20 in 20: Expectations for Bulls new roster

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20 in 20: Expectations for Bulls new roster

Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010
3:09 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

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.1. Is the Bulls' offseason deserving of the league-wide praise received, what are the new-look roster's strengths and weaknesses and what should the new guys be expected to do?
Yes, the Chicago front office is absolutely worthy of the platitudes that have come its way -- especially in the wake of not acquiring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, yet still pulling it together to salvage the summer and be considered a force to be reckoned with in the same conference as the Heat, Magic and Celtics -- for now. Not to hedge bets, but obviously chemistry is a big part of the equation. First, let's run down the new acquisitions: the ex-Jazz trio of power forward Carlos Boozer, shooting guard Ronnie Brewer and small forward Kyle Korver, as well as backup point guard C.J. Watson, veteran big man Kurt Thomas and reserve swingman Keith Bogans, as well as 2008 second-round pick Omer Asik, a rookie center from Turkey.

As new head coach Tom Thibodeau is consistently lauded for his defensive mindset, the new additions to the team should fit in well. After playing for the legendary Jerry Sloan, the former Utah triumvirate will know how to compete on that end of the floor in a team concept. Boozer, for all of his offensive abilities -- he's capable of scoring in the post, adept at pick-and-roll offense and can knock down jumpers with range, as well as being known as a tenacious rebounder on both ends -- isn't considered a stout defender, although he does bring some physicality. Most importantly, however, Boozer provides Chicago with a high-caliber power forward (don't forget, "Booze" has been a Western Conference All-Star, at the loaded power forward position and may find the competition less stiff in the East) who can produce 20-and-10 on a nightly basis and finally gives the Bulls the sorely-needed low-post scoring threat they've been seeking for years. Sure, he didn't exactly come cheap, but it says here that for what he does that Boozer could prove to be more valuable than a more perimeter-oriented Bosh or a inconsistent-rebounding Amar'e Stoudemire. His injury issues are acknowledged, but if Taj Gibson could play in all 82 games as a rookie, start for the vast majority of the season (Tyrus who?) and go from the 26th overall pick to the NBA all-rookie team, it seems possible that he'd be a top-tier reserve.

Korver, who has strived to expand his game past being a one-dimensional shooter (the natural small forward is now at least a competent ballhandler and passer, who can slide over to shooting guard at times), isn't the defensive liability he was as a neophyte pro -- relying on a strong work ethic and desire, good footwork against athletic small forwards and decent size against smaller guards -- but he'll never be confused with Bruce Bowen. But that isn't why the Bulls braintrust brought him in. Korver is the one player on the roster who can be considered a lights-out shooter, something the Bulls didn't possess last season, so his role in opening up the floor for Derrick Rose.

The final Jazz expatriate, Brewer, won't be expected to put up gaudy offensive numbers. In fact, while he has an extremely versatile skill set -- long and athletic, good size and slashing ability from the wing, capable ballhandler and rebounder -- his one major deficiency is shooting the ball. On the other hand, if he's to start alongside Rose, Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, it's not necessarily a bad thing to have a selfless player who doesn't require a lot of shots in order to be productive, something Brewer has been praised for throughout his career. In addition, he'll function as a defensive stopper on the wing (taking pressure off Deng), as well as a secondary ballhandler, who can also get up and down the court with Rose for transition opportunities.

Joining Korver off the bench will be veteran role players Watson, Thomas and Bogans, who each have fairly clear-cut responsibilities. Watson will back up Rose and provide a different look at the point guard as an outside shooter (don't be surprised to see him play in tandem with Rose on occasion), and hopefully will be an offensive spark on the second unit. Thomas, the team's elder statesman, will do much of what he's done throughout his long NBA career: provide toughness. A strong defender and locker-room presence, Thomas will begin the season as Noah's primary backup at center. He's still a solid rebounder and with the accuracy of his mid-range jumper, he adds another dimension offensively. Bogans, like Brewer, will be looked at as a defensive-minded swingman, and while he isn't a prolific scorer, he does have the ability to knock down open outside jumpers. The last new addition guaranteed to be on the roster (excluding, at this point, point guard John Lucas III, who was invited to Chicago's training camp) is Turkish center Asik. The team's 2008 second-round draft pick, while he has demonstrated flashes of potential in the FIBA World Championships, should be brought along slowly in his rookie season.

All in all, while Chicago's offseason haul isn't as overwhelming as, let's say Miami's, it is indeed both an impressive group and a significant upgrade from last season (as maligned as Vinny Del Negro was, can anyone positively say that team would have advanced past the first round with any coach short of Phil Jackson or Red Auerbach?) -- not to mention it leaves them with the flexibility (a favorite buzz word of the front office) to further maneuver during the season (Carmelo Anthony, anyone?) and beyond. That said, adding the aforementioned pieces to the young nucleus of Rose, Noah, Deng, Gibson and small forward James Johnson obviously raises expectations, but the team isn't without its flaws.

