Gimme the Hot Sauce! Chicago’s Finest Brew! C.J. WWWWWAAAATSONNN-UHHH! How many times over the past two NBA seasons have you enjoyed hearing these Stacey Kingism’s and screaming them from your couch on an almost nightly basis? It always put a smile on my face when us Bulls fans would come together and celebrate the greatness that was, not a first unit, but a second unit in The Bench Mob. The Bulls had, without question, the best and deepest bench in the league over the last two years, and it always made us feel great that we had an advantage over every single team because of it. Yahoo’s Steve Merritt described The Mob perfectly:
…a group of guys that gelled with the Bulls’ existing core to develop a chemistry and camaraderie seldom seen in professional sports. The Bench Mob, in a word, was special, and Bulls fans quickly fell in love with their reserves. I mean, seriously, how many NBA second units have their own website and t-shirts (in addition to a cool nickname)?
But as of last night, The Bench Mob is officially no more. As predicted, once the Bulls declined to pick up C.J. Watson’s (he just signed a deal with Brooklyn Saturday night) and Ronnie Brewer’s team options, Kyle Korver was traded. The Hot Sauce will be taking his talents down south to Atlanta, who was in desperate need of any kind of shooting after Joe Johnson was traded to Brooklyn, in exchange for a trade exception and cash considerations. Some Bulls fans are upset, some are content and others are indifferent. Regardless of what people feel, though, these were moves that most of us should have seen coming and ultimately needed to be made.
The Bulls already have found replacements for Watson (and Lucas) in Kirk Hinrich and Marquis Teague, and Ronnie Brewer in Jimmy Butler. All signs point to the acquisition of former Milwaukee great and U.S. Olympian Michael Redd to replace Korver’s sharpshooting with that of his own (although he’s very washed up now because of injuries), but that’s all just speculation. Nevertheless, it makes me sad to see such a tight-knit group of guys broken up before ever winning a title. Had Derrick Rose been healthy, things would probably be different right now. The 2011-12 season unfortunately didn’t work out the way we thought it would, but we have to live with that and move on. That’s just sports.
Now that the Bulls are off the hook from Korver’s $500,000 on his $5 million non-guaranteed contract, they have the money to match Houston’s offer for Omer Asik and bring him back to Chicago. Do I think they’ll do that? Sources say yes, so I’d have to think so as well. Do I think they should? Well, you already know how I feel about that. And the answer is no. We’ll see what happens in the coming days.
Although we enjoyed watching The Bench Mob mesh together and had the utmost confidence in their ability to hold, and even extend, leads most of the time, the Watson/Brewer/Korver trio certainly had flaws that cannot be understated. Between Watson’s poor shot selection, Brewer’s inability to make a jump shot, and Korver’s incredible inconsistency and lack of defense, there were times when I’d watch these guys play, and I just wanted to physically hurt somebody. Of course, I’m too big of a bitch to have ever done such a thing, but you get where I’m coming from.
By the end of this past season, it was pretty freakin’ obvious that Thibodeau and Bulls nation had basically had it with them. Watson sucked beyond belief in that six-game series when it mattered most, Brewer managed to get benched in Game 3 of the playoffs and ended up averaging a whopping 1.3 points against Philly, and Korver combined for a grand total of zero points in three out of the six playoff games. The way their seasons ended, it was nearly impossible for me to think that bringing any of them back would be the right move. If we couldn’t trust them then to help right the ship without Derrick Rose, how can we trust them until February 2013 and possibly beyond?
There’s no doubt that we’ll miss the positive things that C.J. Watson, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver brought to the table. Their hearts and desires to win games, not just for their team, but for the city of Chicago, were what made them such great assets, teammates and people. It’s extremely difficult to find one or two starters, let alone three bench players, on an NBA team who care as much about winning as they do, and that’s what makes me so upset to see them go.
