A mission from God (The Bulls 2011 Team Preview)

Posted on 09/28/2010 by

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Elwood: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.
Jake
: Hit it.

-The Blues Brothers

The Plot

One of the great things about how the NBA off-season has played out this year is that the 2010-11 NBA Season comes fully formed with polarizing villians, appealing heroes, and engaging storylines. The pundits all seem to have their storylines ready for the coming season. The Heat (and the Lakers) wear the black hats proudly for each conference with the Suns and Magic cast as the in-season foils/rivals. OKC and the darling Durant is the cinderella story waiting to happen.  The Spurs and Blazers seem to be the dark horses out west. The Celtics represent the last stand of the old guard out east. But lost in the shuffle is the other team that killed it in the off-season, the boys from the southside, your chicago bulls.

One of the great and most popular franchises of the modern NBA that plays in the third largest media market makes a splash in the free agent market after making some notable steals in the draft.  They bring in a bonafide star power forward to bolster a playoff team.

If this were any other year, the Bulls  would be the darling of the off-season. But as we know there were some distractions.

Some sort of decision went down in South Beach

As I wrote in the free agent guide, the Bulls did not get exactly what they wanted but they still massively upgraded.  But the burning question in the second city seems was that upgrade enough to hang with the big boys from south beach and return to championship form or are the bulls the latest in a long tradition of chicago teams doomed to futility? Let’s take a deeper look at their roster to find out why I think these boys just might have it in them to make it difficult for america’s new villains.

The Recent Past

Mrs. Tarantino: Are you the police?
Elwood
: No, ma’am. We’re musicians.

The Bulls currently have twelve players on the roster according to ESPN.com. Eleven veterans and one rookie and (a surprising number of ex-jazz players). If we look at their numbers from 2010 and do some simple calculations we come up with the following.

This is an extremely talented roster which my simple projections put at somewhere between 57 and 62 wins.  They field two borderline superstars (>.300 WP48) in Boozer and Noah at the PF and Center positions. In Rose, they have a decent PG who might be a star (maybe). They have an underrated SF in Luol Deng and a promising young PF in Taj Gibson to back up Boozer and Noah. Brewer and Korver will both be helped by switching to SG.  By my count they could easily field 8 players at or above starter level (>.100 WP48).  At this point Chicago fans should be jumping up and down with joy. Let see if they need to temper that joy.

Spoiler Alert

Elwood: [Police have surrounded the Blues Brothers concert] … And we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois’s law enforcement community that have chosen to join us here in the Palace Hotel Ballroom at this time…

For a full on projection for the Bulls I’ve got to take age, minute allocation, injuries and the rookie.  Boozer and Noah are great players but they have shown a tendency to miss time so Thomas and the Turk will see some time on the court which is not ideal but this also means more time for promising PF Taj Gibson to continue to develop and grow. Rose and Noah also  should continue to grow while Boozer could and Thomas will most likely  see a dropoff.  So let’s take a conservative approach. I’m:

  • Locking everyone in place in terms of performance (which is a reasonable assumption).
  • Adjust the minutes assuming Boozer and Noah both miss some time.
  • And throwing in zero win production from the turkish rookie (. 000 Wp48).

If I do just that,  the numbers look like :

So close to 59 wins as a conservative scenario and if I go crazy and :

  • Adjust the minutes assuming Boozer and Noah play 35 minutes a game .
  • And change the win production from the turkish rookie to average (. 050 Wp48)
  • Assume the big rotation is Boozer and Noah as starters then Gibson and then Thomas and Omer splitting time

The result looks like:

And a result of 67 Wins if everything breaks right. At the end of the day I think the answer for this team is somewhere in the middle. I see the Bulls at around 63 wins (plus or minus 4) and as the slight favorites in a dogfight with Boston and Orlando for the second seed in the East. What’s most interesting to me is that if healthy, this team projects to have a top 6 for the playoffs (Rose, Korver, Deng, Boozer, Noah and Gibson) with all above average players and two players close to .300 WP48. In a typical year this almost certainly would make them a surefire championship contender and guarantee a finals appearance. This year, by my count, it makes them one of three teams with the Heat and the Lakers (and sadly the least impressive right now). Normally I would be saying that Bulls are almost certain to reach the finals in the next few years but the Heat, Celtics and Magic stand in their way.

Chicago now has a young team that with some luck has a punchers chance to steal  a title in the next five years. If their young players, put in the work and grow to match the opportunity (I’m looking at you Derrick Rose) they could be the david knocking off the goliaths of the modern  NBA.  For a blue collar town, that’s all you need. After all, they’re on a mission from God.

Note#1: For a look back at the Bulls 2010 campaign go here.

Note#2: A Bulls fan might ask: But what about Carmelo? Surely he can save us form the Evil Heat? Umm, I covered this a few weeks ago. The answer:


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