Rose shots this year when he knocked down the game winner in the first Miami game.

Carlos Boozer – B-: He was a very good free agent signing that gave us something that we really needed: a low post scorer. That being said, he really hasn’t lived up to the max contract that he got. His defense has been absolutely appalling at times and his offense has also been mysteriously absent on occasions. He has also missed plenty of time due to injuries. All that being said, he has still had plenty of great offense games and is averaging 18 points and 9 rebounds per game. I don’t mean to imply that Carlos isn’t a good player; just that he hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations this year.

C.J Watson – B-: Debated between a B- or a C+ for C.J, but when you’re the #1 seed in the East you’re going to have plenty of higher rated players. He really stepped up the one game Derrick missed during the circus trip and his given us a nice offensive spark off the bench. He has shot 37% from the field and 39% from 3. He does a good job of running the offense when Derrick is not the floor.

Kurt Thomas – C: He got a lot of credit for his play when Noah was out. Honestly, I think he got a little bit too much credit. There is a reason why he has barely played since Noah has returned. He adds very little offensively and his defense seems like it’s mostly trying to draw charges or take a stab at striping the ball. Eventually the opponent catches wind of this “savvy vet” defense.

Keith Bogans – C-: He has gotten hot from 3 a few times this year and there is that one stat where if he hits two 3’s in a game we hardly ever lose, but after that there isn’t much good to say about Keith Bogans is there? He doesn’t shoot as well as Korver and he doesn’t defend as well as Brewer. But he’s the starting shooting guard on the best team in the East. It’s kind of funny.

Brian Scalabrine – D: He’s not good at basketball.

All done. Not even going to bother with assessing people like Rasual Butler or our old friend John Lucas. Let’s hear your thoughts. What do you agree with? What do you disagree with?

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Written by Marco Radenkovich | 05 April 2011

Commenter Carl had a great observation about the play of Carlos Boozer this season.  Noting the double teams he's faced, and the recent struggles he's had, it could be a matter of court spacing.  I wanted to take a look at Boozer's play without Joakim Noah.

In the 27 games that Noah missed due to injury, Boozer averaged 19.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and shot 55%.  In the 26 games Boozer has played with Noah, Boozer's stats fall off - 15.9 points, 8.4 rebounds and 49% shooting.   

Carl's theory is right on.  In Utah, Boozer played alongside Memhet Okur, who would spread the floor for Boozer.  Noah doesn't have the ability to do that.

I'm not trying to say that Boozer isn't as good without a stretch 5, but I think you'd see similar stats for every power forward.  This allows Carlos to face multiple double teams.

Going into the playoffs, maybe the Bulls should use a different second quarter rotation - play Boozer with Taj or Kurt to start the second quarter.   Sit Carlos late in the first quarter, and then bring back Joakim around the 6 minute mark in the second half.   And if they're gonna tweak the rotation, might as well take Bogans completely out of it.  

What I have seen lately is an increase in Boozer's passing production.  He's been passing out of doubles, and getting open shots for his teammates.  When he works the high-lo with Joakim, they can be lethal together.  And since they've only played 26 games, maybe that chemistry can build over the past week.  

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Written by Mike Loszach | 05 April 2011

Joakim Noah is likely to return to the lineup tonight. Noah, averaging a team high 11 rebounds and 12.1 points, has missed the past three games with a sprained right ankle. The bulls haven’t exactly been hurting without Noah, winning all three games in his absence. Carlos Boozer, who had been struggling, has played a lot better lately averaging 21.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in the past 3 games. I’m starting to wonder if Boozer plays better without Noah in the lineup for some reason, but that’s something that Carlos is going to have to figure out because come playoff time Joakim’s defense, rebounding, and toughness will be a huge key for the Bulls.

Phoenix has definitely struggled lately, dropping five of their last 6 games with the only win in that stretch coming at home against the woeful Clippers. These two teams haven’t matched up since the circus trip way back in November when Derrick Rose put together an MVP-type performance leading the Bulls back from a 23 point deficit to win in double OT. Rose had 35 points and 12 assists in that game. Steve Nash has missed the past two games with the flu and may or may not return for this game.

Stat of the Day:

Over the past five games Derrick Rose has averaged 29.4 points and 9.8 assists. MVP.

Probable Suns Starters:

G – Steve Nash, 15.3 ppg

G – Grant Hill, 13.1 ppg

F – Jared Dudley, 10.2 ppg

F – Channing Frye, 12.6 ppg

C – Marcin Gortat, 9.7 ppg

Probable Bulls Starters:

G – Derrick Rose, 25.1 ppg

G – Keith Bogans, 4.3 ppg

F – Luol Deng, 17.5 ppg

F – Carlos Boozer, 17.9 ppg

C – Joakim Noah, 12.11 ppg


Current Line: Chicago (-11), Over/Under 204

The Suns have really struggled lately and have a less than stellar home record. The Bulls, on the other hand, show no signs of slowing down and have been extremely good at home. Assuming the return of Noah doesn’t cause any major chemistry issues, which seems highly unlikely, I think the Bulls will win comfortably. This is a game where we could see Rose really thrive. I guess you can say that just about any game, but I’m not sure how that Phoenix defense can stop him.