Whether or not the Bulls are selling out for next season by breaking up one of league’s greatest benches of all time, I’m not sure, but these were moves that most people, including myself, feel were necessary. As fans, all we can do is move on and believe that guys like Kirk Hinrich and Jimmy Butler can take over their roles and flourish in them. Until next season tips off, though, let’s all fondly remember the founding fathers of The Bench Mob and all of the great things they did for this organization. Their competitiveness and unique chemistry will be sorely missed.
Marquis Teague: Welcome to Chicago. I’m still not totally sure how I feel about this pick (I definitely like it for short-term purposes), but I am sure about this: the Bulls didn’t even think twice about it. They worked out around a dozen different players leading up to the draft, and not one of them was named Marquis Teague. Clearly, no one, including the Bulls’ front office, thought Teague would slip all the way to no. 29 in the draft. Everyone knew we were going after a guard. Was it going to be Doron Lamb, the sharpshooter from Kentucky? Was it going to be Will Barton, the long, versatile 2-guard from Memphis? Was it going to be Tyshawn Taylor, the emotional combo-guard from Kansas? I personally had no clue. But when the Bulls were officially on the clock, and Teague was still available, it just seemed inevitable. Even without those pre-draft workouts, the Bulls liked him the most simply because he was the best player available.
As stated in last week’s post on the Bulls’ draft prospects, Teague has arguably the highest ceiling of any point guard in this draft. If he had stayed one more year at Kentucky, he might have been a top-10 pick, so he’s great value for the us at the end of the first round. Teague’s a great athlete with a 40.5″ max vertical leap and has drawn some comparisons to Steve Francis. He loves to get out and run and break down defenses off the dribble. He’s also a great finisher at the rim, has solid vision, excels in pick-and-roll situations and can knock down midrange jumpers here and there. However, his decision-making in the half court, as well as his long-range jump shooting (shot 32% from three at Kentucky last season), needs work. He won’t become a true threat next season until he can consistently hit three-point shots to keep defenses honest and make them play up on him. Teague is an incredible talent nonetheless, and quarterbacking the Kentucky Wildcats to a national championship as a freshman should probably count for something. But as fun as it is to analyze a player’s skill level, what does this pick mean for the Bulls?
The biggest elephant in the room, other than Derrick Rose’s health, amongst fans and the Bulls organization alike has been the question about the Bulls back court. Most fans thought C.J. Watson’s time in Chicago should come to an end, but no one really had any idea about what Gar Forman and John Paxson were thinking — until tonight. With Teague ready to step in, I think it’s safe to say that Watson will be gone. He had his moments, yes, but for every good thing he did on the court, there were two or three bad things. Watson was completely exposed this past season, as he started 25 total games while Derrick Rose nursed injuries. The poor decision-making, the iffy shot selection and the terrible playoff performance ultimately put him in our doghouse, so there’s no better time for a high-upside point guard like Teague to come in and take over Watson’s spot. If, for some reason, the Bulls decide to keep Watson for one more year, then John Lucas will undoubtedly be let go, and Teague will get his minutes while Rose recovers from knee surgery. What will Teague’s primary role be next season, though, if the Bulls do follow the road that all signs point to and not bring Watson back?
Obviously, the Bulls must have at least three point guards on next year’s roster with Rose set to miss a majority of the regular season. Teague is a lock. But John Lucas and Mike James? Not so much. After Lucas’ horrendous performance against Philadelphia in round one and Tom Thibodeau’s surprising stubbornness to give Mike James any chance whatsoever to prove himself, it’s hard to see why either of them would be brought back. Maybe one (probably Lucas), but not both. I can’t imagine Teague being thrown into the fire immediately and starting for three months, so his primary role will almost certainly entail being the backup point guard before and after Rose comes back. That being said, someone will have to be the guy to get his name called during the starting lineups. With the $3.7 million the Bulls would save by not picking up Watson’s option, a guy like Kirk Hinrich, whom I mentioned in last week’s post about potential offseason decisions, would be a perfect bridge (there are other options out there, but he comes to mind first because of how much fans in Chicago love him). However, if Teague, or even John Lucas, ends up getting the starting nod on opening night, it wouldn’t shock me — stranger things have happened. And that includes Miles Plumlee getting drafted by the Pacers before Arnette Moultrie, Perry Jones III, Draymond Green AND Marquis Teague (seriously, what an AWFUL pick).
