Bulls

20 in 20: It's surprising, my dear Watson

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20 in 20: It's surprising, my dear Watson

Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010
6:33 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.

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.

Bulls continue stockpiling young point guards

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USA TODAY

Bulls continue stockpiling young point guards

Point Guard of the Future Part VIII? 

The Bulls added another guard to their already-claustrophobic backcourt on Monday, claiming Kay Felder off free agency waivers, according to The Vertical's Shams Charania. 

Felder, 22, was dealt alongside Richard Jefferson from the Cavaliers to the Hawks on Saturday before being immediately waived.

The Bulls then decided to take a flyer on the Oakland University product because why the heck not? Barring some type of NBA miracle, the Bulls are on a season-long march to the lottery, so adding another young player can't hurt. Even if Felder is now the fifth point guard, joining Cameron Payne, Kris Dunn, Ryan Arcidiacono and Jerian Grant, on the squad. 

In 42 games with the Cavs last season, Felder averaged four points and 1.4 assists in just over nine minutes. He was drafted with the hope that he could further his NCAA reputation as a scorer. However, he connected on just 39 percent from the field during his rookie season. He's also undersized -- like Nate Robinson-Isaiah Thomas Undersized -- lowering his ceiling as a defender. 

Whether he can find a niche as a second-unit heat check guy remains to be seen, but with Kris Dunn expected to miss a few weeks, it gives Fred Hoiberg another option at the very least. He's also former NBA All-Star Steve Smith's cousin, should you believe in the power of basketball families. 

In a corresponding move, the Bulls waived Diamond Stone and preseason hero, Jarell Eddie. 

Observations from the Bulls' preseason finale loss to the Raptors

Observations from the Bulls' preseason finale loss to the Raptors

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Justin Holiday shines again

It's pretty evident who the leader of the Bulls is through the preseason. Whether he wanted it or not - and it seems like he did - Justin Holiday is the go-to man in Chicago. He finished his impressive presason with a 17-point outing against the Raptors, including 6-for-12 shooting, four 3-pointers, a steal and a block in 28 minutes. He even added four assists, showing some playmaking to go along with his scoring. He finishes the preseason averaging 17.2 points on 44 percent shooting, 57 percent (!!) from deep and 1.6 steals. He and LaVine will be fun to watch together on the wing.

Lauri Markkanen's jumper stays confident

Lauri Markkanen's NBA career got off to a rough start. But he's more than righted the ship. Gone is the 1-for-9 performance in his first outing, and in is the 11-for-21 he shot in his final two games. That included 7-for-12 from deep, and he even added seven rebounds on Friday against Toronto. Markkanen has plenty of weight to put on before he can hang inside - Toronto's tough interior pushed him around quite a bit in his 29 minutes - but this was another step in the right direction for Markkanen, whose back issues seemed non-existent.

Jerian Grant flirts with a triple-double

Jerian Grant was likely to earn the starting point guard job out of training camp even if Kris Dunn didn't get injured, and tonight would have solidified it. Grant had 10 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in 27 efficient minutes. Though Kyle Lowry had his way (17 points in 26 minutes) that was more or less to be expected. But Grant was confident stepping into his shot, played aggressive on defense (two steals, two fouls) and found plenty of open shooters. The Bulls may struggle this season, but Fred Hoiberg has to be happy starting a backcourt of Grant and Holiday.

Bobby Portis: Some good, some really bad

Bobby Portis has had a not-so-great preseason, so it was nice to see him score 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting and grab four rebounds in his preseason finale. Then again, he played 18 minutes and somehow committed eight turnovers. Between losing balls in traffic, errant passes and some head-scratching decisions, it was tough to call Portis' night a success. He should find time on the second unit, but he needs to show improvement in all areas, not just scoring.

Antonio Blakeney gives it one (nine) last shot(s)

It'd be nice to see a great story like Antonio Blakeney stick on the Bulls' roster, and he made sure he was remembered in his final preseason game. In 20 minutes he took nine shots, hitting three for nine points. He didn't record any other stat but three fouls in his time on the floor, and was a -21 as the Raptors rode away with the win in the fourth quarter. But we're putting him here because there's a chance he can make the Bulls' roster, especially with LaVine out and Zipser potentially needing to miss time.