The NBA season couldn’t return quick enough, and with official tip off already underway, it’s time for ChiSide’s annual NBA season outlook. This year I’ll be posting my thoughts on the unexpected. Last season brought us the unforgettable “Linsanity”, the emergence of the Denver Nuggets and the various trades that put the league on its head the league. With a full 82-game season slated, expect more of the same; expect the unexpected.
1. Kyrie Irving vaults himself into a top 15 player in the league
The 2011 number one overall selection had a rookie seasonbetter than superstar point guards Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook had. The next step for him is to become the players both are. While Irving does not have another Kevin Durant-type on his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a solid foundation that could make huge strides if Irving steps his game up significantly, which transitions into my next surprise…
2. The Cleveland Cavaliers will be a lot better than you think
Head coach Byron Scott has ironed out the kinks in his first two seasons managing the club. After a 19-win first year, Scott got the Cavs to 21 wins in 66 games (equivalent to 26 wins in 82 games), a seven game improvement. If all goes according to plan (barring key injuries), Cleveland can crack 40 wins. If Irving becomes transcendent, power forward Anderson Varejao stays healthy and second-year center Tristan Thompson makes a jump, the Cavs can win a lot of close contests in a weakened Eastern Conference that has lost superstars Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard.
The X-factor for Cleveland will be none other than Varejao. The crafty Brazilian, in my opinion, is as good as Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah. Varejao is one of the league’s best floppers (yes, this is a good thing) and draws offensive fouls at an astounding rate. He averaged 11 points and 11.5 rebounds in 31 minutes of play through 25 games last year. Noah averaged 10 and 10 last year in 30 minutes throughout a whole season. There’s no doubt that Varejao’s presence is vital to this team’s success.
3. The Los Angeles Lakers will not lead the league in wins
The Western Conference is tough and the Lakers have the oldest starting five in the league with an average age of 32. In addition to a full 82-game schedule, head coach Mike Brown will be preserving the legs of his older starters for a late playoff run. It would not be far-fetched if the Denver Nuggets were able to finish the regular season off with two-to-five more wins than the Lakers. Continue reading →
After leaving fans with a bad taste in their mouths at the conclusion of last season’s first round playoff exit, center Omer Asik and guard C.J. Watson have moved on to greener pastures.
In a league where teams can drastically improve overnight (see: 2011 Miami Heat, 2012 Brooklyn Nets), high expectations are to be had when the offseason rolls around. This goes especially for young, contending teams. Where high expectations are held, high expectations are rarely met. This is an adage that generally holds true and can explain what many bewildered Bulls fans are feeling right now in this frustrating free agency bid. Let’s recap some of the moves made so far: first, management lets superstar duster Brian Scalabrine walk (along with more prominent players such as rotation guard Ronnie Brewer, backup center Omer Asik, and backup point guard C.J. Watson). Players like Scals don’t grow on trees. Then, they trade the sharp-shooting Kyle Korver to Atlanta in exchange for a briefcase full of Benjamins and a trade exception (more on this later). And just like that, the bench mob is downgraded into something that resembles more of a sob. Continue reading →
Coming off of a spectacular 62-20 regular season record, the Chicago’s new favorite team is poised to make an even deeper run in the upcoming season’s playoffs – if there is a season this year.
Ever since the NFL ended its long, grueling lockout, all eyes are now on the NBA. The Bulls are due to face the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks on opening night, known as “Ring Night” to the champs, an event that will undoubtedly inspire and put a competitive fire in the Bulls’ hearts for the rest of the season. But before that, the NBA’s players and owners will have to come to some sort of collective bargaining agreement.
However, we here at Chi Side are going to ignore all of this lockout business, and proceed carelessly as if the Bulls were able to sign free agents or make trades as they wished. Here is what the Bulls have done and should do in the upcoming offseason:
The Bulls had a few picks in this year’s NBA Draft, and used them to select spanish forward Nikola Mirotic no. 23 overall and Marquette forward Jimmy Butler no. 30 overall. Mirotic can’t leave his team in Spain until at least 2013, which is fine, considering he would rarely see the floor due to the amount of forwards the Bulls use. Both Mirotic and Butler are scouted as above average defenders who should fit well in the Bulls’ system. Butler is a 6-7 forward who may be capable of defending two to three positions and has been billed as a hard worker. His offensive game is still quite raw, though.
The obvious need for the Bulls is, once again, the shooting guard position. Derrick Rose can’t do it all by himself, and a shooting guard would take some of the heat off of him as well. In my opinion, the top three unrestricted free agents at the shooting guard position are: Jamal Crawford, J.R. Smith, and Jason Richardson. The problem lies in cap space. After signing guys like Boozer and Noah to huge contracts, is there any way to snag a top shooting guard during free agency? The answer is, simply, no.
Jamal Crawford got paid $10M last year by Atlanta. No way he can come here. J.R. Smith got paid $6.7M last year. He’ll probably demand more than that. Jason Richardson made an astounding $14M last year (one of the answers as to why we are locked out). Is a declining 30 year old worth that? No way. The salary cap last year was $58M and the projected one for 2011-2012 is roughly $54M. The Bulls are due to pay $61M this year. Finding the free agent SG of our dreams is going to be a problem.