As far as the long-term future is concerned, this pick kind of confuses me. As @NBATradeIdeas tweeted last night, the Bulls drafted a point guard whose ceiling is Rose’s backup for the next five years or so. Why didn’t they take a flier on a potential shooting guard? Consider what blogabull.com’s Alex Sonty wrote:
The Bulls already have an MVP point guard whom the organization expects to log 35+ MPG for at least the next six years, so no matter how good Teague becomes, when does this value get added?
Honestly, I don’t know; and the Bulls probably don’t either, but will do their damnedest to sell you on “can’t have too much depth” narrative.
What I can do is speculate is that the Bulls are questioning Rose’s long-term viability as a point guard, as the 76ers did with Allen Iverson at an inflection point; that maybe more minutes in small backcourts in shifts as the secondary ball handler — the de facto SG — is optimal for his health, so he can rest more often on offense.
If Sonty’s hunch is true, then my analysis of this pick changes completely. Did the Bulls draft Teague with the notion that Rose will soon become the shooting guard of the future? None of us will really know the answer to this question until we see what kind of impact Teague will have during the earlier part of his career in a Bulls uniform. Of course, it’s all speculation, but it’s still something for us Bulls fans to ponder deeply.
Now that the Miami Heat have been crowned NBA Champions, the offseason can begin. As a result of the lockout, the offseason schedule has been accelerated with the NBA Draft and the start of free agency only four days apart. This will create a flurry of moves in the next two weeks, and we’re going to take a look at what the Bulls should do.
Consider trading Luol Deng
The Bulls face the problem of potentially playing all of next season without Derrick Rose, and if Deng elects to get surgery after the Olympics, he will be out for an extended period as well. This will surely put the Bulls out of contention, and as currently constructed, they cannot beat the Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder. For this reason, the Bulls would be wise to see what Deng can get in return. Trading Deng allows the Bulls to simultaneously get younger while creating more cap flexibility down the road. There are a few lottery teams (Warriors, Kings, and Raptors) who would give up their top ten pick for more proven talent. The Bulls front office needs to weigh the benefit of receiving one of these picks and the players they could likely draft in these slots. While Deng has been one of the most consistent and best Bulls players for a long time, the NBA is driven by business decisions and the Bulls need to keep the long-term picture in mind.
Lock-up Omer Asik
Asik is restricted free-agent, and has drawn considerable attention from teams like the Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics. The Bulls front office has been adamant about resigning Asik, and they have the ability to match any offer. Asik’s value overwhelmingly stems from his defensive talents, as he is extraordinarily bad on offense. If the Bulls are forced to match an offer from a team offering to overpay Asik, it would not be surprising to see them let him go. Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf generally tries to avoid paying the luxury tax at all costs and will look to do so if signing Asik puts them over the tax threshold. Asik definitely is valuable to the Bulls, and coach Thibodeau loves his defensive players, so the front office will likely get creative in trying to bring him back.
Figure out the backcourt
With Rose out and C.J. Watson and John Lucas both free agents, the Bulls might potentially overhaul their backcourt. The Bulls are likely going to draft a guard filling one of the spots, but they will have to decide where to exercise the $3.7 dollar option of Watson. I think it is likely the Bulls bring back Watson due to his familiarity with the system and the players. Adding a combo guard in the draft will help the Bulls down the road, but for now, they should stay the course with Watson. Another consideration is the luxury tax the Bulls face, which they would like to avoid. All three of C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, and Ronnie Brewer’s contracts are non-guaranteed, meaning they could release them to alleviate some cap concerns.