Suns 88 Bulls 103

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Written by Marco Radenkovich | 04 April 2011

After a few posts about Derrick Rose this season, it’s time to admit that I’ve chosen him as MVP of the NBA in 2010-2011.  I still say that Derrick doesn’t have as good of numbers as LeBron James or even Dwight Howard, but as long as the award is called most valuable player, not top player, it should go to Derrick Rose.

Rose came into the league with blinding speed, a huge vertical, the ability to finish at the rim, and great basketball instincts.  There were concerns about his jump shot and his defense.  And the concerns were real, Rose couldn’t shoot from deep, didn’t show that he was committed to defense but still made sloppy turnovers. 

So Rose spent all summer on his jump shot.  His form was good, but he needed more reps.  In 76 games, Rose has 120 three’s, after only making 16 last year.  His shooting has progressed at the free throw line, too.  He went from 77% to 85% in one season.  That improvement alone would be incredible for a player, let alone a superstar.  But Derrick wasn’t done yet.

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Written by Marco Radenkovich | 16 February 2011

Joakim Noah's return about a week away, and it should come at a good time.  Noah coming back into the starting line-up is comparable to the Bulls making a big-time trade before the deadline.  The Bulls have played very well in his absense, going 21-8 since December 15th.  

Who's been the key to this 21-8 start? 

Everyone is quick to give the credit to Kurt Thomas, but how good has Thomas really been?  Statistically, he's been slightly better than Keith Bogans, posting a 10.68 PER.  Slightly better than Bogans isn't very good, nor is a 10.68 PER, but he's been serviceable.  If we look at the games the Bulls have lost in this 29-game stretch, you'll see that they could have used some production out of the center position.  I don't think you play Kurt more than 5-10 minutes when Noah returns.  
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Written by Marco Radenkovich | 16 February 2011

The San Antonio Spurs travel to the United Center on Thursday night to play the Chicago Bulls for the second time this season.

This is another measuring stick game for the Bulls, even without Joakim Noah.  Noah is expected to return to the team after the All-Star break. 

Jeff of Project Spurs has been kind enough to answer a few questions before tomorrow night’s game.  I’ve done the same, so go check out his site

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Written by Marco Radenkovich | 07 February 2011

Tonight, the Bulls travel to Portland to play the Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden.  The Blazers have been decimated by injuries once again this year, losing Greg Oden during the pre-season, losing Brandon Roy for most of the season, and most recently losing Marcus Camby.

But the Blazers find themselves in the playoff race, fighting for the 8th spot at 27-24.  The main work has been done by LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews.  Aldridge, who many feel was an All-Star snub, is carrying the team with 21.2 ppg and 9.1 rpg.  He's still loves his jump shot, but has been more willing to go inside.  Matthews, a second-year starter from Marquette, has been a great surprise for the Blazers.  He signed a 5-year, $34 million contract this off-season, and has played well above expectations since stepping into the starting lineup for Brandon Roy.  He dropped 31 in a win over Cleveland on Saturday night, and has been hot from three.

The Bulls want to start another win streak after having their six-game streak snapped on Saturday.  For Chicago, it starts with defense.  This year, the Bulls are 2-10 when allowing 100 points.  Part of the defensive struggle on Saturday was due to the Bulls offense.  Derrick Rose committed a season high nine turnovers, which led to fast break opportunities.  Derrick's 14 points were also a low since December 15th, when he only scored six against the Thunder.

I think the Bulls should bounce back and have a good game.  One thing to watch for is how Derrick handles double teams.  Carlos Boozer should really help him out there, as should Luol Deng if he's connecting from the outside.  Derrick said he's watched film, and hopefully the controlled ball movement can lead to more points for the Bulls, and less turnovers.

Bulls win 103-97

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Written by Mike Loszach | 30 January 2011

Normally I hate when people look to far ahead. There is usually a whole lot to be accomplished before what ever people are looking ahead to can take place. When the Packers beat the Falcons everyone instantly started looking ahead to the Bears-Packers NFC Championship game. This drove me crazy because the Bears still had a wildcard game to take care of against the Seahawks. There are times when I find myself looking ahead too, but I’ll never admit it to anyone, just go about doing it quietly in my head because honestly I’m mad at myself for doing it.

However, I’m going to break my cardinal here and look ahead to the NBA postseason. It’s a long season and sometimes the grind can really kick in during the January/February months. Given the fact that we’re 13 games up on 2nd place Milwaukee in the Central Division standings and haven’t lost a game yet within the division (11-0) I think it’s safe even for me to assume that the Bulls are going to the playoffs.

