Monday, Sept. 20, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.
13. Who is the most important Bulls role player?
Behind the team's four marquee players--Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and newcomer Carlos Boozer--the Bulls have a balanced supporting cast. But who out of that bunch is the most important to the team's success?
Taj Gibson, coming off a first team NBA all-rookie debut campaign, will be relegated to the bench for his sophomore season. However, with the health histories of Boozer and Noah, it wouldn't be surprising to see Gibson, who started 70 of his 82 games played as a rookie (not to mention the Bulls' first-round playoff series against Cleveland), see major minutes. With added strength, the gritty and mature Brooklyn, N.Y., native should be even more effective as a rebounder, defender and finisher around the basket.
Then, there's Ronnie Brewer, the team's likely shooting guard. Brewer will be primarily relied upon for his lockdown defense on the wing. Although he isn't known as a prolific scorer, Brewer's occasional slashing forays to the basket and some high-flying play in transition will also be necessary for him to be a major contributor.
Sharpshooter Kyle Korver, Boozer and Brewer's fellow Utah expatriate, could compete with Brewer for the starting shooting-guard position. Regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench, his outside marksmanship--something sorely lacking on last season's squad--will provide what is likely to be a post-up and penetration-oriented squad with a player who can stretch the floor, specifically as a drive-and-kick shooter for Rose's drives and a kick-out option on potential Boozer double teams.
Backup point guard C.J. Watson will also play an important role, as Chicago's only real backup for Rose currently under contract. While there will have to be an adjustment from the free-wheeling style of play in Golden State, his former squad, Watson is capable of being an energy scorer off the bench, knocking down open outside jumpers, setting up his teammates as a playmaker and even pairing with Rose in the backcourt at times for a quicker lineup.
Veteran big man Kurt Thimas, though no longer in his prime, will bring elements of toughness, leadership and experience to a relatively young team. However, Thomas showed he can still be a real asset to a ballclub last season, as he rose to the occasion down the stretch for Milwaukee after star center Andrew Bogut suffered a gruesome season-ending injury.
Keith Bogans, a similarly-reliable player over the course of his pro career, isn't expected to do anything flashy, but should be a solid performer at shooting guard who adds to the team's defensive mentality in limited minutes. After an up-and-down rookie season, hopes are that James Johnson will be less inconsistent and use his blend of strength and athleticism within the team concept offensively, while offering a different look on defense. Rookie center Omer Asik, the team's 2008 second-round draft pick, is regarded as more of a developmental player, but showed flashes of potential this summer for the Turkish national team during the FIBA World Championships in his homeland.
The Bulls will certainly bring in additional talent to the team's training camp--point guard John Lucas III, the leading scorer on the team's NBA summer-league entry in Las Vegas, has been invited--and rumors persist that Chicago remains in the mix to trade for disgruntled Portland guard Rudy Fernandez and Denver Nuggets All-Star small forward Carmelo Anthony (increasingly a long shot at this point) so some of the current roster could eventually change before season's end. If it doesn't, the Bulls have a solid, well-rounded group that fit new head coach Tom Thibodeau's perceived strengths.
To answer the initial question, however, Korver, as the team's lone legitimate outside threat--the organization's dalliances with Fernandez and Orlando shooter J.J. Redick, who re-signed with the Magic after first signing an offer sheet to come to Chicago--is an extremely important piece of the puzzle. Even if he doesn't set another league record for three-point accuracy, as he did last season. Korver's reliability from deep range shouldn't be questioned after years of shooting proficiency and while he might not put up huge scoring numbers, as long as he remains consistent shooting the ball and provides his trademark hustle defensively--he's not a stopper, but he gives maximum effort on that side of the ball--expect him to have a solid, if not spectacular debut campaign in the Windy City.