Assess the free-agents
If the Bulls do decide to go in a different direction and part ways with C.J. Watson, they’ll likely look to free agency to temporarily fill the void at PG. While they will assuredly draft some sort of guard that can run the offense, there is very little chance coach Thibs would go into the season with a rookie running the offense. There are a few options out there such as Andre Miller, Kirk Hinrich, and Jason Kidd that would give the Bulls veteran experience at the position. Kidd has reportedly expressed interest in the Bulls, and at the right price, he may be brought in. Regardless, the front-office will need to find someone who can hold down the fort until Rose is ready to return.
Extend Coach Thibodeau’s contract
I’m not entirely sure why this has taken so long as it’s obvious how positively Thibodeau has affected the team and created a winning culture. Beyond Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers, there may be no better coach in the NBA. While, a first-round loss was obviously disappointing, given the injuries the team sustained over the course of the season, Thibs did a phenomenal job. Similarly to how Popovich has been able to convert most players to fit into the offensive juggernaut he orchestrated in San Antonio, Thibs has been able to do so defensively for our players. The New York Knicks recently extended Mike Woodson for 3 years, 2 of which are guaranteed at $4 million per season. Jerry Reinsdorf and the rest of the front-office should use these numbers as a barometer and offer Thibs somewhere in the $5-6 millon range over four or five years.
Let’s be honest: with Derrick Rose (torn ACL) and Luol Deng (wrist surgery) set to miss a majority of next season, the Bulls may not be ready to compete for another title until the 2013-14 season. Which means that next season may be more of a transition and a learn-to-play-without-your-two-best-players period. Assuming Pat Riley doesn’t break up the Superfriends in Miami (that would only maybe happen if they don’t win the championship this year), it will be too difficult for the Bulls to win a playoff series against them with Rose and Deng still trying to shake off their rust.
I’ve heard many fans talk about how the Bulls should tank their way through the season in order to earn a high draft pick. As great as that may sound, we all know it just won’t happen. Gar Forman, and especially Tom Thibodeau, would never allow it in a million years, so we may as well put that case to rest. There are a lot of other decisions, though, that the front office has to make as the scalding summer drags on. Yes, there are still games to be played in this year’s epic NBA finals, but that shouldn’t stop us from talking Bulls and thinking about what could be some day. That being said, let’s break down what the Bulls should do this summer, in order of realistic expectations (starting with the most unrealistic).
Amnesty Boozer, then sign Eric Gordon and a free agent power forward: If you haven’t read my piece, The Summer of Gar, from last month on this, then you should. Because you will definitely agree. However, let’s just be clear: this sweet-sounding chain of events will not happen. Time and time again, Nick Friedell has shut down any hopes that the Bulls will amnesty Boozer. There’s zero chance it happens this summer because Forman and Paxson are counting on him to carry the scoring load with Rose and Deng out (great plan, huh?). Friedell said if there’s ever a time that the team will amnesty Boozer, it will be next summer. We’ll have to keep dreamin’, I guess.
Highly Doubtful But Not Inconceivable
Trade Luol Deng or Joakim Noah for draft picks and/or lower-salaried players: Relax, people. Let me start off by saying that I did not come up with this idea: Bulls.com writer Sam Smith came up with a Deng scenario, and ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle came up with a Noah scenario. I’m not saying I actually want this to happen. I love Luol Deng and Joakim Noah like I love Portillo’s chocolate cake. And that says a lot. But, this is all just speculation and nothing more, so it can’t hurt to talk about it.
The Bulls are set to enter next season with just over 96% of their salary cap invested in four players (Rose, Boozer, Deng and Noah). Not good. Since the Bulls are not going to amnesty Boozer and have a slim chance at striking gold with the 29th overall pick in the draft (I’ll be breaking down draft prospects later this week), how in the world are we going to improve for the future?
