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Blazersedge 2008-09 NBA Season Preview: Bucks and Bulls

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MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Record:  26-56, 5th in Central Division, 13th  in Eastern Conference

 

Statistical Comparisons

 

Notable:

29th in opponent field goal %

27th  in ppg differential (-6.9 ppg)

 

Others:

20th in the league in scoring (97.0 ppg)

23rd in opponent scoring (103.9 ppg)

19th in field goal % 

25th in three-point % 

20th in free throw attempts per game

22nd in free throw percentage

14th in assists

21st in steals

20th in blocks

23rd  in turnovers

15th (tie) in opponent turnovers

Very Good offensive rebounding team

Poor defensive rebounding team

 

Movement

 

Significant Additions:  Richard Jefferson, Luke Ridnour, Tyronn Lue, Adrian Griffin, Damon Jones, Malik Allen, Francisco Elson, Joe Alexander (R)

Significant Subtractions:  Bobby Simmons, Yi Jianlian, Mo Williams, Desmond Mason. Royal Ivey

 

Roster

 

Coach:  Scott Skiles

 

Key Players

PG: Luke Ridnour, Ramon Sessions, Tyronn Lue

SG:  Michael Redd, Charlie Bell, Damon Jones

SF:  Richard Jefferson, Adrian Griffin

PF:  Charlie Villanueva, Malik Allen, Joe Alexander

C:   Andrew Bogut, Dan Gadruzic, Francisco Elson

 

Comments

 

You have to hand it to the Bucks.  After the crap-fest of a season they had last year (I don’t know what they were expecting but I guarantee you it was not 26 wins) they didn’t stand pat.  They dumped just about all of their forward crew plus a few odds and ends and replaced them with a whole new lineup:  five noteworthy departures and eight new arrivals in all.  Normally you’d worry about so much movement disrupting the team, but disrupting what, really?  This team, while full of familiar names, was stuck and going nowhere.  Management decided to heck with a slow recovery…let’s get the defibrillator.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it fails.  At least they’re trying.

 

One of the big problems with the Bucks last year is that they were soft.  We’re not talking run-of-the-mill soft here.  Take some uncooked french toast, wrap it in six-ply toilet paper, massage it gently with Q-tips, soak it overnight in Gavin Dawson’s hand moisturizer, and then pound it with meat tenderizer.  That’s how squooshy this team was.  And really, the forward positions were a great place to revamp.  Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd aren’t exactly fearsome, but you’re not going to get equal value trading them either.  Instead you dump Bobby Simmons and Yi Jianlian, both scorers.  Their contributions can be duplicated.  You bring in no-nonsense Richard Jefferson and a cadre of athletes to come off the bench.  Oh…and you got Luke Ridnour too.  There’s an exception to every rule I guess.  Maybe new head coach (and notorious meanie) Scott Skiles can put some backbone into his new point guard. 

 

The one area that’s going to hamstring the team is defense.  They were horrible last season.  That starting guard tandem is likely to be brutal again this year, putting huge pressure on the interior lineup.  This is going to cause coach Skiles to pop multiple forehead veins.  It’s also going to mean that frontline bench has to step up when the starters get run ragged.  I don’t know how much you can depend on names like Allen, Gadzuric, Elson, and Alexander.  My guess is they’d love to see a Przybilla-type defender in there.  (Gadzuric can block shots but isn’t your prototypical lane watchdog.)  The wing positions have enough depth, but I’m worried about the longevity of the frontcourt.

 

Another head-scratcher for the Bucks was how they assembled an offensive squad and yet managed to join the bottom-half crowd in scoring, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage.  It’ll all be different this year but that has to change.  Even with the additions, if this team doesn’t score it doesn’t win.  Perhaps Ramon Sessions will continue his development and become a great distributor.  This team could use that.

 

Defensive rebounding would be the third area of concern.  Better defense will lead to more rebounds, but you hate to see a team that’s so accomplished on the offensive boards and yet gets pulverized at the other end.  Andrew Bogut averaged an impressive 9.8 boards per game last year.  3.1 of those were offensive.  That’s a huge number, but you’d love to see more defensive grabs.  So, too, with Charlie Villanueva.  Between them the two averaged just more than 10 defensive rebounds a game.  That number has to go up this year. You can’t win with your starting frontcourt grabbing a little more than two rebounds per quarter.  Villanueva will get more playing time.  That will hopefully help.

