Warrick Already a Huge Upgrade over Thomas

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Warrick Already a Huge Upgrade over Thomas

Monday, Feb. 22, 2010
6:20 PM

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

I know it's only been two games since Hakim Warrick joined the Bulls after the trade with Milwaukee, but he's already become an important part of the rotation with his ability to run the floor and finish near the basket. Warrick also understands defensive rotations, and he's where he's supposed to be on both ends of the floor, a task that always seemed too much for Tyrus Thomas to comprehend. I'm not saying Warrick is more talented than Thomas, because he's not. Basically, they are very similar players. Both stand 6'9", both have good leaping ability and both do their best offensive work close to the basket. Tyrus has done a good job in his first two games with the Bobcats. He's averaging five blocks a game and double figure rebounds. I'm sure Michael Jordan and Larry Brown feel like they stole a young player with worlds of potential from the Bulls. But what happens when Tyrus inevitably gets into a shouting match with Brown, or decides he doesn't feel like hustling in a particular game? Don't be surprised if his honeymoon period in Charlotte ends in the near future.

As for Warrick, I always liked his potential coming out of Syracuse. He played four seasons for the Orange, and that experience in a top college program obviously helped his fundamentals and maturity. Warrick is a career 50-percent shooter, and he was a starter for a good chunk of his four years in Memphis. The arrival of Zach Randolph forced him to look for a new home in free agency and he signed on with Milwaukee just before the start of training camp. Warrick started some games for the Bucks, but Scott Skiles never could settle on a consistent rotation because of injuries and the addition of several new players to the roster. Here in Chicago, Warrick should get 25 to 30 minutes every night as the first forward off the bench, and his role in the offense should grow once he learns all the plays and the tendencies of his new teammates. We've heard a lot of talk about expiring contracts, and Warrick's 3 million dollar deal does run out at the end of the season. But after the Bulls make a play for one of the elite free agents, let's hope they've got money left to bring back a valuable reserve like Warrick.

MILLER TURNING BACK THE CLOCK

Have you noticed how well the Bulls' half-court offense functions with Brad Miller and Kirk Hinrich in the lineup together? Early in the season, it looked like Miller was nearing the end of his career. He was moving slower than usual, wasn't hitting that perimeter jumper and was making too many careless turnovers. But ever since Vinny Del Negro made the lineup change on December 26th to put Hinrich in the starting lineup, Miller has been one of the team's most consistent players. He's using that pump fake move to get past opposing centers,and drive to the basket for easy hoops. And, he's also hitting the 15 to 18 foot jumper more consistently. Miller's feeling so frisky he's even added the three-point shot to his offensive arsenal. And, how about that celebration dance coming back down after a made three? My partner, Kendall Gill, calls that move the "Funky Ostrich." The truth is, the Bulls wouldn't be over .500 right now without the contributions of Miller. He's taken on additional minutes because of Joakim Noah's foot injury, and the extra playing time has made him more effective. Watching Miller and Hinrich run the high screen and roll is a joy for those of us who enjoy the finer points of the game. Neither player is going to beat their defender 1-on-1, but their ability to pass and cut and find the soft spots in the opposing team's coverage should be made into an instructional tape for young players.

By the way, Noah says his foot is finally feeling better after missing most of the last three weeks to rest a bad case of plantar fasciitis. The Bulls need to be careful not to rush him back into playing heavy minutes, and with the way Miller is playing, they can gradually increase Noah's playing time as they look forward to the playoffs in mid-April.

GIBSON ONE OF THE STEALS OF THE 2009 DRAFT

Another reason the Bulls can afford to be patient with Noah is the play of rookie power forward Taj Gibson. Gibson was supposed to watch and learn this season after he was drafted 26th overall last June. Matter of fact, he was the second forward the Bulls took on draft night after they selected James Johnson with the 16th pick. Johnson was the guy who was supposed to crack the rotation, while Gibson was looked at as more of a developmental player. The reality has been exactly the opposite. While Johnson has struggled to find out where his talents translate at the NBA level, Gibson showed he could contribute as an inside defender and consistent rebounder from Day 1 of training camp. And, with his confidence growing throughout the season, he's showing us an expanded offensive game, including left-handed finishes in the paint and crossover dribble moves. It's safe to say NBA scouts missed out in evaluating the 6'9" forward out of USC, but not here. Beyond the Arc projected Gibson as a good pick for the Bulls well ahead of the draft. Tim Floyd didn't have much success as a Bulls' coach, but let's give him some credit for getting Taj ready to play in the pros. Gibson credits Floyd for a lot of his development and that's good enough for me.