That’s where Deng and/or Noah come in. Obviously, these two players have a ton of trade value. They have been the defensive anchors for the best defensive team in the NBA over the past two seasons and running. One has been the glue guy (Deng) while the other has been the emotional leader (Noah). Any team would be lucky to have them. Problem for us is no one’s getting younger, and no one’s salary is decreasing.
Sam Smith proposed the Bulls trade Deng to a team with a top-five pick, such as Cleveland or Sacramento, both of whom desperately need a small forward. The Bulls can then use that pick to select Harrison Barnes, the sharpshooting high-school phenom out of UNC (has been compared to a Luol Deng/Glen Rice type of player at the NBA level) if he’s still there, or Bradley Beal, the uber-talented shooting guard out of Florida who would be a perfect fit for the Bulls (nbadraft.net compares him to Eric Gordon/Marcus Thornton) because of his great jump shot and ability to spread the floor for the offense. Of course, there are many scenarios for trading Deng, as I’m sure numerous teams would be highly interested in acquiring him, but Smith’s proposal has to be the most ideal if we were to actually trade him. As you know, I would much rather keep Deng than ship him off, but if the front office decided that a move like this would be best for our future, I would have to learn to live with it.
As far as Joakim Noah goes, Doolittle proposed the Bulls trade him and the no. 29 pick to Sacramento for Tyreke Evans and the no. 5 pick. Evans’ name alone may make the casual basketball fan think that trade is perfect. I, on the other hand, don’t really like the idea of trading for Evans (although I can maybe convince myself to) because of his obvious regression throughout the first three seasons of his career. He’s known to have a bad work ethic and has really underachieved defensively, and he’s also going to be a restricted free agent after next season. Not exactly the type of player Thibodeau likes to coach. That top-five pick is really the only thing holding me back from despising this idea altogether. Nevertheless, I don’t see Noah going anywhere, so assuming the Bulls bring back restricted free agent Omer Asik (which they plan on doing), the front-court should be set.
Gotta Make It Happen
Let CJ Watson go: After a horrendous playoff performance this past May against Philadelphia (7.3 points on 24.1% shooting), it became evident that Watson just cannot run a successful offense in the NBA. He’s a decent backup point guard and should have little to no trouble finding another job if the Bulls were to let him go, but he’s too predictable, makes too many bad decisions and will never be more than a backup.
The Bulls have a team option for Watson but will save $3.7 million if they choose not to pick it up. That, combined with the money they can save by letting Ronnie Brewer go (which I’ll get to in a minute) and/or Kyle Korver (whose $5 million contract is non-guaranteed this season), should help them land a very legitimate free agent, such as Andre Miller.
Miller, who is now 36 years old, showed this past May that he still has something left in the tank and can run an offense very effectively. After a solid season (6.7 assists) backing up Ty Lawson in Denver, Miller should be able to land a respectable $5-7 million from any team that wants his services and can undoubtedly start at the point, as he has for basically his entire career, until Derrick Rose is healthy enough to come back. If he’s not the answer, then there are more than enough unrestricted free agent point guards who can replace Watson and help keep this Bulls team in contention for a top-four seed in next year’s playoff race, such as:
- Goran Dragic: Coming off a ridiculous 2012 campaign (18-4-8-2 as a starter) and will probably be very expensive; also likely to re-sign with the Houston Rockets, leaving Kyle Lowry as trade bait.
- Kirk Hinrich: Not really convinced that he can run an offense full-time anymore, but I’m putting him on this list anyways because a) I miss him and b) I’ve heard numerous rumors that the Bulls are looking to bring him back, and if they were to sign him this offseason, it would make me look much smarter than I really am.
- Delonte West: He has legit game, had sex with Lebron’s mom and gives wet willies to opposing players mid-game. I’ll welcome him with open arms.