With the exception of Korver (and Watson, to an extent), the squad is still pretty devoid of long-range shooting. The respective injury histories of Boozer and Deng leave room for concern, although their backups are very capable. Finding an offensive identity, however, is the primary concern. Thibodeau's defensive chops are considered top-notch and while it's reasonable to expect it to take time before the squad is locking down to his standards, it should happen in time. But even assuming Rose continues his ascendancy, incorporating the new players into the mix will be a delicate process, and finding a way to play to his strengths (up-tempo) while utilizing Boozer correctly (in the half-court) will have to be fine-tuned. Still, as the old cliche goes, these are good problems to have.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

In first game of post-deadline era, Bulls come up with comeback overtime win over Suns

In first game of post-deadline era, Bulls come up with comeback overtime win over Suns

The post-deadline era has begun for the Bulls, with the directives clear on developing their young players and seeing what can be done in the last third of the season.

And while their youth sparked them early, it was the headliners who stepped up late in their 128-121 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night at the United Center, as the team was clearly adjusting to life without Taj Gibson, who was traded Thursday.

Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade each had sluggish starts, to say the least. Each looked like he was going through an island-like malaise through the better part of three quarters before waking up.

Butler finally ignored the snooze button at the most opportune time, nearly winning the game in regulation with a tying triple, then a fadeaway 15-footer over Eric Bledsoe to cap off a late comeback that saw the Bulls rebound from an eight-point deficit with a few minutes left in the fourth.

"That's what great players do," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They step up when you need them the most. Jimmy obviously had a tough night shooting the ball (early). ... What he's been doing all year, taking over the game in the fourth, and tonight was no different."

Then Wade, in one of his few post-halftime mistakes, controversially fouled Suns sharpshooter Devin Booker on a triple with 1.5 seconds left, but Booker missed the last of the three free throws to send the game into overtime.

"I think it was good defense," said Butler before giving a nod to his controversial whistle that went his way a week ago. "We don't wanna go back too far, but a foul's a foul."

Wade and Butler continued the assault into the extra session, with Wade rising for a late flush over Suns center Alex Len and raising his arms in celebration — having put together a 23-point performance after a scoreless first half.

"That dunk he had was unbelievable," Hoiberg said. "I should give him another week off."

In the early stages, Butler wasn't as futile as Wade, but he wasn't much better, scoring just eight before the fourth but being more aggressive and assertive with his moments and jump shots, finishing with 22 to go along with nine assists and four steals.

"Just keep shooting the ball and eventually it'll go in," Butler said. "And they did. Coaches put the ball in my hands, I kept taking the same shots, making the same plays. Then they went in."

The Suns led most of the way, mostly due to their team-wide speed and athleticism, getting out on the break the way they did in the first meeting two weeks ago. Booker scored 27, while Bledsoe, TJ Warren and Marquese Chriss each scored 17. Bledsoe added 10 assists and seven rebounds in 40 minutes.

They dominated the fast-break department at a 27-16 clip, and the Bulls actually countered with 3-point shooting, hitting 12 triples and shooting 46 percent from 3.

Nikola Mirotic was 4-for-7 from deep on the way to a 20-point night, while Denzel Valentine put together his best showing as a pro with 15 points, all coming on five made 3s.

Three straight triples from Valentine pulled the Bulls to within one late in the third quarter. The shots were decisive and confident — perhaps as he knew he wouldn't be removed for anyone at the first mistake.

"I like it, take the shots when you're open. Sometimes when you're not open, still shoot it and we know to get back," Butler said.

There were plenty of mishaps and things to complain about as the Bulls hit a new wave, but at least it started with some positive vibes after a day of uncertainty and confusion.

Chance the Rapper poses with Benny the Bull at United Center

Chance the Rapper poses with Benny the Bull at United Center

Two Chicago legends were spotted courtside before the Bulls tipped off against the Phoenix Suns on Friday. 

Chance the Rapper, recent winner of three Grammy Awards, snapped a photo with Benny the Bull at the United Center.

The south sider is spending a few months back in his hometown before starting a nationwide tour in April. His stop at the Bulls game should come as no surprise, as the "Coloring Book" rapper has become big friends with Jimmy Butler. Tough to name a more talented duo than that. 

Chance was also seen in New Orleans last weekend for the NBA All-Star festivities.

We know he's already a White Sox team ambassador, but are the Bulls next up?