The Bulls were criticized by a number of the "so-called" NBA experts for passing twice on Pittsburgh big man DeJuan Blair in last June's draft, and Blair is having a solid rookie season for the Spurs. But Gibson is a better all-around player, and given Blair's issues with his knees, it sure looks like the Bulls got the right guy. General Manager Gar Forman says a number of teams asked the Bulls about Gibson in trade talks leading up to the deadline, which is a good indication of how he's viewed by other coaches and front office executives. Gibson's development might lead the Bulls to focus on the shooting guard position when the free agent signing period opens in July. But even if Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer winds up in a Bulls' uniform, Gibson is the kind of unselfish player who can have a lot of value coming off the bench in the future. NBA people are talking about Derrick Rose, Noah, and Luol Deng as the kind of foundation pieces that should help the Bulls attract free agents this summer. With the way Gibson has developed into a quality NBA starting power forward, it might be time to add his name to the list as well.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

Bulls finalize training camp roster

Bulls finalize training camp roster

The Bulls finalized their training camp roster on Monday morning, in the lead-up to the start of the team's official media day.

The team will carry 19 players into the preseason before cutting that number down a maximum of 15 in late October.

No. 0 Isaiah Canaan, guard: Signed to a two-year, $2.2 million deal in July, Canaan will compete with Spencer Dinwiddie and Jerian Grant for minutes behind Rajon Rondo.

No. 2 Jerian Grant, guard: The combo guard will get a fresh start in Chicago after an inconsistent rookie season with the Knicks.

No. 3 Dwyane Wade, guard: The three-time NBA champion and future Hall of Famer begins the next chapter of his famed career after 13 seasons in Miami.

No. 5 Bobby Portis, forward: After showing flashes of potential in his rookie season, the 6-foot-11 Portis will be in line for an extended role following Joakim Noah's and Pau Gasol's departures.

No. 6 Cristiano Felicio, center: The Brazilian impressed plenty in last season's final month, and he should see significant minutes behind Robin Lopez.

No. 7 D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, guard: The undrafted rookie averaged 14.8 points per game in his senior season at Georgetown.

No. 8 Robin Lopez, center: One of the league's most underrated centers, Lopez was one of five players to average 10 points, 7 rebounds and play in all 82 games a year ago.

No. 9 Rajon Rondo, guard: The veteran point guard led the NBA in assists last season, but playing on his fourth team in three seasons means his best days may be behind him.

No. 11 Doug McDermott, forward: The sharpshooter showed significant improvement from Year 1 to Year 2, finishing sixth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage. Now about the defense...

No. 15 Thomas Walkup, guard: The All-American honorable mention went for 33 points in No. 14 Stephen F. Austin's opening-round upset win over No. 3 West Virginia.

No. 16 Paul Zipser, forward: The Bulls' 2016 second-round pick can do a bit of everything, and at 22 years old he could be ready to contribute sooner than later.

No. 20 Tony Snell, forward: It may be difficult for the former first-rounder to crack the rotation after a forgettable third season.

No. 21 Jimmy Butler, guard: An All-Star in each of the last two seasons, the 27-year-old Butler is poised for yet another career year.

No. 22 Taj Gibson, forward: The 31-year-old veteran is in a contract year, and should see an even more expanded role after starting 55 games last season - even if Nikola Mirotic replaces him in the starting lineup.

No. 24 Vince Hunter, forward: The 6-foot-8 Hunter averaged 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for the Reno Bighorns last season as rookie.

