The Bulls, with six newcomers and without Derrick Rose, will be different in 2012. But if the preseason is any indication, one area where Tom Thibodeau's group won't lose a step is on defense.
Chicago ended its preseason schedule yesterday with a 97-90 win over the Pacers in South Bend. It was the Bulls' fourth straight win, and third straight game holding their opponent to 90 points or less.
Chicago was second in the NBA in defense last year, and showed no signs of slowing down this preseason.
The Bulls allowed 87.1 points in six games, the second best mark in the league. Only the Milwaukee Bucks on Oct. 16 topped 90 points, but did so in a 100-94 loss to Chicago.
Teams made less than 41 percent of their field goal attempts in seven preseason contests (40.8 percent), the fourth best mark in the league. The Bulls were stout, as always, on rebounding, averaging an NBA-best 48.4 per game.
The usual suspects led the way on the glass, with Joakim Noah (10.1), Taj Gibson (8.0) and Carlos Boozer (6.7) all putting up impressive numbers in limited minutes. Even 35-year-old Nazr Mohammed got into the action, grabbing 5.6 rebounds in seven games off the bench.
Chicago was pesky in the passing lanes as well, recording 11.0 steals per game, second in the league. Seven players averaged better than a steal per game, with Carlos Boozer (1.7) leading the way.
On the offensive side of the ball, it was a different story. In seven games, the Bulls averaged 90.4 points (26th in NBA), 3.3 3-pointers (30th), 19.6 assists (22nd) and shot 40.5 percent from the field (28th) and 25.8 percent from beyond the arc (30th).
The numbers leave plenty to be desired, but a closer look shows improvement as the preseason went along.
First three gamesLast four gamesPoints83.395.8FG percent35.744.0Assistsgame15.023.0Turnoversgame21.013.8Record1-24-0
In those four games, the Bulls showed more of a balanced scoring attack, too. Carlos Boozer led the team with 17.7 points per game during the win streak, Richard Hamilton was a nice surprise with 15.8 points, while Nate Robinson, who started twice in place of Kirk Hinrich, averaged 14.8 points in the final four wins. Luol Deng averaged 14.3 points, while Joakim Noah scored an efficient 11.3 points per game.
The improvement on offense may take a while as the newcomers adjust to each other and Thibodeau's style, but as long as the defense is playing as it did this preseason the Bulls may score just enough without Derrick Rose to stay in the win column.