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NBA Preview: Cavaliers and Bulls


Record:  50-32, 2nd in Central Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparisons:


5th in opponent scoring (92.9 ppg)


19th in the league in scoring (96.8 ppg)
7th  in ppg differential (+3.8 ppg)
24th in field goal %  
8th in opponent field goal %
18th in three-point %  
15th in assists
8th in steals
20th in blocks
8th in turnovers
12th in opponent turnovers
Very Good offensive rebounding team
Very Good defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  

Significant Subtractions:
David Wesley, Scott Pollard

Mike Brown

Key Players

PG:  Larry Hughes, Eric Snow
SG:   Sasha Pavlovic, Daniel Gibson
SF:  LeBron James, Ira Newble
PF:  Drew Gooden, Donyell Marshall
C:  Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao

Comments:  Assuming that they complete their pre-season signings the Cavaliers will bring back basically the same team that went to the Finals last season, hopefully with continuing health for Larry Hughes and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a little more experience for Daniel Gibson, and a much better haircut for Drew Gooden.  Obviously the first, last, and middle things to like about this team are all named LeBron James.  Without him this squad plummets into the lottery.  He's a little bit pass, a whole lot of score, and by all reports a decent guy to play with.  This team rebounds extremely well and defends well also, which are good reasons to like them.  The offense is strange.  Nearly everybody in a key position has individual offensive talent but they don't always mesh well.  This seems to be the case on a fair number of superstar-dominated teams even when the superstar is as unselfish as LeBron is.  The long and short of it is they're capable of blowing people out or fizzling on any given night.

It's hard to see where this team is going to squeeze out more than it did last season.  Daniel Gibson has room to grow.  You could probably get a little more production from Gooden as well.  Other than that everybody is pretty much performing up to capabilities.  The good news is they will continue to be a strong team.  The bad news is that some other strong teams got better in the East and West.  After getting to the Finals the next logical step is winning it all.  Though Cleveland will be in the mix in the East it's difficult to pick them to escape the conference again, let alone to defeat a Western opponent.  Unless LeBron has yet another playoff gear that he can sustain non-stop for a month and a half this team is probably very good but not quite good enough.


Record:  49-33, 3rd in Central Division, 3rd in Eastern Conference

Statistical Comparisons:


4th in ppg differential (+5.0 ppg)
2nd in opponent field goal %
2nd in three-point %  
4th in steals
2nd in opponent turnovers


13th in the league in scoring (98.8 ppg)
6th in opponent scoring (93.8 ppg)
16th in field goal %  
9th in assists
6th in blocks
23rd in turnovers
Good offensive rebounding team
Good defensive rebounding team

Significant Additions:  
Joe Smith, Joakim Noah (R)

Significant Subtractions:
Malik Allen

Scott Skiles

Key Players

PG:  Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon
SG:   Ben Gordon, Thabo Sefolosha, Adrian Griffin
SF:  Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni
PF:  Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah
C:  Ben Wallace, Joe Smith

Comments:  After the Bulls came up just shy of 50 wins and then got manhandled by the Pistons' defense in the conference semi-finals it was easy to get down on their season as a whole.  Realistically, though, they did a remarkable job.  With all the pre-season hype surrounding them people forgot that this team hadn't really played together.  The younger stars were just coming out of their baby phases and they had new players at key positions.  This year nearly every key player has experience not only as a whole, but with each other.  Tyrus Thomas would be the lone exception and frankly people are expecting him to explode on the scene any time now so I doubt the Bulls faithful are worried.

If you look at their season as a whole there's a lot to be impressed with.  It's tempting to look at these young guys and think scoring, running, dishing, and dunking.  But the key to their team is really the fantastic defense.  They're a good rebounding team, have plenty of athleticism, and can score.  Having a true post player on offense would help their shooting percentage and probably add another couple points a game to their total.  If one of their players develops into a credible inside threat they're going to start to rival the San Antonios of the world in all-around excellence (and more importantly point differential).  The bench is filled with solid, multi-purpose players.  Luol Deng is a budding star.  Ben Wallace had kind of a rough adjustment period but he's still one of the best defenders and rebounders in the league.  Kirk Hinrich is a balanced point guard with excellent talent, Ben Gordon can score up the wazoo, Tyrus Thomas is an athletic freak.  I think the Bulls would make a couple roster tweaks to bring in more frontcourt security if they could but even if that's not possible there's not too much dislike about this team as is.

As long as Wallace stays motivated and healthy and their power forward spot yields reasonable production I expect Chicago will contend seriously for the Eastern Conference title and it would not surprise me at all to see them represent the East in the NBA finals.  The next couple of years should be prime-time for them.  Watch out everybody else.

--Dave (