It all comes down to the poor management in the last offseason. I mean, you can’t blame the Bulls for trying to win some games. The Carlos Boozer signing is what is truly killing us. Cubs fans may be familiar with this sort of salary debacle. Boozer is starting to look a lot like Alfonso Soriano (maybe not nearly that bad). But seriously, five years and $75M? That’s superstar money for someone who is merely a star, if that. Another downfall was the Joakim Noah extension. Fans covet Noah, and apparently so does the Gar Foreman. Honestly, Noah is getting slightly overpaid for what he brings to the team (five years, $60M). Yeah, the 11 boards and 1.5 blocks look nice, but we’re going to need more than 10 points per game and a little more durability. Although I suppose the lack of stud centers has something to do with that.
Want to hear something scary?
Derrick Rose is set to be a restricted free agent after this upcoming season. You know what that means? When the Bulls give Derrick that blank check, there will be less money to be spent on free agents this offseason and for quite a few after. The Bulls best bet in acquiring a stud SG may be to…
My dream scenario would be to trade Carlos Boozer, Keith Bogans, Taj Gibson, and a first rounder to Golden State for Monta Ellis and David Lee. In my head, I feel like this is nowhere near enough for Golden State to accept. A two-for-two trade of Boozer and Noah for Ellis and Lee actually works. But we all know Noah is pretty much untouchable, since we didn’t give him up for Carmelo Anthony during the deadline last year. All in all, Monta Ellis is probably out of the question unless Bulls management gets off of the Noah bandwagon.
Realistically, we can look at mid-tier SGs such as Memphis’ O.J. Mayo and Washington’s Nick Young. Young is a restricted free agent who made only $3M last season and had a career year (17 ppg). Young might demand quite a bit of cash, and the Wizards have the ability to match, so he’s not a sure thing. Mayo on the other hand, can be had via trade.
The Bulls have Charlotte’s 2012 first round pick, albeit it is protected. This means that if Charlotte misses the playoffs, the Bulls do not get it (lottery protected). If the Bobcats do make the playoffs, the Bulls get the pick. It is top 12 protected in 2013, top 10 protected in 2014, and top 8 protected in 2015, then unprotected in 2016, meaning it only gets more valuable as time goes on. This pick may be enough to snag Mayo away from the Grizzlies. Hopefully they aren’t too weary of trading him though, after getting burned by the Lakers for Pau Gasol.
If the Bulls are unable to make a move at any of these three players, then we’ll likely have to relegate to the popular Courtney Lee. He’s certainly an offensive upgrade at the position, but who isn’t? It’s not like he’s going to be leading us to championships anytime soon. Chris Douglas-Roberts is also an option, and is as efficient as Courtney Lee would be.
Although the Bulls probably can’t make a play at a top SG, look at the bright side. They finished with the best record and were only a few games away from the Finals. A significant injury or two to a contending team or even a few strokes of luck this year with the same exact team could put the Bulls in the Finals.
There’s no doubt that Game 3 in Miami is the Bulls’ biggest game of the year thus far. Coming off a disappointing 85-75 loss at the United Center, the Bulls must win Game 3 in order to keep the pressure off them and put it all on the Heat. The first step in winning Game 3 and the series is obviously to stop The Crybabies (Baby Bron Bron, Wittle Wade, Boshtrich), but there’s more to it than just that. Here’s what the Bulls absolutely need to do in order to close out Game 3 and the series:
Rebound, rebound, rebound! Did you know: The Heat have been out-rebounded in every game that they’ve lost against the Bulls. However, last game the Heat turned the tables and out-rebounded the Bulls and won the game. Also, the Heat’s top four players all had 7+ boards on their own (James: 10; Wade: 9; Bosh; 8; Miller; 7). Yes, Mike Miller somehow had the balls fall into his grasp seven times.
Asik and Destroy. Whenever The Turkish Delight is in the game, he seems to affect the Miami Heat offense dramatically. Last game, both Lebron and Wade had a lot of trouble getting to the basket while Asik was on the floor. Luckily, Wade was smart enough to tape a razor blade onto his elbow to take Asik out of the game.
You Booze(r), you lose. Game 3 should be a physical contest, and Boozer is anything but physical. Right now the only thing Boozer is good at is raising my blood pressure due to anger. Coach Thibodeau should only put him out on the floor when Bosh is out there, so these two can continue their nightly pillow fight. However, I’m pretty sure all of Chicago would rather have the Taj-ma-poster out there.
Hit shots. I don’t know an easier way to say it, but the Bulls were pitiful from the field last game. Brace yourself for these stats: 34% from the field, 15% from three-point land and 61.5% from the line. When Bogans and Brewer are among the top percentages from the field on your team, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Korver. I honestly think the real Ashton Kutcher could sink more buckets. Korver went 1-7 last game from the field and 1-3 in Game 1.
Today’s theme song:
Hit me up on Twitter @Tucci_Bandana if you want me to send you the song.
I understand this is the worst song I have ever posted, but give me a break, I’m still running on fumes after that Bulls victory. WOW. Derrick Rose once again put the team on his back, while Carlos Boozer did everything he could to make the Bulls lose. Whatever, a win is a win.
Back to Nelly, band aid rapper extraordinaire, he at least gives us a party anthem. The Number 1 label he places on himself was not unheard of at the time, Nelly stuck around for a solid 4-5 years of releasing top of the chart music. I don’t have much else to say about him though… so…..
WOW Derrick. I can’t wait for the rest of the playoffs. Go Boolz.
That song was made for the NBA playoffs (just ignore all the Christmas references). Happiness, excitement, tears, bruises, buzzer beaters, players buckling under the pressure, the scrutiny that the athletes go through is unparalleled. This years playoffs are expected to be one of the best ever, with about 8 stacked teams at the top, and a couple others hanging around hoping they can sneak through by catching one of those top teams off guard. With 2 days left in the regular season, the East bracket is set, and here are my picks.