- Jonny Flynn: Averaged 13.5 points, 4.4 assists and shot 36% from three-point land during his 2009-10 rookie season as the starting point guard in Minnesota. I’d like to think he’ll come dirt cheap and can be a decent backup at worst. Just something to think about.
- Jeremy Lin: Just kidding. Or am I?
- Other notables: Steve Nash (can’t see it happening), Ramon Sessions (if he declines his player option with LA), Jason Kidd’s corpse
It’s also important to point out that John Lucas III is a free agent as well. If the Bulls choose not to bring him back (along with Mike James), then they’ll absolutely have to find another point guard. Now would be a good time to start looking if they haven’t already.
Let Ronnie Brewer go: As much as I like Ronnie Brewer, he’s set to make $4.37 million this season and didn’t really get the job done last season. He’s a fantastic defensive player, but to me, Brewer has maxed out his potential as an NBA player. He’ll never be more than a high level defender and role player with a limited offensive skill-set and inconsistent jump shot. Brewer has a team option this season, so the Bulls can buy him out for just $333,000 and let him walk. That’s a good amount of money they can save, and with Jimmy Butler waiting in the wings, why not promote him to the backup shooting guard/small forward role?
At 22 years old, Butler is worth much less, has a higher offensive ceiling, and he has the potential to be an even better defender than Brewer has been. After seeing Butler take on the difficult task of guarding Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony one-on-one during the regular season, there’s no reason to think that Butler isn’t worthy of at least backup minutes. In fact, in 43 total minutes that Butler guarded Carmelo last season, he shot 29%. In all other minutes against the Bulls, he shot 52%. With his great attitude, motivation and hard work ethic, Butler has the ability to become one of the better all-around defenders in the NBA (think Tony Allen, Thabo Sefolosha and players of that nature). If given the opportunity to play valuable minutes next season and beyond, I have no doubt that Butler will thrive in almost any situation Thibodeau throws him into. The Bulls should trust him and open up some salary space by letting Brewer go. When it comes down to making that decision, they will probably do just that.
With the NBA draft just ten days away and the start of free agency coming up sooner than we think, the Bulls will need to have a game plan in place for how to approach improving this team. This was the best team in the NBA this past season, but we all know that the regular season doesn’t really matter. If the front office decides to stick with what they’ve got and not build a team that can survive a little longer in the playoffs without a fully healthy Derrick Rose (who knows when exactly he’ll get back to full strength), then we could be in for a long 2012-13 season with another disappointing finish.
What a sad, depressing night for Bulls fans. Everyone knows that if we won Game 6, we were 100% winning Game 7. The momentum, the UC crowd backing us – there was just no way we would lose that game. After holding Philadelphia to a grand total of 15 points in the 3rd quarter, the Bulls finally were playing with some life. They played some of the best half-court defense I’ve ever seen, smothering every player and refusing to let anyone into the paint. It was honestly masterful to watch that defense work for the final 23 minutes and 55 seconds. This game was all but won. And then one crucial mistake and two missed free throws later, the Philadelphia 76ers ripped our hearts out of our chests and eliminated our beloved Bulls. But before I get into that crucial mistake, exactly who or what else led to the brutal end of our 2011-12 season?
1) Carlos Boozer. Wow. How many times has this name been brought up in my posts over the last few days? I can’t go more than two blog posts without ripping this man apart. By now, I would assume most of you know how I feel about Boozer, and as long as you saw him play just 5 minutes last night, there’s no way you’d disagree with me. So there’s no point in me restating why I dislike him so much. His performance last night, though, cannot go unnoticed. I want him out of Chicago, and I want him out RIGHT NOW. I felt like screaming “SERENITY NOW” multiple times last night just to calm myself down (Seinfeld reference for all you non-Seinfeld people). Amnesty, please! Anyways, Boozer finished with 3 points on 1/11 shooting and 1 free throw attempt in 27 minutes, none of which – and I repeat, NONE – came in the 4th quarter. Coach Thibs went back to his old ways and decided that, despite Boozer’s $75 million contract, it wasn’t worth it to have him in the game during the most important 12 minutes of the season. And I am perfectly fine with that. The 5-man-unit of Watson-Hamilton-Deng-Gibson-Asik was working extremely well, and we had to ride it. Just to reiterate how truly bad Boozer has been, I updated Boozer’s 2012 playoff stats from my previous post on my own and found that, after tonight’s game, his scoring average per 48 minutes dropped from 21.6 to 19.4, and his field goal percentage dropped from 46.8% to 42.2%. Absolutely awful. If Boozer remains a Bull next season and magically becomes good again, I will be the first to admit I was wrong about him. But I don’t see it happening.