As it stands right now the top 4 teams in the East seem pretty clear, however the order for those 4 is yet to be determined. I’m confident that the Celtics, Bulls, Heat, and Magic will finish 1-4 in the East this season. I like the Hawks, but I don’t think they have enough to sneak in to the top 4 in the conference. Personally, I believe that Boston is the class of the conference. They won it last year and until somebody knocks them off it’s still their conference. They’re currently 3 games up on the Bulls and Heat and are a very impressive 26-6 against the East. While there is still plenty of basketball to be played, I also think that the Magic will end up in the 4 spot in the East. They’re a very good basketball team but the fact that they play in the Southeast conference with the Heat and the Hawks hurts them. On the contrary, the Bulls schedule is loaded with weak divisional opponents that they can continue to beat up on.

If I’m right on those two predictions (a big if) that leaves the Bulls and the Heat in a battle for the #2 spot in the conference. They currently are tied with the Bulls owning the tiebreaker thanks to their head to head victory at the United Center. I think the battle for the 2-spot is huge for the following 2 reasons.

The first reason has to do with the first round playoff matchup. It appears as if there is a huge drop off between the 6th and 7th seeded teams in the Eastern conference. If the Bulls finish 3rd in the East they will face the 6-seed team, most likely the New York Knicks. If they finish 2nd in the East their first round matchup will be against the 7th seed (currently the 21-26 Philadelphia 76ers but other equally bad teams like the Bobcats and Bucks are right there in the running). While I would still expect the Bulls to win a first round matchup with the Knicks it would be a much tougher series than against the 76ers, Bobcats, or Bucks. We have struggled against New York this year and they’re the NBA house team. Stern will want a Chicago-New York series to go deep. I can just hear the renewed rivalry talk now.

Secondly, the 2-seed is also very important when you look even further ahead (I can’t believe I’m doing this) to the 2nd round of the playoffs. Assuming the Bulls and Heat would both advance to the second round, the higher seed would get the home court advantage. In what would be a very tough series the Bulls need every advantage they can get. And playing four games at the UC instead of 3 would be huge for a Bulls team that is currently 23-4 at home with wins over the best teams in the NBA like Boston, Miami, Orlando, and the LA Lakers.

Now again, this looking ahead was mostly just for fun. A whole lot can happen between now and the end of the season, for crying out loud we haven’t even hit the All-Star break yet. This entire playoff picture can look a whole lot different at the end of the season. However, with so much to play for it really makes the rest of these regular season games pretty big. I’ll be scoreboard watching for the rest of the season.

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Written by Marco Radenkovich | 27 January 2011

The Bulls have sent forward James Johnson to the D-League today.  Johnson had only played in 12 games this season, and only one in the new year.   I don't put any stock into the stats Johnson put up, but two games stick out in my mind. 

The Bulls were trailing in their home opener, and Johnson sparked them in the fourth quarter, which led to a comeback win for the Bulls.  Johnson scored 8 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, dished out 4 assists, had 3 blocks, 2 steals in 19 minutes.  Some were speculating that if Johnson showed that much energy and played that well, he could take some rotation minutes from Deng.  With Deng playing the most minutes on the team, we know that it wasn't the case.  Three weeks later, Johnson broke a 6-game DNP streak by sparking the Bulls again, this time in Phoenix.  Johnson had 23 minutes in an overtime win, scored 12 points, with 5 rebounds, 3 assists but also fouled out.  He hasn't played meaningful minutes since.

Now my question is, why doesn't he get more time?  I don't know the answer to that, but it could have something to do with practice.  Last year, we heard about his conditioning all of the time.  But in a season where Luol Deng is obviously over worked and underperforming on the offensive side of the ball, you're telling me he can't come in for 6-8 minutes per game? 

It may seem like I'm a big fan of James, but I don't really know how I feel about him.  I didn't like when the Bulls drafted him at the time.  I felt he was a poor man's Tyrus Thomas on draft day.  The Bulls could have used more athleticism that season, but they could have had better players, even though they didn't fit a need.  Jrue Holiday is who I wanted the Bulls to draft, even though Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich were on the roster.  My feeling was that Holliday was a better player, and he could be used for trade bait down the stretch.  Can you use Johnson as trade bait now?  He's a bit of an unknown, and even though he's not 24 yet, how much can other teams value him?  Although, Anthony Randolph really hasn't done much, and apparently, teams are willing to give up lottery picks for him.  Am I a fan of him now?  Not really, although I think he can be useful in resting Deng during the course of a game, and providing a spark off the bench.  I'm just upset with management when they drafted a kid that had some character issues, but a lot of talent waiting to be developed.  They haven't developed him thus far, and maybe sending him to the D-League will help.  But it seems counter-productive to wait to send him to the D-League a year and a half after he was drafted.

Dropping the ball on the 2008 draft might not seem like a big deal when the team is winning, but today it hurts.  When the Bulls need to upgrade, they find that they can't because of the lack of young talent.  Maybe there's a team that believes in Johnson, but they don't have to give up much.  no comments