No. 25 Spencer Dinwiddie, guard: A casuality of the Pistons' crowded backcourt, Dinwiddie has a chance to carve out a role in Chicago behind Rajon Rondo.

No 31 J.J. Avila, forward: A standout at Colorado State who graduated in 2015, Avila appeared in four Summer League games for the Knicks, averaging 1.2 points and 1.5 rebounds.

No. 44 Nikola Mirotic, forward: The Bulls will be relying on Mirotic's outside shot, which improved mightily in his second season from 31.6 percent to 39 percent.

No. 45 Denzel Valentine, guard: The jack-of-all-trades will need some time to find his role, but he's an apt passer and outside shooter with good size on the wing.

Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

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Five things to watch during Bulls’ training camp

All the new guys: Last October, the Bulls entered camp with essentially the same roster that lost to Cleveland in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, save for then-rookie Bobby Portis. This time, there’s no Derrick Rose, no Joakim Noah, no Pau Gasol, no Mike Dunleavy, and no E’Twaun Moore.

That’s four starters (essentially) whose performances or presence has been counted on in some way, even through some of the uncertainty that surrounded a few of these guys.

Conceivably, the Bulls can have around five new players in the actual rotation who weren’t thought of this time last year, although last year’s product left a lot to be desired.

The adjustment time and chemistry building starts Tuesday.

Who starts at power forward: All other positions in the first five are set, especially with the new faces. But the pivotal decision for Fred Hoiberg, if it hasn’t been made already, is who will start alongside Robin Lopez at center. It could be Nikola Mirotic, or Taj Gibson or even Bobby Portis, depending on Hoiberg’s sensibilities.

Smart money says it’ll probably be Mirotic considering he’s the best perimeter shooter of the three and actually a decent defensive rebounder. Gibson being a great screener, finisher and defender makes him intriguing as an option, but offensive space will be limited if he’s out there with Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo. As for Portis, is he ready to take a step toward consistency in year 2?

The point guard: Rajon Rondo’s basketball intelligence is genius level, where he can master a gameplan and probably even devise one of his own that rivals his coaches. The man can counter a play before the opposing defense initiates an adjustment. That said, how will he and Hoiberg mesh this season? He clashed with Doc Rivers, had knock-down battles with Rick Carlisle in Dallas and George Karl didn’t have it in him to fight anybody in Sacramento, let alone Rondo.

Rondo likes playing the game at his speed, with his own feel and rhythm. Hoiberg will have to tailor his style for the new personnel he has, and luckily for him, isn’t a “my way or the highway” type of fellow that’s sure to rub Rondo the wrong way. Will Rondo embrace Hoiberg’s system and become an extension of the coach, or will Hoiberg give Rondo enough rope to explore Rondo’s intelligence to find a middle ground?

Will that even be enough?

The backup point guard: Just as intriguing as the starting power forward battle will be who backs up Rondo at point guard, although it’s likely that player won’t have to fill the traditional role of doing anything aside from walking the ball up and letting either Butler or Wade initiate the offense.

It’s likely Hoiberg will change his substitution patterns to have either Wade or Butler anchor second units in the second quarter, as a way to maximize the time he has with both while not having them invade each other’s space in the halfcourt. So who plays backup point could be more about who fits best next to the best player on the floor as opposed to who the best player is.

It seems to open the door for rookie Denzel Valentine since he can play three positions (although defense will be a task), along with Jerian Grant, Isaiah Canaan and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Grant was a first-rounder in 2015 who wants to show he’s worth that status, while Dinwiddie was projected as a lottery pick three years ago before tearing his ACL at Colorado.

It’s certainly not the most stressful decision Hoiberg will have to make, but a curious one.

Developing an identity: Does it happen in training camp? Who knows, but tones are often set as to what type of squad a team will be. Last season, Hoiberg believed he was building on a solid foundation after Tom Thibodeau’s defense first mentality, but signs of things crumbling began to show very early in the preseason.

This season, with so many new pieces, moving parts and overall uncertainty, there’s question as to what kind of team the Bulls will be. It’s intriguing, to say the least. But what will the Bulls hang their hats on come late October?