 

In general, bravo to the organization for not standing pat.  Sell some tickets, continue the transition, and see if you can sniff around the Eastern Conference playoff hunt.  The Bucks won’t set the world on fire, but they should have a fighting chance most nights.  This team didn’t lose that much of its offensive potential (which they didn’t exploit that well last year anyway)  but it should be able to run and pound a little bit more.  Redd and Jefferson should make each other more dangerous.  If Villanueva can maintain some of the early-career magic that made him coveted and Bogut provides a steady double-double, the Bucks should be decent.  It’d be a surprise to see them win fewer than 30 again.

 

Read more about the Bucks at BrewHoop.com.

 

CHICAGO BULLS

Record:  33-49, 4th in Central Division, 11th in Eastern Conference

 

Statistical Comparisons

 

Notable:

30th in field goal % 

 

Others:

18th in the league in scoring (97.3 ppg)

16th in opponent scoring 100.4 ppg)

21st  in ppg differential (-3.1 ppg)

9th in opponent field goal %

14th in three-point % 

18th in free throw attempts per game

17th in free throw percentage

11th in assists

9th in steals

6th in blocks

20th in turnovers

8th in opponent turnovers

Very Good offensive rebounding team

Average defensive rebounding team

 

Movement

 

Significant Additions:  Derrick Rose (R)

Significant Subtractions:  Chris Duhon

 

Roster

 

Coach:  Vinny Del Negro

 

Key Players

PG:  Kirk Hinrich, Derrick Rose

SG:  Larry Hughes, Thabo Sefolosha

SF:  Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni

PF:  Drew Gooden, Tyrus Thomas

C:   Joakim Noah, Aaron Gray

 

Comments

 

The Bulls have a lot of nice names.  At minimum you’d be happy to have every player listed under point guard, shooting guard, and small forward plus Drew Gooden somewhere on your team no matter who you are.  The biggest name of all may be first overall pick Derrick Rose, whom many are predicting to bust out with a fantastic career.  He’ll make that backcourt ever so dangerous if he gets rolling.  Despite the slight slip last season Luol Deng is feared around the league.  There’s talent here for sure.  Why, then, aren’t the Bulls better? 

 

The most jarring statistical line in the league might be Chicago’s field goal percentage.  They couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a howitzer last year.  They obviously have scorers, but of them only Luol Deng and Aaron Gray shoot an above average percentage for their positions.  Several of their big men are quite below average.  And even Deng’s percentage dropped nearly four points last year.  The Bulls just aren’t getting the kind of shots they need to be effective.  This is one of the things they hope Rose can help with.

 

Another lack appears to be leadership.  Of all of those nice players you’re hard pressed to find one to get everyone else in line.  Kirk Hinrich once looked like that guy but his play suffered last year, which makes it harder.  Deng isn’t really the type for it.  Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden don’t count either.  Where’s the Kevin Garnett, the Brandon Roy, the guy you define as the heart of this team?  This is another thing they hope Rose will eventually help with.

 

I don’t think anybody is sure how the big man experiments the Bulls have embarked upon will work out.  Tyrus Thomas hasn’t stepped up so far.  Joakim Noah seems a fairly thin thread on which to hang your center hopes.  In some ways this team is still suffering from the underwhelming tenure of Ben Wallace, who was supposed to be the answer at that position.  Drew Gooden is a nice player--really nice some nights--but he’s not necessarily a guy you want to go to war alongside.  This is one thing Derrick Rose won’t be able to help with.

 

The most impressive thing about the Bulls is their defense.  They have a great foundation with their wings which really makes the game easier on their inside players, freeing them up to defend their own men and stay in rebounding position.  They force turnovers, block shots, hold the opponent down…just about everything you’d want.  You’d like to see fewer free throw attempts allowed and a lower three-point percentage granted, but in general defense is the least of Chicago’s worries.  This puts them ahead of many teams in the East.

 

Once upon a time Chicago was the young team destined for greatness.  They’re not supposed to be so young anymore.  They’re not old by any means but with Deng entering his fifth season and Hinrich his sixth plus Hughes and Gooden in the starting lineup, they should have enough veterans to do the job.  It’s ironic, then, that so many hopes are pinned on a rookie.  This year will be another struggle to fit those veteran names together, absorb and perhaps be changed by their young star, and adapt to a new system while still coming through with enough wins to stay respectable.  A lot of folks seem to think Chicago is destined for a big jump.  I suspect it might take an adjustment period plus another move or two before we see the best of the Bulls.  That’s OK though.  One thing they have in abundance is time.

 

Read more about the Bulls at BlogaBull.com.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)