2) 3-Point Shooting. No one could hit the backside of a barn from beyond the arc last night. Nothing was falling for us. Obviously, every team has nights like these. Unfortunately for the Bulls, this night came at the worst time. They shot 38.1% in games 1-5. They shot 15.4% (2/13) in Game 6. Although Luol Deng played a really good game, he is a very streaky three point shooter. He made big shot after big shot on Tuesday night. Ended up 0/5 from distance last night. It happens. I won’t lose sleep over this aspect of the game at all, but it would have been nice to at least see… wait, what’s that guy’s name? People think he looks like Ashton Kutcher but he really doesn’t? Oh yeah, Kyle Korver. Where the hell was this dude all series long? Between games 3-6, he scored – get this – 5 POINTS! He shot 1/7 from three in games 3-5 and didn’t even bother attempting a single shot in 5 minutes during Game 6. What a joke. If he wasn’t completely in Thibodeau’s doghouse before this series, he’s now farther back than… well, I can’t really think of a comparison, but it’s as far back as you can possibly go. It will probably take longer than the year Korver has left on his contract for Thibodeau to actually take him off his leash. Don’t be surprised if the Bulls try shopping him or finding a replacement for him all summer long.
3) Did you know: last night’s result is the first time a team has been out-rebounded by 23+ in a playoff game and won since 1986, when Washington beat Philadelphia in Game 1 of the first round (Bulls won the rebound battle 56-33)? This has nothing to do with why the Bulls lost in any way, shape or form. I just found it to be an astonishing stat, and I also feel that making three points instead of two is way more legit. Good things come in threes. Someone should tell Kyle Korver that, by the way.
Now on to the main inspiration for this post – CJ Watson and the Crucial Mistake (If anyone writes a book about this disastrous series, you’re welcome to use this title. Just make sure you compensate me for it. Thanks). Watching the end of last night’s game was painful. CJ Watson should be flat-out disgusted with himself. He made one of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen a point guard make in a professional basketball game. His poor shot selection throughout the series was one thing (he shot 23% in six games), and his inability to create any offense whatsoever was another thing. But when you’re a career 80% free throw shooter, and your team’s up 1 with 5 seconds left in the most important game of the season, why the dickens (I heard someone say this once and it sounded funny, so what the hell?) would you dish the ball off to a career 48% free throw shooter and make him win the game for you? I went INSANE when this play transpired because right then and there, I had a terrible feeling that it was over for us, even with a 1 point lead. Forget the fact that, a) a blatant flagrant foul on Omer was not called and b) no one got back on defense after the second missed free throw to stop the one-man freight train that is Andre Iguodala. We should have NEVER been in that position in the first place. All CJ had to do was hold the ball, let them foul him, and sink at least one free throw. That would have made it a two point game, and at the very least forced Philly, who had no time outs remaining, mind you, to go coast to coast and get a quick two off to send it into OT or throw up a contested/low-percentage three to try and win it (this is the worst case scenario, because I have a hard time believing CJ would’ve missed both free throws, but who knows).
