20 in 20: The Bulls most important role player


20 in 20: The Bulls most important role player

Monday, Sept. 20, 2010
8:57 PM

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.

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.

Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history


Bulls Bracket Madness: The best individual seasons in franchise history

We're trying to figure out the best season in Bulls franchise history, and we want your help in deciding.

Because the Bulls tout the greatest player in basketball history, who could have made up this list by himself, we're giving Michael Jordan his own side of the bracket. But the other side of the bracket is also filled with some pretty memorable and remarkable campaigns.

So read up on each matchup and then have your voice heard by voting on our Twitter page here. Check out the entire bracket in the graphic above.

The Jordan Region

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96) vs. No. 8 Michael Jordan (1990-91)

No. 1 Michael Jordan (1995-96): Jordan was on a mission in his first full season back from retirement. He led the Bulls to a then-record 72 wins with a regular-season MVP award, All-Star MVP and romp through the NBA playoffs, where the Bulls went 15-3 en route to their fourth NBA title. Jordan won his eighth straight scoring title at 30.4 points a game, with nine games where he put up 40 or more. He saved his best for Detroit, scoring 53 with 11 rebounds and six steals in early March. To prove Jordan was getting better as he aged, he shot a career-high 43 percent from 3-point range at age 33.

No. 2 Michael Jordan (1990-91): 1990-91: Jordan's second MVP came with his first NBA title, as he was at the peak of his powers physically combined with the ultimate team success, with the Bulls finally getting past Detroit before defeating the Lakers in the Finals. He shot a career-high 54 percent from the field while averaging 31.5 points, six rebounds and 5.5 assists as he began to fully embrace the triangle offense in Phil Jackson's second season. Jordan had 57 games where he shot better than 50 percent from the field, and was among the league leaders in steals at 2.7 per game while earning his fourth straight All-Defensive First Team honor.

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11) vs. No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94)

No. 1 Derrick Rose (2010-11): Where to begin? The youngest MVP in league history took the league by storm, averaging 25.0 points and 7.7 assists while leading the Bulls to a league-best 62 wins. Rose had been named an All-Star the previous season but took his game to new heights in Year 3, appearing in 81 games, making 128 3-pointers (after making a combined 32 his first two seasons) while helping the Bulls rank first in defensive efficiency under first year head coach Tom Thibodeau. Rose and the Bulls lost in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat, with Rose shooting a paltry 35 percent on 24 attempts per game. But his historic season will always go down as one of the franchise’s best, and the only non-Jordan MVP.

No. 2 Scottie Pippen (1993-94): Yeah, well what would Scottie be without MJ? We found out that answer in 1993-94, when Pippen took the reins of the franchise as Jordan rode the Birmingham bus as a minor-league baseball player. Pippen responded with a sensational season, averaging 22.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists. He averaged 2.9 steals, shot 49 percent from the field and became a 3-point threat for the first time in his career. He was named First Team All-NBA and All-NBA Defensive First Team, and finished third to Hakeem and The Admiral in MVP voting. He averaged 22.8/8.3/4.6 in the postseason but ultimately proved it was easier to win in the spring with MJ by his side. Still, this individual season was one of the franchise’s best, if not the best. Hardware isn’t everything.

NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander


NBA Draft Tracker: Kentucky PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

For most of the college basketball season, John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats ranked among the nation’s biggest underachievers. Calipari had perfected the one-and-done route in Lexington, recruiting classes full of McDonald’s All-Americans every year, making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and then sending those talented freshmen off to the NBA. Matter of fact, Coach Cal’s ability to get players ready to play professionally is the foundation of his recruiting success.

However, this season the tried and true formula ran into a bit of a speed bump. Injuries and inconsistency led to double digit losses for the Wildcats during the regular season, and an uncertain tournament outlook. That’s when freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerged as the leader of this young team, and sparked Kentucky to a Southeastern Conference tournament championship.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been even better in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 19 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists in the Wildcats’ opening round win over Davidson, then coming back with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in a victory over Buffalo.

At 6-6, Gilgeous-Alexander has the ability to shoot and pass over smaller defenders, while also possessing the quickness that is so crucial at the point guard position. Yes, he is very thin at 180 pounds, but has the frame to put on weight once he’s introduced to an NBA strength training program.

Gilgeous-Alexander has been Kentucky’s most efficient player throughout the season, shooting 49% from the field and nearly 42% from the 3 point line. He has the quickness and ball-handling ability to break down defenses and get in the paint for easy scores or assists. As the season progressed, Gilgeous-Alexander took on the role of go-to scorer late in games, sparking Kentucky’s runs in the S.E.C. AND NCAA tournaments.

So, by now I’m sure you’re asking, where does he fit with the Bulls? 3 weeks ago I was hoping Gilgeous-Alexander might be available in the 16-22 range where the Bulls might be able to get him with the Pelicans’ 1st round pick acquired in the Niko Mirotic trade. Unfortunately, his outstanding post-season play has him rocketing into the late lottery in the most recent mock drafts, and he could move up even higher if Kentucky advances to the Final 4.

The Bulls are happy with Kris Dunn as their starting point guard, and both Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne are under contract for next season. But if somehow the Pelicans fall out of the playoff field in the West (which seems very unlikely right now), adding an athletic combo guard like Gilgeous-Alexander would be an outstanding pick at 13 or 14.

So, when you’re watching Kentucky play in the NCAA Tournament, keep an eye on the tall, skinny guard wearing #22 and try to project just how good he might be on the professional level.