Schanowski: Grading the Bulls' offseason

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Schanowski: Grading the Bulls' offseason

Tuesday, July 20, 2010
5:12 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

Now that the Bulls are just a veteran big man away from completing their offseason makeover, we can start to analyze what kind of team were likely to see next season. Taking everything into account, I would give the Bulls front office a "B" for their efforts over the last month or so. How about you? Please post your offseason grades and any comments in the section below, or feel free to send me an e-mail.

Obviously, the Bulls failed in their efforts to recruit one of the top-three free agents available: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, so that made it impossible for me to give the front office an "A." But when you take into consideration those three guys had been talking about playing together since the 2008 Olympics, maybe the Bulls and all the other teams with maximum contracts available never really had a fair chance. I give John Paxson and Gar Forman a lot of credit for reacting quickly to the changing marketplace. When Wade and Bosh announced they were going to Miami, the Bulls quickly got a deal worked out with the next best player available, Carlos Boozer, that same day. And, when Orlando decided to match the Bulls offer for restricted free agent guard J.J. Redick, the Bulls quickly got Ronnie Brewer to agree to a three-year contract later that day.

Boozer is the big addition. Hes a two-time All-Star with the low-post skills the Bulls have been looking for ever since Elton Brand was traded away. Boozers experience running the high screen-and-roll with Deron Williams in Utah should make for an easy transition to the offense the Bulls are likely to run with Derrick Rose at the point. Boozer has played in high pressure playoff games with Utah, and hes an underrated rebounder, averaging double figure boards for his career. His ability to score in the post, and hit the mid-range jumper should open things up for Rose and Luol Deng. Plus, hell provide veteran leadership for one of the younger teams in the league. And, hes one of the classiest guys youll ever meet who will represent the organization well off the court.

The Bulls also made an underrated signing in Kyle Korver. The 6-foot-7 swingman is one of the best long-range shooters in the league, matter of fact, he broke Steve Kerrs NBA record by hitting 53 precent from beyond the arc last season. Having Korver available to space the floor will open up driving lanes for Rose and Deng. And, even though Korver isnt the best defensive player around, the Bulls can try to dictate the match-ups hell be facing by giving him minutes at shooting guard and small forward.

Thats why the signing of Ronnie Brewer is so important. At 6-foor-7, he has the length and quickness to defend the leagues elite shooting guards like Kobe Bryant, Wade and Joe Johnson. And, hes also a competent offensive player, averaging around 10 points a game for his career, while shooting over 50 percent from the field. Brewer isnt a three-point threat, but his length and speed make him an ideal finisher on the fastbreak, and the Bulls plan to run whenever possible under new coach Tom Thibodeau.

And, lets not forget about the most recent addition, 6-foot-2 guard C.J. Watson. As a restricted free agent, Watson was coveted by a number of teams. So, give the Bulls front office credit for working out a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State, rather than extending an offer sheet, and possibly getting their money tied up for a week like the Redick situation with Orlando. Watson is coming off his best season as a pro, and hes made a remarkable rise since working his way up from the Developmental League. Even though hes relatively small, Watson has the athleticism to play both guard positions, and teaming him with Rose would form one of the leagues fastest backcourts.

Looking at the Bulls roster now, theyve got quality depth at every position. And, we fully expect the front office will add a veteran big man like Kurt Thomas, Fernando Elson, Fabricio Oberto, Etan Thomas or Kwame Brown.

Now its up to Thibodeau and his staff to go to work trying to integrate all the new players into a cohesive system. Thibodeau is heralded around the league as one of the best defensive tacticians in the game. If he can get this young, athletic group to totally buy in on the defensive end, theres no question they can shoot for 50 wins next season. As things stand, the Bulls look like the favorite in the Central Division over Scott Skiles Bucks, and on paper, they shape up as one of the top-4 teams in the East.

Miami stole all the headlines with their signings of James, Wade and Bosh, but dont underestimate what a real team can do. Im already looking forward to the start of training camp in October, and Im sure all Bulls fans feel the same.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it's probably a little too late in the season for that, they'll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They'll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They'll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

"The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We're going to have to match that. We're going to have to come out and play physical basketball."

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it's just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

"I did, actually," said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he's scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside's tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg — although one can imagine how animated he must've been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

"It is what it is," Hoiberg said. "You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there's nothing you can do about that. You've got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute."

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn't seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls' success over LeBron James' Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

"Against big teams, we play much better," Mirotic said. "I don't know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It's on us. We just have to prove it."

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who've just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

"Sure, we understand," Mirotic said. "We've been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy."