Michael Walton II writes about the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for We Are Regal Radio.
Michael is a student, freelance writer and high school basketball scout based in Chicago. He’s previously been published in TrueStar Magazine, the Redeye Chicago and thelyricallab.com.
Over the last ten games the Chicago Bulls have gone 7-3, but what is alarming is that in those three losses the Bulls gave up 112.3 points per game. While the Bulls new-found dominant offense is excellent (102 points per game), it is worrying that the Bulls don’t have play defense the way they did in the past.
But even coach Tom Thibodeau has admitted that some drop off in defense is expected when you have as many new players as the Bulls do. And with little quotes like, “you guys seem to be experts on pick-and-roll defense…” directed towards Bulls writers, Thibs shows that he still has the feisty-ness that has transformed the Bulls into legitimate title contenders.
Around the league moves are being made at a rapid pace. Rajon Rondo was shipped to Dallas, Josh Smith was released from the Pistons, and the Brooklyn Nets are on the trading block. Amidst all this the Atlanta Hawks are a surprising 19-7, behind an excellent three-point shooting offense, and along with the Wizards, Bulls, and Cavs, they figure to have a major impact on the playoff picture. The only team I have failed to mention is the number one team in the East, and the Bulls’ opponent tonight, the Toronto Raptors.
Shootout at the UC?
The Toronto Raptors were one of the teams that improved their team simply not making any moves at all. While their defense has been about as good as the Bulls, giving up 98 ppg, their offense has taken a major leap that even the current Bulls can’t match. The Raptors are second in the NBA with 107.8 per game. They have two all star caliber players in DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry who average a shade over 19 points a game.
The Bulls have shown that rather than locking down teams with prolific offenses, they now choose to run with them and try to outscore them in games that usually keep us on the edge of our seats. By my count the Bulls are currently 3-4 in “shootout games” (games in which both teams score more than 100 points), but tonight I think the Bulls would be wise to slow down the pace.
DPOY or Do We Have a Problem?
Joakim Noah deservedly won Defensive Player of the Year last year, but so far he has had some trouble this year. Whether it is nagging injuries or general fatigue, Noah has had some trouble guarding elite big men this year.
Tonight he will be facing Jonas Valanciunas, who while not elite, has put in work by being bruising on the boards with 8.8 rebounds, 11.9 points, and 1.19 blocks per game. Noah will need help from Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic in making sure multiple big men don’t score in double digits, which the Knicks managed to do last Thursday.
Niko: Dark Horse Rookie Dell’Anno?
If someone told me two months ago that Nikola Mirotic, and not Doug McDermott would be the Bulls best shot to snag Rookie of the Year honors, I would have laughed in their face. Hard. I thought going into it that McDermott,with the four years college experience would adjust quicker to the NBA game, but McDermott has been hurt for a good chunk of this season, and he struggled often when he did play.
McDermott has struggled with finding the open man since his college days (1.3 assists per game for his career at Creighton), and so far Mirotic has offered an impressive blend of rebounding and three-point shooting. Mirotic and McDermott both are low turnover players, but Mirotic has had an easier time getting his shot off than initially expected, and he has shown an impressive off the dribble scoring ability along with a crafty post game.
If Mirotic keeps this up, he may earn a spot in Thibs rotation long term. He still has to get a better grasp on the team defense concepts, including the ever important “blue” concept, or as Thibs calls it: “ICE! ICE! ICE! ICE! ICE!” If Mirotic improves his defense steadily, he will will become either a starter or a surefire Sixth Man of the year candidate long term.
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