I cannot believe the stupidity on Watson’s part, and I will never forget that decision to give up the ball for the rest of my life. It proved that, once and for all, CJ Watson is not the answer to our backup point guard of the future (neither is Lucas). There are a number of mediocre point guards that we can grab late in the first round of the draft if necessary (Marquis Teague, Tony Wroten) or middle of the second round (Scott Machado) to breed throughout the offseason. Free agency and trading are other options as well (dare I ask, Kirk Hinrich, anyone?). Maybe I’m just being hard on Watson because I’m angry. I probably am. We all know he’s likely going to be on our roster next season because the Bulls will probably pick up his team option. But it does not hurt to explore other point guard options (I will get into free agents and draft analysis at a later date).
I can live with another regular season with Watson as our starter while Rose is out. And I think that next year, the Bulls will come back stronger from this. But if, god forbid, Rose is not healthy for the start of the playoffs next season, it may very well be the same old story for Bulls fans. Sad and depressing.
Pretty much anyone in the world can say that the Bulls are nowhere as good a team without Derrick Rose. That’s clear. But it got me thinking – exactly how much worse is this team without Rose? I checked out nba.com to figure it out.
Let us first take a look at some advanced statistics and focus on the four offensive factors of basketball per 48 minutes of basketball: effective field goal %, turnovers committed per possession, offensive rebounding % and free throw rate. Considering the fact that the Bulls aren’t any worse defensively without Rose (thanks to Thibs), I’m choosing to ignore defense completely to zero in on our depleted offense. Here’s the catch, though: I am only looking at the four playoff games against the 76ers. Forget the regular season. There were too many meaningless games played during this season jam-packed with back-to-backs, back-to-back-to-backs, 4 games in 5 nights, etc. I know there’s only 37 minutes worth of data for Rose in this case, but it can still give us a good sense as to how the Bulls would have fared against Philly had Rose stayed healthy.
- Effective Field Goal %: 53.2% when in, 44.8% when out
- Turnovers Committed per Possession: 0.155 when in, 0.133 when out
- Offensive Rebounding %: 32.3% when in, 26.6% when out
- Free Throw Rate: 0.222 when in, 0.147 when out
Now, let us compare these numbers to those of CJ Watson and John Lucas.
- Effective Field Goal %: 48% when in, 45% when out
- Turnovers Committed per Possession: 0.127 when in, 0.147 when out
- Offensive Rebounding %: 18.1% when in, 34.4% when out
- Free Throw Rate: 0.152 when in, 0.169 when out
- Effective Field Goal %: 44.4% when in, 47.6% when out
- Turnovers Committed per Possession: 0.139 when in, 0.136 when out
- Offensive Rebounding %: 34.3% when in, 22.8% when out
- Free Throw Rate: 0.138 when in, 0.174 when out
- The Bulls are +7.8 in the series with Rose on the court and -7.1 with him off; -5.6 with Watson on and -2.9 while off; -6.4 with Lucas on and -3.1 while off
- The Bulls have an offense rating of 109.6 with Rose on the court and 91.9 with him off
Based solely on statistics, the Bulls have been significantly worse offensively without Rose against the 76ers. The turnover rate is actually higher with Rose in, but that’s probably because Rose led the team with 5 turnovers in game 1 due to the double teams he was drawing from the lengthy Philly defenders.
It is also interesting to point out that the Bulls have been infinitely better on the offensive glass with Lucas on the court than Watson. I honestly have no idea why this may be, but everyone can agree that Rose’s effect on our offensive rebounding obviously has to do with the fact that he draws extra defenders away from the basket, ultimately leaving an extra player down low to give us second and third chance points.
Lastly, the difference in free throw rates between these three point guards is an absolute joke. It goes without saying that neither Watson nor Lucas have the quickness and first step that Derrick has, and it’s clear that both players essentially have an incredible amount of trouble drawing fouls and creating open looks for everyone else.
With all that being said, it’s very safe to assume that, with a healthy Derrick Rose, the Bulls would have either swept Philadelphia or won it in 5. What a depressing way to go out. I won’t get over this for a looong time.