Wednesday, Sept. 22, 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.
15. Which Bulls player will be the biggest surprise to fans this season?
This is widely pegged as a season in which Derrick Rose takes his game to a new level and Joakim Noah becomes an All-Star center. There are hopes for more consistency out of Luol Deng and continued development from Taj Gibson. Carlos Boozer is obviously the most noteworthy newcomer to the Bulls and expectations are optimistic for the his former Utah teammates, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer.
But a player who could provide an unexpected lift this season is a less-ballyhooed acquisition, backup point guard C.J. Watson. In his third year in the league--after first plying his trade overseas and in the D-League--the University of Tennessee product's per-game averages included 10.3 points, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per contest, all career highs, with Golden State. In addition, he shot 31 percent from beyond the three-point stripe, a decrease from his 35.1 percent career mark.
Granted, Watson played more minutes--27.5--than he will behind a healthy Derrick Rose, and he will have to play within more structure than with the free-wheeling, defense-optional Warriors. Still, he gives the Bulls a true backup point guard, something that didn't really exist last season, although starting shooting guard Kirk Hinrich served as Rose's defacto understudy.
Unlike last season, however, the Bulls will usually have a bigger backcourt, as Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Keith Bogans--all at least 6-foot-5--gives them more size paired with Rose, as opposed to Hinrich, and after John Salmons was traded, Flip Murray. Of course, Watson, a scoring point guard, is also capable of playing alongside Rose.
For those unfamiliar with further specifics about his game, Watson, while not necessarily a knockdown shooter, will likely be one of Chicago's better outside threats, as he can hit jumpers both from a standstill position and off the dribble. Although he wouldn't be considered a premier distributor, he is at least capable of running an offense. While he'll need to make an adjustment to defend up to new Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau's stringent standards, he was one of Golden State's better defenders, although that backhanded compliment isn't saying much.
Those aspects of the Las Vegas native's game should all serve him well in Chicago, but perhaps his most important attribute is serving as an insurance and rest behind Rose (as of right now, Watson is the only player under contract that could effectively run the point, although the leading scorer for the Bulls summer-league entry, point guard John Lucas III, has been invited to next week's training camp), equipping the Bulls with both a more-than-adequate backup and a serviceable starter in case of injury. In addition, if the Bulls plan to employ a more up-tempo style of play, Watson has experience at pushing at the pace from his time with the Warriors.
Averaging even low double-figure scoring numbers for back-to-back seasons is probably out of the question, but Watson is capable of going off on an individual spurt in limited minutes and gives the Bulls their best backup at the position since Chris Duhon. Assuming he makes the adjustment to a more disciplined style of play--and stays away from boxer Floyd Mayweather--it's imaginable that Watson has a handful of games in which he not only offers a positive change of pace off the bench, but steals the show with his energy and scoring prowess.
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.