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Chicago Bulls Preview - Cobra Brigade

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chi.gifChicago Bulls - Cobra Brigade
Last Year's Record: 49-33, 3rd in Central Division, 5th in Eastern Conference
Key Losses: P.J. Brown's expiring contract. If you count P.J. Brown as a key player, then you are probably reading the wrong preview. I don't count Mike Sweeney either, sorry
Key Additions: Joakim Noah. I'm now able to spell his name on one try.

1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?

After spending most of their leftover cash last off-season on Ben Wallace, the Bulls took it easy. The reason for that is because they have contract extensions coming up for Luol Deng and Ben Gordon, so they are holding off on spending too much money right now. They did sign veteran forward Joe Smith (Hello Minnesota!) to possibly start at the power forward position, but that looks less likely as he continues to sit out pre-season practices and Tyrus Thomas and Noah spend more time trying to find a way to cheat him out of not only his position, but also doughnuts.

The Bulls did not trade for Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol or Jermaine O'Neal this past off-season. If they had done that it would have been under this heading and the paragraphs would have been much longer and filled with many more useful statistics and pictures.

2. What are the team's biggest strengths?

They are young, they are good, they've played together for a few years now, they have depth and they have one of the best coaches in the league. Need more? Their cheerleaders are sexy, actually, that's not true.

The Bulls have a ton of depth in the frontcourt, although it's of the smallish variety. After Ben Wallace, the Bulls have Tyrus Thomas, Noah, Andres Nocioni, Luol Deng (yes he might play in the post), Viktor Khryapa and Joe Smith who will run around like chickens with their heads cut off as they fight for offensive rebounds, take charges and pass the ball back out to Ben Gordon, which leads me to...

In Ben Gordon, the Bulls have one of the most explosive scorers in the league. While the Bulls drive and kick offense necessitates ball movement and pretty much distributing shots equally; it's up to Gordon to score when the Bulls really needs points. He'll have quarters where he'll score 20 points to bring the Bulls back into the game and this strength can not be ignored.

The Bulls also have the steadying influence of Kirk Hinrich on the floor as he's run the show now for four seasons. No one was really sure about him when he came out of Kansas, but he's been starting for the Bulls since his rookie season and knows the offense like the back of his hand at this point.

The Bulls are young and full of energy. Scott Skiles and the Bulls are known for their tenacity, especially on the defensive end. With the drafting of Noah and the maturation of Thomas and Thabo Sefalosha, this very well could the quickest, longest and most tenacious defense in the league.

Two words. Luol Deng.

3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?

The Bulls lack scoring in their frontcourt. This has been obvious for a long time as General Manager John Paxson can't seem to pull the trigger on a trade to get the Bulls a player with that skill. With a perimeter oriented offense, frontcourt scoring would take a lot of pressure off of the guards/forwards to make jumper after jumper.

Another weakness that seems to be slowly growing is the attitude of Tyrus Thomas. He had a little spat with the NBA during the All-Star Weekend last year, but I thought that was a one time deal. Apparently, Thomas wasn't showing up at The Berto Center for off-season workouts and that is one of the reasons why the Bulls drafted Noah. Thomas is the most physically gifted athlete the Bulls have on their team and he seems to play with a lot of energy, but he frustrates Bulls management because they think of how good he COULD be. The NBA and NBDL is filled with a lot of players who were too lazy. This season we'll find out if Thomas is one of those.

Even though most of the Bulls have been running the same offensive sets for the last four seasons, they struggle with turning the ball over. A major reason for that could be because most of the time the ball is being whipped around the perimeter instead of being dumped inside...the real reason is because the players are young and are still trying to figure out what the heck they are doing.

4. What are the goals for this team?

NBA Finals or bust. It's time to stop fooling around. Ben Wallace is on the back side of his career and it's time to figure out if this core group of players can take the Bulls to the promised land. If the Bulls don't re-sign Ben Gordon before the season (he's looking for $70 million), he'll probably be traded next off-season if the Bulls don't make the Finals. Another goal should be to hire more attractive cheerleaders.

5. Why does Scott Skiles seem like such a jerk?

Because he is one, and he knows it. Skiles is one of the most talented coaches in the NBA while ruling with an iron fist/claw. He has lightened up a bit lately with Ben Wallace being able to wear a headband this season, but Skiles will not let rookies coast in practice and he won't let sulking veterans bring his team down. He's been the coach of the Bulls now for four seasons with the same core of players and he knows it's time for everyone to perform.

Projected Record: 52-30 - The Eastern Conference is going to be tough this season. The Bulls have struggled the past few seasons when facing teams with 'length'. You can now add Boston and New York to that mix and an improving Toronto team could give the Bulls major fits this season.