Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"Who The Hell Is Scoring On This Team?"

In Part 2 of his NBA season preview, Bill Simmons cites the Bulls as one of the five teams he believes will fail to meet up to everyone's expectations. He writes:
Lemme get this straight ... they won 47 games two seasons ago because of their defense and fourth-quarter scoring ... then they dropped to 41 wins because the rules changed and they couldn't match baskets with better offensive teams ... so the solution was to trade for P.J. Brown (complete non-factor on the offensive end), spend $60 million on Ben Wallace (ditto) and draft Ty Thomas (another rebounder/leaper) with the No. 2 pick? Who the hell is scoring on this team???? Why am I the only person who seems to be wondering about this? Hey, if they can contend for the 2007 title with a team built for 2003 rules, God bless 'em. I'm just not seeing it.

Well, Bill isn't as special as he thinks he is, as Trib columnist Sam Smith brought up the same concern a few weeks ago while broaching one of his most inane trade ideas yet: Luol Deng, Michael Sweetney and somebody else for Corey Magette. (This might even be worse than the Gordon, Deng and Noce for Paul Pierce deal that he kept pushing last year. Why the gigantic hard-on for PP, Sam?)
But back to Simmons: I don't think we should get irrationally exuberant about the Bulls' offense based on last night's game. Despite Riles, the Heat can be really bad defensively, and most teams in this league don't start two guys drawing Social Security at the point and center positions (or for that matter, Antoine "Ole" Walker at the 3). But this notion that the Bulls won't be able to score is pretty weak.
For starters, the Bulls were not a bad offensive team last year. Their FG percentage was low, but they averaged almost 98 points per game, putting them ahead of the middle of the league in 13th place. Their problem last year was turning the ball over, which might still be an issue, and giving up too many offensive boards, which Wallace, Brown and TT will help put an end to. That latter was really a killer, because depsite the fact that they were great in limiting their opponents' FG percentage, they were 16th in scoring defense, giving up 97 PPG. That, and other teams really keying in on stopping Gordon in the 4th, is likely what accounts for the six-game swing over the last two years.
To get back to Simmons' question, though, a better question would probably be, "Who The Hell [Outside of Wallace and P.J.] ISN'T Scoring On This Team?" Last night, Gordon went 1 for 9, and yet the Bulls still broke 100. I don't think we can count on Du scoring 20 a game, or single-handedly stopping an opponent's desperate run to get back in the game, but he's healthy and improving, and combined with Ben Go, the two will average a lot more than the 26 they combined for last night. Hinrich won't average 26 a game, but there's a good chance he'll be hovering around 20, and it's guranteed that Deng will average more than 12 (his total from last night) and Noce will get more than 9 (the same). And no, I don't think Sefolosha will be averaging a point a minute this year, but Simmons himself admits the Swiss Mister can shoot. And while Wallace is outright hilarious on the offensive end, his outlet passes are guaranteed to start a couple of fast breaks each game.
Will the Bulls be an offensive juggernaut this year? Not likely. But they won't be slouches either, and with their defense, and a pitiful Eastern Conference, that should be enough for 50-55 wins this year.


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